Writing your first draft

A research paper should tell a story: this might be the complete description of a long, complex study or a short account of a simple experiment or a part of a larger study. Either way, it should have a clear message covering four points (Bradford Hill A. Reasons for writing. BMJ 1965 2: 870).

  • Introduction – What questions were addressed and why
  • Methods – What was done
  • Results- What was shown
  • Discussion/Conclusion – What the findings mean in the context of other research.

Journals can combine some of these sections or have additional sections but these are the key four. Choose which results you need to answer the research question described in the paper. These will form your figures and tables.

At this stage, you can use bullet points or note form: the key is to collate all the required information and assign each bit of it to the correct section of the manuscript.