Publishing a comprehensive literature review of a global women’s health issue

Our client was invited to submit a comprehensive literature review on a women’s health topic that summarizes the current scientific literature on the disease epidemiology, as well as current guidelines and recommendations for clinical practice.

The journal, which is a well-established international peer-reviewed journal, focuses on women’s health in the context of specific cultural and social nuances, as well as life expectancy of women of a specific demographic. Although the disease is more common in western countries, it is on the rise in many non-western countries. While the review article focused broadly on the causes and contributors to the disease, we needed to pay particular attention to the issues facing women of that demographic in regards to clinical approaches and recommendations.

After reviewing the published literature, we prepared an outline of selected topics that we felt were relevant, given the parameters of the review request, and provided our client with a list of topics that should be included. We researched the most updated statistics on the disease prevalence, survival, risk factors and treatment guidelines, and selected a couple of sample articles that could provide leads for what was current in the literature and what was lacking.  The health issue under consideration had not been recently updated in the published literature in a single review article, although the research had marched on since the last comprehensive review and clinical guidance principles had been published.

Our client was quite happy with our overview of topics, and suggested other aspects of the disease that were clinically relevant. We then provided our client with a timeline for various draft stages leading up to submission, and proceeded with the write up.

As we researched the published literature and selected relevant articles, my Endnote file grew to well over 200 references, which is not uncommon in comprehensive reviews. If you have ever done a search using specific keywords in PubMed, you will know that simple keyword searches can return thousands of articles. However, not everything that is published should be published. A medical writer trained in medical research who also has experience as a reviewer for scientific journals will know how to prioritise and select articles for a literature review, and this is definitely a skill we have at SugarApple Communications.

Once the relevant articles were selected for inclusion, we suggested summarizing available clinical trial data in table format. Review articles on any treatable disease should include a summary of current and completed clinical trials (published or unpublished). This can be obtained from https://clinicaltrials.gov/. We also ensured that health issues and concerns relating specifically to the target demographic of the journal were addressed, so that this review article would be one that clinicians in specific geographic regions would find helpful.

The response from our client to the first draft was very positive.  Given the very clinical nature of the review article and the feed-back we received, it was clear that we had adequately addressed all of the relevant topics that needed to be covered. Our client decided to invite as co-authors a team of world-renowned medical experts with whom he collaborates, and who also serve on consensus guidelines committees for diagnosis and treatment of the disease of interest. We saw this as a very good sign that our draft manuscript was well in line with expectations. Their input allowed us to fine-tune the article to include the most up-to-date and cutting-edge research, and included pre-publication content that was based on their collective clinical experience. 

Overall the feed-back from co-authors was positive:

Great paper, thank you for including us

Nice paper, minor edits

Huge value-well done-and thank you for including me

A very nice and timely review

In specific subsections:

Great points”

“Awesome table”

“Great section”.

These comments suggested that as medical writers we had accomplished what was required, and what the medical and scientific community needed in this updated literature review. As the scientific director of SugarApple Communications, I was particularly delighted to see co-authors engage in some ‘discussion’ among themselves in ‘comment’ form regarding some very current issues that I raised in the draft manuscript, to which they provide their own expertise and knowledge as to how best to address these issues in current clinical settings.

The responses and comments from the journal to the submitted manuscript were readily addressable; some required clinical input that our client addressed; others were more to do with formatting to meet the journal requirements that we addressed. The final article was a very comprehensive review of current guidelines and future recommendations of the health topic involving the most recent research and a reference list of 103 published articles.

The full text of this article is now available online through open access.

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