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A case report is one of the easiest pieces of literature to write. Unfortunately, it may be one of the most difficult pieces to get published. Many journals no longer accept case reports leaving clinicians to turn to journals specifically created to publish case reports. These journals frequently publish on an open access model, meaning that authors must pay to have their work published. However, case reports can present a great opportunity to hone clinical writing skills and the work can be used in posters and presentations at conferences, even if not published.
A case report discusses the management of one or more patients with unusual medical conditions or in unusual circumstances. Multiple cases of unusual circumstances can be considered a case series (i.e. a mumps outbreak). Residents may come across these circumstances frequently as they begin practice and less frequently as they see more cases.
Basic steps to writing a case report are outlined below:
Case reports have five possible sections:
One or two relevant visual aids (photos or imaging) may be useful to your case. Do not include, if they do not add to the case.
Now that you've got the basics of writing a case report, you're probably eager to start writing about that super interesting patient you just had, but before your fingers start typing, here is a hot tip to save you time and maybe a headache in the future...
Start by picking the journal that best matches your case topic
I know it feels backwards but trust me and thank me later. When picking a journal look for:
- Cost. Is there an associated fee to publish with this journal? If yes, check with your department to see if there is funding to cover the cost.
- Consent. Does this journal require patient consent in order to publish?
- Word Count. Some journals have limits on report length; don't get carried away and realize you need to chop your report down.
- Format. Journals can be picky on how the case study or its citations are formatted.
You're busy! This advice is the epitome of "work smarter, not harder", know who you're writing to before you start. As always, reach out to a librarian liaison or the writing center for help.
Find more information in an interactive video format provided by Dr. Steven McKee, Internal Medicine, UAMS. Click the image below to proceed or click here:
If you are completing a case series, a case report containing information from 4 or more patients, you will need to submit a human subjects research form through CLARA for an IRB review. More information on CLARA and the IRB can be found in the Research section of this guide.
A very complete listing of journals accepting case reports as well as advice on how to choose a journal is provided in the article below:
How to choose the best journal for your case report
If in doubt, contact the library for a review of the journal before submitting.
Possible Journal Options: While this is not exhaustive, it is a good listing of possible journals that accept case reports in a number of fields:
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