Tidbits for MBBS Undergraduates

Top Tips to Kick-Start Your Very First Scientific Publication — part III

Things you’ll want to know before starting out.

In this final post of a “three part series”, I’ll be sharing my personal tips about research and publication that nobody has ever told you in med school, in hopes that somebody reading this will benefit from it. 🙈

Over the years of carrying out primary research during my undergrad years, I’ve acquired a list of things that anyone can do when aiming to publish a research paper within a relatively short span of time.

1. “Hop on a bandwagon” 💃

Do you know someone who is currently writing a research paper? Say, a lecturer, classmate, senior or a post-grad?

Express genuine interest in their work and ask if they need help with writing or editing, in exchange for an authorship. This is one of the quickest ways to obtain a publication as an undergrad. Sure, you may fall short in the experience and knowledge sector, but you have strong linguistic skills (especially if you’re an international student in a country where English is not their mother tongue, for instance, China) and grit — use those to your advantage.

Speaking from experience, when I was an MBBS student in China, almost all of the doctors I’ve shadowed and worked with had ongoing research projects. Apparently having research publications is a prerequisite for promotion.

This may sound unconventional to some of you, but at the end of the day, it’s a win-win for everyone.

2. Be proactive 🙋

Speak to doctors who are currently working on research projects and are keen to publish within 1 to 2 years. Express your need for a publication. E.g., to make your C.V. more competitive, increase your chances of getting a scholarship, etc.

Like the famous quote, “You miss 100% the shots you don’t take.”

Don’t hesitate to ask; chances are these doctors were once in your shoes and would more often than not resonate with your interests.

The worst thing that could happen is getting rejected. That’s perfectly fine.

Set your sights on the next target and move on.

3. Find a partner (or partners) 🙌

Doing research and writing a manuscript all on your own can be a very daunting and time consuming task. If you could find a friend or a group of friends who share the same goal as yourself, don’t hesitate to partner up!

Two heads is better than one. You’ll get the job done faster.

4. Apply for university grants 💰

If you happen to be in a similar boat as I was, conducting a primary research during undergrad, I strongly advise you to seek for university research grants. Although reagents are pricey, aside from the monetary factor, competing for a grant puts some perspective into your research as you are constantly introspecting. Besides, now you have a proud milestone on your C.V.

From personal experience, a portion of the grant would be allocated to your mentor for lab and equipment maintenance. Without a doubt, this acts as an incentive that prompts your mentor to offer you more support along your research journey.

5. Journal requirements & Literature Matrix 💎

Prior to writing your manuscript, make sure you’ve understood the journal’s format requirements (click here for an example). It is helpful to browse through previously published articles and pay attention to the headings and sub-headings.

Once you’re ready to start reading literature for your manuscript, create a literature matrix, which is essentially a table, to organize the information you’ve read and considered including into your manuscript. Ensure you’ve included the hyperlinks, titles, authors and year of publication in your table.

I found this a very effective way to organize massive amount of papers I’ve had to read when writing my research article. It also enables me to cite them with ease during the writing process.

6. Use online citation generators 💻

I remember the dread I’ve felt when learning how to cite resources during my last year of high school. No offense, it was one of the most useful classes I’ve had, but why do it yourself when an AI can do it for you ten times quicker and more accurately?

Before plugging your citations into the online generator, make sure you know which referencing format is required by the journal (e.g., Vancouver, MLA, APA, etc.,). Tons of citation services are available online, but my favorite is www.bibguru.com, as it has a super user-friendly interface. You may even create an account to save your list of references that can be conveniently exported in various formats.

Did I also mention that it’s ad free? 😜

7. Check your final draft with an online plagiarism checker 🔍

Prior to submitting your manuscript to the journal for a preliminary quality check, I highly recommend you to run your draft in an online plagiarism checker, like https://www.duplichecker.com, which I have been using, to ensure you do not copy another researcher’s work word-for-word, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Usually, a similarity of 12–15% and below is acceptable by journals. Personally, I try to keep it around 5–10%.

Bear in mind that plagiarism is a crime. Kinda like copying your friend’s homework and getting punished by the teacher when the cat’s out of the bag. You may risk getting sanctioned.

Congrats, you’ve reached the end of this series! 🎉 Although this has been a lengthy read (I’m assuming you devoured all three posts in one go), I genuinely hope you find these tips helpful in getting your very first publication.

Wishing you the best of luck. Until next time! ☺️

Love, Alice

A Fudan University med grad sharing her journey in Shanghai and beyond. Since you’ve read all that, you might as well read on ;) Let’s connect on IG @alicehalim

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