How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal

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  • Volume 36 , pages 909–913, ( 2021 )

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how to write clinical research paper

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Communicating research findings is an essential step in the research process. Often, peer-reviewed journals are the forum for such communication, yet many researchers are never taught how to write a publishable scientific paper. In this article, we explain the basic structure of a scientific paper and describe the information that should be included in each section. We also identify common pitfalls for each section and recommend strategies to avoid them. Further, we give advice about target journal selection and authorship. In the online resource 1 , we provide an example of a high-quality scientific paper, with annotations identifying the elements we describe in this article.

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Writing a scientific paper is an important component of the research process, yet researchers often receive little formal training in scientific writing. This is especially true in low-resource settings. In this article, we explain why choosing a target journal is important, give advice about authorship, provide a basic structure for writing each section of a scientific paper, and describe common pitfalls and recommendations for each section. In the online resource 1 , we also include an annotated journal article that identifies the key elements and writing approaches that we detail here. Before you begin your research, make sure you have ethical clearance from all relevant ethical review boards.

Select a Target Journal Early in the Writing Process

We recommend that you select a “target journal” early in the writing process; a “target journal” is the journal to which you plan to submit your paper. Each journal has a set of core readers and you should tailor your writing to this readership. For example, if you plan to submit a manuscript about vaping during pregnancy to a pregnancy-focused journal, you will need to explain what vaping is because readers of this journal may not have a background in this topic. However, if you were to submit that same article to a tobacco journal, you would not need to provide as much background information about vaping.

Information about a journal’s core readership can be found on its website, usually in a section called “About this journal” or something similar. For example, the Journal of Cancer Education presents such information on the “Aims and Scope” page of its website, which can be found here: .

Peer reviewer guidelines from your target journal are an additional resource that can help you tailor your writing to the journal and provide additional advice about crafting an effective article [ 1 ]. These are not always available, but it is worth a quick web search to find out.

Identify Author Roles Early in the Process

Early in the writing process, identify authors, determine the order of authors, and discuss the responsibilities of each author. Standard author responsibilities have been identified by The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) [ 2 ]. To set clear expectations about each team member’s responsibilities and prevent errors in communication, we also suggest outlining more detailed roles, such as who will draft each section of the manuscript, write the abstract, submit the paper electronically, serve as corresponding author, and write the cover letter. It is best to formalize this agreement in writing after discussing it, circulating the document to the author team for approval. We suggest creating a title page on which all authors are listed in the agreed-upon order. It may be necessary to adjust authorship roles and order during the development of the paper. If a new author order is agreed upon, be sure to update the title page in the manuscript draft.

In the case where multiple papers will result from a single study, authors should discuss who will author each paper. Additionally, authors should agree on a deadline for each paper and the lead author should take responsibility for producing an initial draft by this deadline.

Structure of the Introduction Section

The introduction section should be approximately three to five paragraphs in length. Look at examples from your target journal to decide the appropriate length. This section should include the elements shown in Fig.  1 . Begin with a general context, narrowing to the specific focus of the paper. Include five main elements: why your research is important, what is already known about the topic, the “gap” or what is not yet known about the topic, why it is important to learn the new information that your research adds, and the specific research aim(s) that your paper addresses. Your research aim should address the gap you identified. Be sure to add enough background information to enable readers to understand your study. Table 1 provides common introduction section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

figure 1

The main elements of the introduction section of an original research article. Often, the elements overlap

Methods Section

The purpose of the methods section is twofold: to explain how the study was done in enough detail to enable its replication and to provide enough contextual detail to enable readers to understand and interpret the results. In general, the essential elements of a methods section are the following: a description of the setting and participants, the study design and timing, the recruitment and sampling, the data collection process, the dataset, the dependent and independent variables, the covariates, the analytic approach for each research objective, and the ethical approval. The hallmark of an exemplary methods section is the justification of why each method was used. Table 2 provides common methods section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Results Section

The focus of the results section should be associations, or lack thereof, rather than statistical tests. Two considerations should guide your writing here. First, the results should present answers to each part of the research aim. Second, return to the methods section to ensure that the analysis and variables for each result have been explained.

Begin the results section by describing the number of participants in the final sample and details such as the number who were approached to participate, the proportion who were eligible and who enrolled, and the number of participants who dropped out. The next part of the results should describe the participant characteristics. After that, you may organize your results by the aim or by putting the most exciting results first. Do not forget to report your non-significant associations. These are still findings.

Tables and figures capture the reader’s attention and efficiently communicate your main findings [ 3 ]. Each table and figure should have a clear message and should complement, rather than repeat, the text. Tables and figures should communicate all salient details necessary for a reader to understand the findings without consulting the text. Include information on comparisons and tests, as well as information about the sample and timing of the study in the title, legend, or in a footnote. Note that figures are often more visually interesting than tables, so if it is feasible to make a figure, make a figure. To avoid confusing the reader, either avoid abbreviations in tables and figures, or define them in a footnote. Note that there should not be citations in the results section and you should not interpret results here. Table 3 provides common results section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Discussion Section

Opposite the introduction section, the discussion should take the form of a right-side-up triangle beginning with interpretation of your results and moving to general implications (Fig.  2 ). This section typically begins with a restatement of the main findings, which can usually be accomplished with a few carefully-crafted sentences.

figure 2

Major elements of the discussion section of an original research article. Often, the elements overlap

Next, interpret the meaning or explain the significance of your results, lifting the reader’s gaze from the study’s specific findings to more general applications. Then, compare these study findings with other research. Are these findings in agreement or disagreement with those from other studies? Does this study impart additional nuance to well-accepted theories? Situate your findings within the broader context of scientific literature, then explain the pathways or mechanisms that might give rise to, or explain, the results.

Journals vary in their approach to strengths and limitations sections: some are embedded paragraphs within the discussion section, while some mandate separate section headings. Keep in mind that every study has strengths and limitations. Candidly reporting yours helps readers to correctly interpret your research findings.

The next element of the discussion is a summary of the potential impacts and applications of the research. Should these results be used to optimally design an intervention? Does the work have implications for clinical protocols or public policy? These considerations will help the reader to further grasp the possible impacts of the presented work.

Finally, the discussion should conclude with specific suggestions for future work. Here, you have an opportunity to illuminate specific gaps in the literature that compel further study. Avoid the phrase “future research is necessary” because the recommendation is too general to be helpful to readers. Instead, provide substantive and specific recommendations for future studies. Table 4 provides common discussion section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Follow the Journal’s Author Guidelines

After you select a target journal, identify the journal’s author guidelines to guide the formatting of your manuscript and references. Author guidelines will often (but not always) include instructions for titles, cover letters, and other components of a manuscript submission. Read the guidelines carefully. If you do not follow the guidelines, your article will be sent back to you.

Finally, do not submit your paper to more than one journal at a time. Even if this is not explicitly stated in the author guidelines of your target journal, it is considered inappropriate and unprofessional.

Your title should invite readers to continue reading beyond the first page [ 4 , 5 ]. It should be informative and interesting. Consider describing the independent and dependent variables, the population and setting, the study design, the timing, and even the main result in your title. Because the focus of the paper can change as you write and revise, we recommend you wait until you have finished writing your paper before composing the title.

Be sure that the title is useful for potential readers searching for your topic. The keywords you select should complement those in your title to maximize the likelihood that a researcher will find your paper through a database search. Avoid using abbreviations in your title unless they are very well known, such as SNP, because it is more likely that someone will use a complete word rather than an abbreviation as a search term to help readers find your paper.

After you have written a complete draft, use the checklist (Fig. 3 ) below to guide your revisions and editing. Additional resources are available on writing the abstract and citing references [ 5 ]. When you feel that your work is ready, ask a trusted colleague or two to read the work and provide informal feedback. The box below provides a checklist that summarizes the key points offered in this article.

figure 3

Checklist for manuscript quality

Data Availability

Michalek AM (2014) Down the rabbit hole…advice to reviewers. J Cancer Educ 29:4–5

Article   Google Scholar  

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Defining the role of authors and contributors: who is an author? . Accessed 15 January, 2020

Vetto JT (2014) Short and sweet: a short course on concise medical writing. J Cancer Educ 29(1):194–195

Brett M, Kording K (2017) Ten simple rules for structuring papers. PLoS ComputBiol.

Lang TA (2017) Writing a better research article. J Public Health Emerg.

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Ella August is grateful to the Sustainable Sciences Institute for mentoring her in training researchers on writing and publishing their research.

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Busse, C., August, E. How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal. J Canc Educ 36 , 909–913 (2021).

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how to write clinical research paper

Writing clinical articles: A step-by-step guide for nurses

Focus on your audience and narrow your topic. .

Editor’s note: Dissemination 101 is a series designed to help nurses share their expertise. To read other articles in the series, visit . 

  • Writing for publication allows you to contribute to nursing practice and help build nursing and healthcare knowledge.
  • Taking a step-by-step approach to writing a clinical article can help increase the chances for acceptance.

Are you thinking about writing a clinical article for publication? You can write for a general interest nursing journal that addresses a broad audience or a specialty journal that caters to nurses focused on caring for a specific patient population (for example, oncology or wound care). Most clinical articles published in general interest journals aim to help nurses understand the clinical presentation and progression of a disease or health issue and the subsequent care for a specific patient population.

To increase your chances of article acceptance for publication, take a step-by-step approach, as recommended by Mee.

Start with what you know

Write about what you’re most familiar with. Are you working on a hemodialysis unit and recently managed a patient who experienced a cardiovascular event? Then consider writing about managing cardiovascular emergencies in this patient population. Are you an endoscopy nurse who works with patients receiving endoscopic retrograde cho­lan­giopancreatography? Focus your article on the nursing implications of caring for patients after this test.

Strive to keep your topic focused so you can control manuscript length and ensure you deliver relevant content to the reader. For example, an article about caring for patients with pancreatic disorders is too broad. A narrower-focus article might cover cystic fibrosis, specifically on the impact of this condition on health-related quality of life. You can narrow the topic further by a concentrating on adolescents.

Solo vs. team writing

Are you going to write alone or with a team? Pros and cons exist for each. When writing alone, you may have better control of your timeline and content. However, compared to writing with a team, you might miss an opportunity to present a more diverse perspective of the topic. Another advantage of writing with a team includes having more access to resources, including a network of colleagues to interview. With a team, you can distribute the work among the authors and even have more proofreaders. However, delays may arise if one team member lags behind schedule or conflict emerges within the group. When writing with a team, establish authorship early in the process. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors developed a set of four criteria to establish authorship: authors should make substantial contributions to the manuscript, draft or revise it, have final approval of the published version, and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

Journal selection

Before selecting a journal, establish your intended audience. For example, are you writing for staff nurses, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, or nurse midwives? Write for the selected audience, keeping in mind what they already know about the topic.

Now you can narrow your journal choices to those that are a good match for your topic and intended audience. You can expect immediate rejection if your manuscript doesn’t match a journal’s purpose and readership. Read at least three to four issues, and explore the table of contents for similar articles related to your topic. An article on a disease or condition similar to your topic doesn’t necessarily make yours ineligible for publication. Your topic may have a different focus.

After you select the target journal, carefully read the author guidelines, which usually can be found on the journal’s website. Follow directions for formatting the manuscript, and comply with page or word limitations. Consider querying the journal editor before submitting your manuscript (in fact, many journals require this step). Querying can help ensure your topic is appropriate for the journal. In addition, the editor may provide feedback to help you focus the manuscript accordingly before submission.

Article type

Elements of a clinical review article.

Clinical review articles typically include the following sections:

  • Etiology. The cause or origin of the disease.
  • Pathophysiology. The pathologic and physiologic processes associated with the disease.
  • Epidemiology. Discussion of disease frequency (number of new cases in a given population) or prevalence (number of cases present at a point in time).
  • Clinical presentation. What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
  • Diagnostics. This includes relevant tests and normal and abnormal laboratory values.
  • Treatment and interventions. Depending on the journal guidelines, this section might include medications, medical and nursing procedures, and key nursing considerations.
  • Patient education. This section focuses on key points for patient education. If your article discusses best practices in your setting, consider including a patient education handout that can be incorporated into any organization.
  • Nursing implications. Includes the nursing process from assessment to interventions and outcomes. Some journals want a separate section devoted to nursing implications.

Case studies 

Most nurses are familiar with case studies, first from learning how to write them in nursing school and then in clinical practice when reading progress notes. If you’re a novice writer, you’ll find reading case studies in journals to be helpful.

Published case studies can evolve from real case reports or be a simulated, fictional case. If you choose to write about a real case, obtain permission from the patient and your organization. Although the patient’s identity will be concealed in your article, you may run the risk of readers identifying the patient. Also, don’t choose a case that’s so rare that the reader may never encounter such a situation.

Case studies typically begin with the patient’s health history followed by a discussion of the common clinical presentation, pathophysiology, nursing process, psychosocial considerations, and treatments. Keep in mind that you’re using the case to teach readers, not merely reporting what you experienced.

How-to articles 

How-to articles focus on teaching a skill, procedure, or intervention. For example, caring for patients with a colostomy, proning patients with COVID-19 who haven’t been intubated, or attending to patients after cardiac catheterization. When writing a how-to article, focus on what’s most meaningful to nurses who provide direct care, such as patient and family education, and cite evidence-based recommendations.

Do your research

A fundamental motto for writing is “Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.” In other words, do your research. When you read a wide range of literature on your topic, including relevant nursing models or theories, and access key databases, you’ll soon be ready to write. Organize your notes (paper or digital) and maintain a complete and accurate account of your references, which should be as current as possible.

Create an outline

Use an outline to organize your thoughts and help you stick to one main focus or purpose that’s appropriate for the intended audience. At this stage, you’ll also want to consider what information can be best covered in tables or figures rather than in text. For example, you can create a table that lists signs and symptoms in column one and related pathophysiology in column two. Such a table can effectively present a large amount of information that doesn’t need to be repeated in the text of the article.

Writing and editing

Knowing where to start can be daunting. Consider starting on the section you know best or one for which you have the most information to help build your confidence and spur development of other sections. Other writing tips that can enhance the chances your article will be accepted for publication and engage readers include the following:

  • Passive: The patient’s medications were reviewed by the nurse before discharge.
  • Active: The nurse reviewed the medications with the patient before discharge.
  • Cite relevant references. Support statistics and practice guidelines with appropriate recent references. Follow the journal’s author guidelines for number of references and style.

After completing your manuscript, let a day or two pass and then read it again and start editing. Note that your overall goal during editing is to make the manuscript concise and meaningful for the reader. Check that it aligns with the journal’s author guidelines and requirements. Ask colleagues (including an expert, novice, or someone who’s not familiar with your topic) to read your manuscript, and request their honest feedback. Review tables, figures, and other graphics to ensure they provide relevant information and that they adhere to the journal’s author guidelines. Consider including a box with key points, such as nursing implications.

Follow the journal’s article submission guidelines. Some journals request submission through an author portal that requires you to create an author account, while others prefer to receive submissions via email. Most journals require that you attach a cover letter, sign copyright release and conflict-of-interest forms, and submit information about all authors.

Advance nursing practice and science

When you publish, you contribute to nursing practice and help build nursing and healthcare knowledge by providing guidance for practitioners and future researchers. Regardless of the type of article, include implications for nursing practice and, when appropriate, education, policy, and research. Writing involves hard work, but it’s rewarding and a great way to build your credentials.

Rhoda Redulla is director of nursing excellence and Magnet Recognition at NewYork-Presbyterian in New York, New York, associate editor of Gastroenterology Nursing Journal, and author of Fast Facts for Making the Most of Your Career in Nursing . 

Eldh AC, Almost J, DeCorby-Watson K, et al Clinical interventions, implementation interventions, and the potential greyness in between – a discussion paper. BMC Health Serv Res. 2017;17(1):16. doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1958-5

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Defining the role of authors and contributors.

Mee C. Writing the clinical article. In: Saver C ed. Anatomy of Writing for Publication for Nurses. 4th ed. Indianapolis, IN: Sigma; 2021.

Morton P, Ketefian S, Redman R. Writing the research report. In: Saver C, ed. Anatomy of Writing for Publication for Nurses. 4th ed. Indianapolis, IN: Sigma; 2021.

Oermann MH, Ingles TM. Writing manuscripts about quality improvement: Squire 2.0 and beyond. Health. April 30, 2019.

Roush K. What types of articles to write. Am J Nurs. 2017;117(5):68-71. doi:10.1097/01.NAJ.0000516278.97098.02

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I could have used this when I was writing articles years ago. Excellent resource

Thank you for this helpful article. I believe that when we publish good articles, we help healthcare providers to give a high quality of care to patients. I encourage all knowledgeable healthcare to write and publish many articles in order to help others for the betterment of patients. Thank you

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How to Write a Medical Research Paper

Last Updated: February 5, 2024 Approved

This article was co-authored by Chris M. Matsko, MD . Dr. Chris M. Matsko is a retired physician based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With over 25 years of medical research experience, Dr. Matsko was awarded the Pittsburgh Cornell University Leadership Award for Excellence. He holds a BS in Nutritional Science from Cornell University and an MD from the Temple University School of Medicine in 2007. Dr. Matsko earned a Research Writing Certification from the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) in 2016 and a Medical Writing & Editing Certification from the University of Chicago in 2017. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 89% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 202,361 times.

Writing a medical research paper is similar to writing other research papers in that you want to use reliable sources, write in a clear and organized style, and offer a strong argument for all conclusions you present. In some cases the research you discuss will be data you have actually collected to answer your research questions. Understanding proper formatting, citations, and style will help you write and informative and respected paper.

Researching Your Paper

Step 1 Decide on a topic.

  • Pick something that really interests you to make the research more fun.
  • Choose a topic that has unanswered questions and propose solutions.

Step 2 Determine what kind of research paper you are going to write.

  • Quantitative studies consist of original research performed by the writer. These research papers will need to include sections like Hypothesis (or Research Question), Previous Findings, Method, Limitations, Results, Discussion, and Application.
  • Synthesis papers review the research already published and analyze it. They find weaknesses and strengths in the research, apply it to a specific situation, and then indicate a direction for future research.

Step 3 Research your topic thoroughly.

  • Keep track of your sources. Write down all publication information necessary for citation: author, title of article, title of book or journal, publisher, edition, date published, volume number, issue number, page number, and anything else pertaining to your source. A program like Endnote can help you keep track of your sources.
  • Take detailed notes as you read. Paraphrase information in your own words or if you copy directly from the article or book, indicate that these are direct quotes by using quotation marks to prevent plagiarism.
  • Be sure to keep all of your notes with the correct source.
  • Your professor and librarians can also help you find good resources.

Step 4 Organize your notes.

  • Keep all of your notes in a physical folder or in a digitized form on the computer.
  • Start to form the basic outline of your paper using the notes you have collected.

Writing Your Paper

Step 1 Outline your paper.

  • Start with bullet points and then add in notes you've taken from references that support your ideas. [1] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
  • A common way to format research papers is to follow the IMRAD format. This dictates the structure of your paper in the following order: I ntroduction, M ethods, R esults, a nd D iscussion. [2] X Research source
  • The outline is just the basic structure of your paper. Don't worry if you have to rearrange a few times to get it right.
  • Ask others to look over your outline and get feedback on the organization.
  • Know the audience you are writing for and adjust your style accordingly. [3] X Research source

Step 2 Know the required format.

  • Use a standard font type and size, such as Times New Roman 12 point font.
  • Double-space your paper.
  • If necessary, create a cover page. Most schools require a cover page of some sort. Include your main title, running title (often a shortened version of your main title), author's name, course name, and semester.

Step 3 Compile your results.

  • Break up information into sections and subsections and address one main point per section.
  • Include any figures or data tables that support your main ideas.
  • For a quantitative study, state the methods used to obtain results.

Step 4 Write the conclusion and discussion.

  • Clearly state and summarize the main points of your research paper.
  • Discuss how this research contributes to the field and why it is important. [4] X Research source
  • Highlight potential applications of the theory if appropriate.
  • Propose future directions that build upon the research you have presented. [5] X Research source
  • Keep the introduction and discussion short, and spend more time explaining the methods and results.

Step 5 Write the introduction.

  • State why the problem is important to address.
  • Discuss what is currently known and what is lacking in the field.
  • State the objective of your paper.
  • Keep the introduction short.

Step 6 Write the abstract.

  • Highlight the purpose of the paper and the main conclusions.
  • State why your conclusions are important.
  • Be concise in your summary of the paper.
  • Show that you have a solid study design and a high-quality data set.
  • Abstracts are usually one paragraph and between 250 – 500 words.

Step 7 Cite while you write.

  • Unless otherwise directed, use the American Medical Association (AMA) style guide to properly format citations.
  • Add citations at end of a sentence to indicate that you are using someone else's idea. Use these throughout your research paper as needed. They include the author's last name, year of publication, and page number.
  • Compile your reference list and add it to the end of your paper.
  • Use a citation program if you have access to one to simplify the process.

Step 8 Edit your research paper.

  • Continually revise your paper to make sure it is structured in a logical way.
  • Proofread your paper for spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Make sure you are following the proper formatting guidelines provided for the paper.
  • Have others read your paper to proofread and check for clarity. Revise as needed.

Expert Q&A

Chris M. Matsko, MD

  • Ask your professor for help if you are stuck or confused about any part of your research paper. They are familiar with the style and structure of papers and can provide you with more resources. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Refer to your professor's specific guidelines. Some instructors modify parts of a research paper to better fit their assignment. Others may request supplementary details, such as a synopsis for your research project . Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Set aside blocks of time specifically for writing each day. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write clinical research paper

  • Do not plagiarize. Plagiarism is using someone else's work, words, or ideas and presenting them as your own. It is important to cite all sources in your research paper, both through internal citations and on your reference page. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 2

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About This Article

Chris M. Matsko, MD

To write a medical research paper, research your topic thoroughly and compile your data. Next, organize your notes and create a strong outline that breaks up the information into sections and subsections, addressing one main point per section. Write the results and discussion sections first to go over your findings, then write the introduction to state your objective and provide background information. Finally, write the abstract, which concisely summarizes the article by highlighting the main points. For tips on formatting and using citations, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Clinical Research Paper Topics

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This page aims to provide a comprehensive list of clinical research paper topics spanning various subfields of clinical research. It further guides students on how to choose a fitting topic and how to write an effective clinical research paper. Additionally, it introduces iResearchNet’s writing services, offering a platform for students to order a custom clinical research paper. The ultimate goal of this resource is to support students in their quest for academic excellence and successful navigation through the realm of clinical research.

100 Clinical Research Paper Topics

Navigating through the extensive field of clinical research may seem daunting. To streamline this process, we present a comprehensive list of clinical research paper topics divided into ten categories. Each category features ten engaging and relevant topics that cover a wide range of current issues in the field of clinical research.

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1. Disease Prevention and Management:

  • The Role of Clinical Research in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Advancements in Clinical Strategies for Diabetes Management
  • Impact of Clinical Research in Cancer Prevention
  • Novel Clinical Approaches to Managing Obesity
  • Prevention and Control of Sexually Transmitted Infections: Clinical Perspectives
  • Clinical Research in the Battle Against Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Disease Prevention: Clinical Evidence
  • Role of Vaccination in the Prevention of Infectious Diseases: A Clinical Overview
  • Clinical Trials in the Prevention and Management of Mental Health Disorders
  • Osteoporosis: Prevention and Management Strategies in Clinical Research

2. Clinical Trials:

  • The Importance of Randomization in Clinical Trials
  • Ethical Considerations in Conducting Clinical Trials
  • The Role of Placebos in Clinical Trials
  • Clinical Trials in Pediatric Populations
  • Patient Recruitment Strategies in Clinical Trials
  • Advances in Oncology: The Role of Clinical Trials
  • The Impact of Clinical Trials on Drug Development
  • Adaptive Design in Clinical Trials
  • Challenges in the Conduct of Clinical Trials during a Pandemic
  • Clinical Trials: From Bench to Bedside

3. Ethical Issues in Clinical Research:

  • Informed Consent in Clinical Research
  • Confidentiality and Privacy Issues in Clinical Research
  • The Ethics of Using Animals in Clinical Research
  • Ethical Dilemmas in Genetic Testing and Clinical Research
  • Protection of Vulnerable Groups in Clinical Research
  • Balancing Benefit and Risk in Clinical Research
  • Ethical Aspects of Research using Human Tissue Samples
  • Data Integrity and Ethical Considerations in Clinical Research
  • Ethical Challenges in Conducting Research on Rare Diseases
  • Conflict of Interest in Clinical Research

4. Technological Advancements in Clinical Research:

  • The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Research
  • Use of Mobile Technologies in Clinical Trials
  • Big Data and Its Impact on Clinical Research
  • The Potential of Virtual Reality in Clinical Trials
  • The Role of Blockchain Technology in Clinical Research
  • Wearable Technology and Patient Monitoring in Clinical Trials
  • The Impact of Genomics and Precision Medicine on Clinical Research
  • Telemedicine and Its Role in Clinical Research
  • The Role of Robotic Surgery in Clinical Trials
  • Application of Nanotechnology in Clinical Research

5. Pharmacological Clinical Research:

  • Clinical Trials and Drug Development
  • Clinical Research in Antibiotic Resistance
  • Adverse Drug Reactions: Monitoring and Management in Clinical Research
  • Clinical Research in Psychopharmacology
  • Pharmacogenetics and Personalized Medicine
  • Clinical Research in Opioid Use and Addiction
  • Clinical Trials for Novel Vaccines
  • Clinical Research and the Development of Anticancer Drugs
  • Pediatric Pharmacology and the Challenges in Clinical Research
  • Over-the-counter Drugs and Self-Medication: A Clinical Research Perspective

6. Health Policy and Clinical Research:

  • The Impact of Health Policy on Clinical Research
  • Health Insurance Policies and Accessibility to Clinical Trials
  • The Role of Policy in Regulating Clinical Trials
  • How Health Policies Influence Patient Participation in Clinical Trials
  • Policies for Ethical Conduct in Clinical Research
  • Health Policy and Its Influence on Drug Development in Clinical Research
  • The Impact of Global Health Policies on Clinical Research
  • Policy Considerations for Genetic Testing in Clinical Research
  • The Role of Policy in the Prevention of Clinical Research Misconduct
  • The Impact of Health Policy Changes on the Scope of Clinical Research

7. Mental Health and Clinical Research:

  • Clinical Research on the Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Role of Clinical Trials in Developing New Psychotropic Medications
  • Advances in Clinical Research for Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • The Role of Clinical Research in Understanding the Biology of Depression
  • Clinical Research Approaches in Managing Childhood Autism
  • Clinical Trials in the Development of Therapies for Schizophrenia
  • Impact of Clinical Research on the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
  • Clinical Research on Mental Health in the Elderly
  • Novel Clinical Approaches to Treating Eating Disorders
  • The Role of Clinical Research in Suicidal Behavior Studies

8. Public Health and Clinical Research:

  • The Role of Clinical Research in Advancing Public Health
  • The Impact of Public Health Policies on Clinical Research
  • Clinical Research on Preventive Measures in Public Health
  • Clinical Trials and Their Significance in Public Health Improvement
  • The Role of Clinical Research in Reducing Health Disparities
  • Clinical Research in the Field of Occupational Health
  • The Impact of Environmental Health Factors: A Clinical Research Perspective
  • Clinical Research in the Control and Prevention of Epidemics
  • The Role of Public Health Interventions in Clinical Research
  • Global Public Health and the Need for International Clinical Research

9. Pediatric Clinical Research:

  • Ethical Considerations in Pediatric Clinical Research
  • The Role of Clinical Trials in Advancing Pediatric Medicine
  • Clinical Research on Pediatric Oncology
  • The Impact of Clinical Research on Pediatric Neurological Disorders
  • Clinical Research on Rare Genetic Disorders in Children
  • The Role of Clinical Research in Understanding and Treating Autism in Children
  • Clinical Trials in the Development of Pediatric Vaccines
  • The Impact of Clinical Research on Neonatal Care
  • Challenges and Opportunities in Pediatric Clinical Trials
  • Clinical Research in Pediatric Cardiology

10. Clinical Research in the Era of COVID-19:

  • The Role of Clinical Research in Understanding COVID-19
  • Clinical Trials for the Development of COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Ongoing Clinical Trials
  • The Role of Clinical Research in Understanding Long-COVID
  • Clinical Trials for COVID-19 Treatments: Successes and Challenges
  • The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health: A Clinical Research Perspective
  • Clinical Research on the Effect of COVID-19 in Children
  • Lessons from COVID-19: Clinical Research for Future Pandemics
  • The Role of Telemedicine in Clinical Research During COVID-19
  • Ethical Considerations for Clinical Research During a Global Pandemic

This comprehensive list ensures that students have a broad spectrum of contemporary and significant topics to choose from, allowing them to find a subject that fits their interests and the current demands of the field.

Choosing Clinical Research Paper Topics

Choosing the right clinical research paper topic is a critical first step in the writing process. The topic you choose can set the tone for your entire project and greatly affect your experience. Here are ten tips to guide you in making the right choice:

  • Understand the Assignment: Before diving into topic selection, ensure you fully understand your assignment’s parameters. Are there specific guidelines about the type of topic you should choose? Is there a certain page or word limit? Do you need to incorporate specific resources? Understanding these requirements can help you tailor your topic appropriately.
  • Passion and Interest: Choose a topic that genuinely interests you. Writing a research paper can be a long process, and your passion for the subject can keep you motivated. It also makes it easier to delve deeper and provide new insights.
  • Scope of the Topic: Consider the breadth of your topic. Is it too broad to be adequately covered in your paper, or is it too narrow that it lacks sufficient material for research? Aim for a balance where your topic can be fully addressed within the constraints of your assignment.
  • Relevance: Opt for topics that are relevant to your field of study and the current climate of research. These could be emerging trends, pressing issues, or gaps in the existing literature that need to be filled.
  • Originality: Try to select a topic that is unique and original. While you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, having a fresh perspective or a novel aspect can make your paper more interesting.
  • Availability of Resources: Before finalizing a topic, ensure there are enough resources available for you to research. These could be scholarly articles, books, reliable online sources, or primary research materials.
  • Consult with Your Instructor or Advisor: If you’re struggling with choosing a topic, don’t hesitate to consult your instructor or advisor. They can provide valuable guidance, help you refine your ideas, and point you towards resources you may not have considered.
  • Future Implications: Consider how the topic you choose might impact your future career or academic goals. Is it something that could contribute to your long-term research goals or lead to a specialization?
  • Practicality: Consider the feasibility of your topic. Do you have the time and resources to complete this research? For instance, if your topic requires conducting surveys or interviews, will you have access to the required sample population?
  • Preliminary Research: Carry out some preliminary research before finalizing your topic. This will give you a better idea of what’s been done before, the arguments that exist around your topic, and how you can contribute to the discussion.

By considering these factors, you can ensure that the topic you choose is suited to your interests, academic goals, and the requirements of the assignment. The right topic can make the research and writing process much smoother and more enjoyable. Remember, a well-chosen topic is the first step towards a successful research paper.

How to Write a Clinical Research Paper

Writing a clinical research paper can be an intimidating task, particularly for students who are just beginning their journey in the health sciences field. The process can be made much easier by breaking it down into manageable steps. Here are ten tips that will help you successfully write a clinical research paper:

  • Understand the Assignment: Before starting, ensure you understand the scope and requirements of the assignment. Are there specific formatting guidelines? Are there any required sections? Are certain sources preferred over others? Understanding these elements can guide your writing process.
  • Thorough Research: Once you’ve chosen a topic, start your in-depth research. Look for reputable sources, such as peer-reviewed journal articles, textbooks, and government reports. Always cross-check information from multiple sources to ensure accuracy.
  • Develop a Thesis Statement: Your thesis statement should concisely summarize your paper’s main argument or focus. It should be clear, specific, and arguable. It will guide your research and writing, helping to keep your paper focused.
  • Create an Outline: An outline serves as a roadmap for your paper. It organizes your thoughts and helps ensure you address all necessary points. Your outline should include an introduction, body sections (often following the IMRaD format: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion), and a conclusion.
  • Start with the Methods Section: In a clinical research paper, starting with the Methods section can often be easiest as it includes concrete details of the research conducted. Detail the study’s design, participants, procedures, and data analysis. Be thorough so other researchers could replicate your study if needed.
  • Write the Results Section: Present your findings without interpretation in this section. Use visuals such as tables, graphs, or charts to help illustrate the data where appropriate.
  • Discuss Your Findings: The Discussion section is where you interpret your results. Connect your findings to your original research question and the existing literature in the field. Discuss whether your results met your expectations, what implications they might have, and any limitations of your study.
  • Craft Your Introduction and Conclusion: Your Introduction should provide background information, state the research problem, and outline your paper’s structure. The Conclusion should summarize your findings, discuss their implications, and suggest areas for future research.
  • Cite Your Sources: Always properly cite your sources to give credit to the original authors and allow readers to refer to the original work. Be consistent with the citation style requested by your instructor or the one generally used in your field (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard).
  • Revise and Proofread: Revision is a critical part of the writing process. Look for areas where clarity or coherence can be improved. Check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.

Remember, writing a clinical research paper is not an overnight process. It takes time and effort to research, write, and refine a scientific paper. Pace yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Your instructors, advisors, or school’s writing center can all be valuable resources.

iResearchNet’s Custom Writing Services

Navigating the complexities of writing a clinical research paper can be daunting, especially for students who are new to the field or juggling multiple responsibilities. That’s where iResearchNet steps in. Offering a robust suite of writing services tailored to the needs of health science students, iResearchNet is committed to helping you deliver quality research papers that meet academic standards. Here’s a deeper look at what we offer:

  • Expert Degree-Holding Writers: Our team comprises skilled writers holding degrees in health sciences. With a deep understanding of clinical research’s intricacies, they can craft papers that reflect rigorous research and sophisticated understanding of the subject matter.
  • Custom Written Works: We don’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions. Our writers work closely with you to understand your unique requirements and create papers tailored to your needs, ensuring your individual voice shines through.
  • In-Depth Research: Our services go beyond just writing. Our experts conduct comprehensive research, diving deep into scholarly resources to gather relevant, up-to-date information for your paper.
  • Custom Formatting: Proper formatting is crucial in academic writing. Whether your paper requires APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, or Harvard style, our writers are well-versed in these formats and will ensure your paper adheres to the requisite style guidelines.
  • Top Quality: We strive for excellence. Our rigorous quality control process involves thorough proofreading and editing to ensure that the final paper is of the highest quality, free of grammatical errors and plagiarism.
  • Customized Solutions: Whether you need help with topic selection, an outline, or a complete paper, we offer customized solutions to suit your needs. We are here to provide as much (or as little) help as you need.
  • Flexible Pricing: We understand that students work with tight budgets. That’s why we’ve designed our pricing to be affordable and flexible, offering various options to cater to different financial capabilities.
  • Short Deadlines up to 3 Hours: Facing a time crunch? We have got you covered. Our team can deliver high-quality work even on tight deadlines – as short as three hours, ensuring you never miss your submission deadlines.
  • Timely Delivery: We pride ourselves on our punctuality. Our writers work diligently to ensure your paper is completed on time, if not ahead of schedule, allowing you ample time for review.
  • 24/7 Support: Our customer support team is available round the clock to answer your queries, address concerns, and facilitate seamless communication between you and the writer.
  • Absolute Privacy: We respect your privacy. Our encrypted systems ensure your personal and financial information remains secure. We adhere to strict confidentiality policies, and we never share your information with third parties.
  • Easy Order Tracking: With our user-friendly interface, you can easily track your order’s progress. You can also communicate directly with your writer, providing feedback and clarifications where necessary.
  • Money Back Guarantee: Your satisfaction is our top priority. If you’re not completely satisfied with the work, we offer a money-back guarantee, standing behind the quality of our services.

With iResearchNet, you don’t have to navigate the demanding process of writing a clinical research paper alone. Our dedicated team of experts is ready to help you every step of the way, ensuring you can focus on mastering your subject matter while we handle the complex task of crafting a compelling research paper.

Empower Your Academic Journey with iResearchNet

You’ve seen what it takes to write a clinical research paper and the breadth of fascinating topics waiting to be explored. The journey may seem challenging, but it is also an opportunity to deepen your understanding of the health sciences, to contribute to the body of knowledge in your field, and to hone your skills as a researcher and writer. But you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. iResearchNet is here to accompany you every step of the way.

We invite you to experience the unparalleled support and expertise that our team offers. With our extensive suite of writing services, you’ll find the tools and resources you need to produce a quality research paper that reflects your hard work and dedication to your studies. Take advantage of our expert degree-holding writers’ knowledge, our commitment to in-depth research, and our proficiency in academic formatting styles to turn the daunting task of writing a research paper into a manageable, even enjoyable, process.

Choosing iResearchNet means choosing peace of mind. With our timely delivery, 24/7 support, and privacy assurance, you can focus on what matters most—your learning. And with our money-back guarantee, you can rest easy knowing that we stand firmly behind the quality of our services.

Don’t miss this opportunity to take your academic journey to the next level. Contact us today, share your clinical research paper needs, and experience firsthand how iResearchNet can help pave your path to academic success. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Let iResearchNet be that step for you.


how to write clinical research paper


Clinical Research: Write a Paper

  • Publication Cycle
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  • Case Report
  • Case-Control Study
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  • Other LibGuides on Grey Literature

Writing a Research Paper

  • Branson RD. Anatomy of a research paper. Respir Care. Oct 2004;49(10):1222-1228

Write a Research Paper

  • Alexandrov AV. How to write a research paper. Cerebrovasc Dis. 2004;18(2):135-138.

The following is a selected list of journal articles on writing a research paper. More information can be found from additional articles in PubMed  or from books in the UToledo Library Catalog.

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  • Branson RD. Anatomy of a research paper. Respir Care. Oct 2004;49(10):1222-1228.
  • Chambers DW. How to write a research paper. J Am Coll Dent. Winter 1997;64(4):53-56.
  • Cunningham SJ. How to...write a paper. J Orthod. Mar 2004;31(1):47-51.
  • Detsky ME, Detsky AS. Encouraging medical students to do research and write papers. CMAJ. Jun 5 2007;176(12):1719-1721.
  • Davidhizar R, Dowd S. Writing scholarly papers as a team. Health Care Superv. Jun 1998;16(4):53-60.
  • Fetzer J. Writing an eye-catching, high-impact paper. Anal Bioanal Chem. Jan 2004;378(1):9-10.
  • Guyatt, G., & Brian Haynes, R. (2006). Preparing reports for publication and responding to reviewers' comments. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 59(9), 900-6.
  • Holmes DR Jr, ., Hodgson, P., Nishimura, R., & Simari, R. (2009). Manuscript preparation and publication. Circulation, 120(10), 906-13.
  • Johnson TM. Tips on how to write a paper. J Am Acad Dermatol. Dec 2008;59(6):1064-1069.
  • Kallet RH. How to write the methods section of a research paper. Respir Care. Oct 2004;49(10):1229-1232.
  • Langdorf MI, Hayden SR. Turning your abstract into a paper:academic writing made simpler. West J Emerg Med. May 2009;10(2):120-123.
  • Lundberg GD. How to write a medical paper to get it published in a good journal. MedGenMed. 2005;7(4):36.
  • Nicolaides A, Thornton E. The process of writing a scientific paper. Int Angiol. Jun 2000;19(2):184-190.
  • Pamir MN. How to write an experimental research paper. Acta Neurochir Suppl. 2002;83:109-113.
  • Rohrich, R., & Sullivan, D. (2009). Plagiarism and dual publication: review of the issues and policy statement. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 124(4), 1333-9.
  • Rosenfeldt FL, Dowling JT, Pepe S, Fullerton MJ. How to write a paper for publication. Heart Lung Circ. Oct 2000;9(2):82-87.
  • Welch HG. Preparing manuscripts for submission to medical journals: the paper trail. Eff Clin Pract. May-Jun 1999;2(3):131-137.
  • Winslow EH. Writing for publication: you can do it! J Healthc Qual. Jul-Aug 2008;30(4):12-16.

Citing References

  • EndNote--a Bibliographic Citation Management Program Enter your UTAD ID in the box "UToledo Identifier". In the box "Identifier Qualification", type in your password (that you use to log in to any UToledo-networked computer or your UToledo e-mail system). Once you login, click on "Download EndNote Softward" to download the program to your computer. more... less... Using EndNote to import citations from databases such as PubMed; creating a personal database of references; formating references/bibliographies using different citation styles
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  • Sample References International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals

Instructions to Authors

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  • Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals Formerly known as Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME).
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Barker J, Linsley P, Kane R, 3rd edn. London: Sage; 2016

Ethical guidelines for educational research. 2018;

Bowling A Research methods in health, 4th edn. Maidenhead: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education; 2014

Gliner JA, Morgan GAMahwah (NJ): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 2000

Critical Skills Appraisal Programme checklists. 2021;

Cresswell J, 4th edn. London: Sage; 2013

Grainger A Principles of temperature monitoring. Nurs Stand. 2013; 27:(50)48-55

Jupp VLondon: Sage; 2006

Continuing professional development (CPD). 2021;

London: NHS England; 2017

Kennedy M, Burnett E Hand hygiene knowledge and attitudes: comparisons between student nurses. Journal of Infection Prevention. 2011; 12:(6)246-250

Lindsay-Smith G, O'Sullivan G, Eime R, Harvey J, van Ufflen JGZ A mixed methods case study exploring the impact of membership of a multi-activity, multi-centre community group on the social wellbeing of older adults. BMC Geriatrics. 2018; 18

Morse JM, Pooler C, Vann-Ward T Awaiting diagnosis of breast cancer: strategies of enduring for preserving self. Oncology Nursing Forum. 2014; 41:(4)350-359

Revalidation. 2019;

Parahoo K Nursing research, principles, processes and issues, 3rd edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; 2014

Polit DF, Beck CT Nursing research, 10th edn. Philadelphia (PA): Wolters Kluwer; 2017

Critiquing a published healthcare research paper

Angela Grainger

Nurse Lecturer/Scholarship Lead, BPP University, and editorial board member

View articles · Email Angela

how to write clinical research paper

Research is defined as a ‘systematic inquiry using orderly disciplined methods to answer questions or to solve problems' ( Polit and Beck, 2017 :743). Research requires academic discipline coupled with specific research competencies so that an appropriate study is designed and conducted, leading to the drawing of relevant conclusions relating to the explicit aim/s of the study.

Relevance of research to nursing and health care

For those embarking on a higher degree such as a master's, taught doctorate, or a doctor of philosophy, the relationship between research, knowledge production and knowledge utilisation becomes clear during their research tuition and guidance from their research supervisor. But why should other busy practitioners juggling a work/home life balance find time to be interested in healthcare research? The answer lies in the relationship between the outcomes of research and its relationship to the determination of evidence-based practice (EBP).

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) require registered practitioners to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. This requirement incorporates being aware of the current EBP relevant to the registrant's field of practice, and to consider its application in relation to the decisions made in the delivery of patient care.

Advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) are required to be involved in aspects of research activities ( Health Education England, 2017 ). It is for this reason that practitioners need to know how EBP is influenced by research findings and, moreover, need to be able to read and interpret a research study that relates to a particular evidence base. Reading professional peer-reviewed journals that have an impact factor (the yearly average number of citations of papers published in a previous 2-year period in a given journal is calculated by a scientometric index giving an impact factor) is evidence of continuing professional development (CPD).

CPD fulfils part of the HCPC's and the NMC's required professional revalidation process ( HCPC, 2021 ; NMC, 2019 ). For CPD in relation to revalidation, practitioners can give the publication details of a research paper, along with a critique of that paper, highlighting the relevance of the paper's findings to the registrant's field of practice.

Defining evidence-based practice

According to Barker et al (2016:4.1) EBP is the integration of research evidence and knowledge to current clinical practice and is to be used at a local level to ensure that patients receive the best quality care available. Because patients are at the receiving end of EBP it is important that the research evidence is credible. This is why a research study has to be designed and undertaken rigorously in accordance with academic and scientific discipline.

The elements of EBP

EBP comprises three elements ( Figure 1 ). The key element is research evidence, followed by the expert knowledge and professional opinion of the practitioner, which is important especially when there is no research evidence—for example, the most appropriate way to assist a patient out of bed, or perform a bed bath. Last, but in no way of least importance, is the patient's preference for a particular procedure. An example of this is the continued use of thermal screening dots for measuring a child's temperature on the forehead, or in the armpit because children find these options more acceptable than other temperature measuring devices, which, it is argued, might give a more accurate reading ( Grainger, 2013 ).

how to write clinical research paper

Understanding key research principles

To interpret a published research study requires an understanding of key research principles. Research authors use specific research terms in their publications to describe and to explain what they have done and why. So without an awareness of the research principles underpinning the study, how can readers know if what they are reading is credible?

Validity and reliability have long been the two pillars on which the quality of a research study has been judged ( Gliner and Morgan, 2000 ). Validity refers to how accurately a method measures what it is intended to measure. If a research study has a high validity, it means that it produces results that correspond to real properties, characteristics, and variations in the part of the physical or social world that is being studied ( Jupp, 2006 ).

Reliability is the extent to which a measuring instrument, for example, a survey using closed questions, gives the same consistent results when that survey is repeated. The measurement is considered reliable if the same result can be consistently achieved by using the same methods under the same circumstances ( Parahoo, 2014 ).

The research topic is known as the phenomenon in a singular sense, or phenomena if what is to be researched is plural. It is a key principle of research that it is the nature of the phenomenon, in association with the study's explicit research aim/s, that determines the research design. The research design refers to the overall structure or plan of the research ( Bowling, 2014 :166).

Methodology means the philosophy underpinning how the research will be conducted. It is essential for the study's research design that an appropriate methodology for the conduct and execution of the study is selected, otherwise the research will not meet the requirements of being valid and reliable. The research methods will include the design for data sampling, how recruitment into the study will be undertaken, the method/s used for the actual data collection, and the subsequent data analysis from which conclusions will be drawn (see Figure 2 ).

how to write clinical research paper

Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods studies

A quantitative methodology is where the phenomenon lends itself to an investigation of data that can be numerically analysed using an appropriate statistical test/s. Quantitative research rests on the philosophical view that science has to be neutral and value-free, which is why precise measurement instruments are required ( Box 1 ). Quantitative research is influenced by the physical sciences such as mathematics, physics, and chemistry. The purpose of quantitative studies is to identify whether there are any causal relationships between variables present in the phenomenon. In short, a variable is an attribute that can vary and take on different values, such as the body temperature or the heart rate ( Polit and Beck, 2017 :748).

Quantitative studies can sometimes have a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a prediction of the study's outcome, and the aim of the study is to show either that the hypothesis is demonstrated as proven, or that it is not proven. Often a hypothesis is about a predicted relationship between variables. There are two types of variables, independent and dependent. An independent variable causes a change in the specific phenomenon being studied, while a dependent variable is the change in that phenomenon. The first example in Box 1 might help to clarify the difference.

An example of a hypothesis would be that older people who have a history of falls have a reduction in the incidence of falls due to exercise therapy. The causal relationship is between the independent variable— the exercise therapy—and the dependent variable—a falls reduction.

A qualitative methodology aims to explore a phenomenon with the aim of understanding the experience of the phenomenon from the perspective of those affected by it. Qualitative research is influenced by the social and not the physical sciences. Concepts and themes arise from the researcher/s interpretation of the data gained from observations and interviews. The collected data are non-numerical and this is the distinction from a quantitative study. The data collected are coded in accordance with the type of method being used in the research study, for example, discourse analysis; phenomenology; grounded theory. The researcher identifies themes from the data descriptions, and from the data analysis a theoretical understanding is seen to emerge.

A qualitative methodology rests on the philosophical view that science cannot be neutral and value-free because the researcher and the participants are part of the world that the research study aims to explore.

Unlike quantitative studies, the results of which can often be generalised due to the preciseness of the measuring instruments, qualitative studies are not usually generalisable. However, knowledge comparisons can be made between studies that have some similarity of focus. For example, the uncovering of causative or aggravating factors leading to the experiences of pain management for oncology patients, and for patients who have rheumatoid arthritis, or another long-term health problem for which pain is a characteristic feature. The validity of a qualitative study relates to the accurate representation of the data collected and analysed, and which shows that data has been saturated, meaning no new data or analysed findings are forthcoming. This is demonstrated in a clear data audit trail, and the study's findings are therefore seen as credible (see the second example in Box 1 ).

Box 1.Research study examples

  • An example of a quantitative research study Kennedy and Burnett (2011) conducted a survey to determine whether there were any discernible differences in knowledge and attitudes between second- and third-year pre-registration nursing students toward hand-hygiene practices. The collected data and its subsequent analysis is presented in numerical tables and graphs, but these are supported by text explaining the research findings and how these were ascertained. For full details, see 10.1177/1757177411411124
  • 2. An example of a qualitative research study Morse et al (2014) undertook an exploratory study to see what coping strategies were used by women awaiting a possible diagnosis of breast cancer. Direct quotes from the study participants appeared in the writing up of the research because it is a requirement of qualitative research that there be a transparent data audit trail. The research showed two things, both essential requirements of qualitative research. First, how the collected data were saturated to ensure that no data had been left inadequately explored, or that the data coding had been prematurely closed and, second, having captured the breadth and depth of the data findings, the researchers showed how the direct quotes were thematically coded to reveal the women's coping strategies. For full details, see 10.1188/14.ONF.350-359
  • 3. An example of a mixed-methods study Lindsay-Smith et al (2018) investigated and explored the impact on elderly people's social wellbeing when they were members of a community that provided multi-activities. The study combined a quantitative survey that recorded participants' sociodemographic characteristics and measured participation in activities with a focus group study to gauge participants' perceptions of the benefits of taking part in the activities. For full details, see

Sometimes a study cannot meet its stated research aims by using solely a quantitative or a qualitative methodology, so a mixed-methods approach combining both quantitative and qualitative methods for the collection and analysis of data are used. Cresswell (2013) explains that, depending on the aim and purpose of the study, it is possible to collect either the quantitative data first and analyse these, followed by the qualitative data and their analysis. This is an explanatory/exploratory sequence. Or the qualitative data may be collected first and analysed, followed by the quantitative; an exploratory/explanatory process. Whichever approach is used, the cumulative data analyses have to be synthesised to give a clear picture of the overall findings ( Box 1 ).

The issue of bias

Bias is a negative feature of research because it relates to either an error in the conceptualisation of the study due to the researcher/s adopting a skewed or idiosyncratic perspective, or to errors in the data analysis. Bias will affect the validity and reliability of a study, so it is important that any bias is eliminated in quantitative studies, or minimised and accounted for in qualitative studies.

Scientific and ethical approval

It should be noted that, before any research study proceeds, the research proposal for that study must have been reviewed and agreed to by a scientific and ethics committee. The purpose of a scientific and ethics committee is to see that those recruited into a study are not harmed or damaged, and that the study will contribute to the advancement of knowledge. The committee pays particular attention to whether any bias might have been introduced to a study. The researchers will have detailed the reason why the study is required, the explicit aim/s and purpose of the study, the methodology of the study, and its subsequent design, including the chosen research methods for the collection of the data (sampling and study recruitment), and what method/s will be used for data analysis.

A literature review is undertaken and the established (published) international literature on the research topic is summarised to highlight what is already known on the topic and/or to show any topic gaps that have not yet been researched. The British Educational Research Association (BERA) (2018) also gives guidance for research proposals that are deemed to be educational evaluation studies, including ‘close-practice’ research studies. Any ethical issues such as how people will be recruited into the study, the gaining of informed voluntary consent, any conflict of interest between the researcher/s and the proposed research topic, and whether the research is being funded or financially supported by a particular source will also have been considered.

Critiquing a published research paper

It is important to remember that a published paper is not the research report. It is a sample of the research report. The research author/s are presenting their research findings as a succinct summary. Only a passing mention might be made that ethical approval and voluntary informed consent were obtained. However, readers can be assured that all publications in leading journals with a good reputation are subject to an external peer review process. Any concerns about a paper's content will have been ironed out prior to publication.

It will be apparent that there are several particular research designs. The Critical Skills Appraisal Programme (CASP) provides online information to help the interpretation of each type of study, and does this by providing questions to help the reader consider and critique the paper ( CASP, 2021 ).

General points for critiquing a paper include the following:

  • The paper should be readable and have explicit statements on the purpose of the research, its chosen methodology and design
  • Read the paper thoroughly to get a feel for what the paper is saying
  • Consider what the researcher/s says about any ethical issues and how these have been handled
  • Look at how the data were collected and analysed. Are the explanations for these aspects clear? In a quantitative study, are any graphs or charts easy to understand and is there supporting text to aid the interpretation of the data? In a qualitative study, are direct quotes from the research participants included, and do the researcher/s show how data collected from interviews and observations were coded into data categories and themes?
  • In a mixed-method study, how are the quantitative and qualitative analyses synthesised?
  • Do the conclusions seem to fit the handling of the data's analysis?
  • An important test of validity is whether the study's title relates well to the content of the paper and, conversely, whether the content reflect a corresponding match to the study's title.

Finally, remember that the research study could have been conducted using a different methodological design provided the research aims would still have been met, but a critique of the paper relates to what has been published and not what otherwise might have been done.

Writing a clinical research paper


  • 1 Department of Surgery, College of Medicine & Asir Central Hospital, King Khalid University, Abha, Saudi Arabia.
  • PMID: 19864742

A well-known unwritten law in institutions of higher learning is that of "Publish or perish". The duties of a University teacher, in order of priority are teaching, research and service. Reasons for writing clinical research papers are to get promoted, to get research grants and to make known, one's findings in order to improve patients' care. Writing papers is also a means of delivering continuous education, therefore publication is essential for any one pursuing an academic career. Research papers can be in the form of case reports, retrospective studies, prospective studies and laboratory or animal research. Two popular formats of writing papers are: The Vancouver Style and the Harvard System.


Writing a Medical Clinical Trial Research Paper – Example & Format

Hello, this is Sam from Ref-n-write. In this blog, I will explain how to write a clinical trial research paper for a medical journal.  We will go through the basic components that make up a good clinical paper. The title of our research paper is “The Effects of Vitamin D Supplements on Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial Study” I must insist that this is not an actual research paper from an actual medical journal. This is just an example medical research paper we put together for the purpose of teaching the process of writing up clinical trials.

The Effects of Vitamin D Supplements on Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial Study Research Paper Title

1. Introduction Paragraph

Let’s start with the introduction paragraph. This is where you tell your readers what your topic is and why it is important. It is a good idea to start your intro paragraph with a hook. A hook is a powerful opening statement designed to grab the reader’s attention. This can be a fact, a statistic or a question. Since our study is about obesity, let’s give an interesting statistic about obesity. After starting with a broad statement, the next step is to narrow down the topic. In the second statement, we are dropping a hint that our paper is concerned with vitamin D and obesity. With the next statement, we are establishing the importance of the topic. We are saying that many people are dying due to obesity, and vitamin D is causing a lot of health issues, so we must do something about it. Then in the final statement of the intro paragraph, we explain how conducting research in this field will benefit the community. In our case, doctors will be able to prescribe better treatment options for obese patients. That concludes the introduction paragraph of our research paper.

Obesity is a Worldwide disease; In 2020, more than 2 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. There is a general consensus in the research community that there is a strong association between obesity and Vitamin D. This represents an important and timely topic because obesity is currently fifth greatest risk of mortality, and Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with variety of chronic diseases. Better understanding of this link will greatly aid medical practitioners in effective treatment and management of obese patients. Introduction Paragraph

2. Literature Review

Let’s move on to the literature review. This is where you provide a comprehensive summary of previous research on this topic. Let’s start with a broad statement summarizing the research in the area. In the first statement, we are saying that many studies have confirmed some link between vitamin D and obesity. Now let’s move on to specific studies. In the second statement, we are reporting the results of a specific study that came out recently and talks about the link between vitamin D and obesity in western countries. Now let’s talk about some mixed evidence that casts some doubt on the current understanding of the topic. In the final statement, we are saying that some studies have shown that obesity causes vitamin D deficiency, whereas other studies have shown that it is in fact, vitamin D that causes obesity issues among people.

Several studies have reported an association between low vitamin D levels and obesity levels [1-3] . Recently John et al , reported high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in several western countries with high levels of obesity [1]. Some studies suggested that obesity increased the risk of vit D deficiency [15] whereas other studies have shown the opposite [3]. Literature Review

3. Research Gap and Research Statement

Now it is time to establish the research gap. The previous statements we made, nicely lead to this statement. We are saying that we lack clear evidence linking vitamin D to obesity. We are also saying that most of the existing studies were conducted on subjects with preexisting health conditions, so there is a research gap to be filled. Now you must define your research question and explain how it addresses the research gap you established in the literature review. We are saying here that the study’s main aim is to investigate the effect of vitamin D on weight loss among the healthy population. We are also defining a specific hypothesis that we will either prove or disprove towards the end of the paper.

Due to lack of clear evidence, the link between vitamin D and obesity remains unclear. Moreover, most studies were conducted on subjects with preexisting health conditions or of certain background. The aim of the study was to examine the effect of vitamin D supplementation on weight loss among healthy population. We hypothesized that vitamin D could enhance weight loss without side effects. Research Gap and Statement

4. Materials and Methods

Let’s move on to materials and methods. The ‘materials and methods’ is one of the most important parts of your paper. This section should have enough detail so that another researcher can reproduce your experiments and results.

4.1. Study Design and Ethical Approval

Let’s start with study design. In clinical trial papers, you must explain the study design employed in your work. In our case, it was a randomized, double-blinded placebo trial. Then you can talk about the location and period in which the clinical trial was conducted. Then provide details about the ethical approval that was obtained for the study. Nowadays, registering your clinical trial on the website is a requirement before you begin recruiting patients for your study. You must also include the registration number.  I must warn you that many journals will refuse to publish the results of your paper if the clinical trial is unregistered. Good clinical practice (GCP) is a set of internationally recognized quality standards that must be followed when conducting clinical trials involving people.  It is a good idea to provide information about who is responsible for monitoring this for your trial.

The study was a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial study. The study was conducted between April 2015 and March 2017 at five different hospitals in the central United Kingdom. This study was approved by the National Health Service ethical committee and registered on as NC 34532. The trial was conducted according to the guidelines of good clinical practice (GCP) and monitored by the GCP unit at the hospital. Study Design, Ethical Approval & Good Clinical Practice

4.2. Participant Recruitment and Consent

It is very important to define the inclusion and exclusion criteria used for the study. The inclusion criteria define the characteristics that will make subjects eligible for the study. In our case, we only included non-smoking and nondiabetic subjects with BMI greater than 25. The exclusion criteria define the characteristics that make subjects ineligible for the study. In our case, we exclude subjects participating in weight loss programs and taking dietary supplements. Now let’s detail the characteristics of the cohort, such as sample size, age, gender etc. In our case, we recruited 50 subjects in the age range of 15-60.

Let’s provide some information about the recruitment procedure. In our case, there was a face-to-face interview to confirm eligibility. And also, the eligible participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire so that we could gather demographic information. Another important part of the recruitment process is to get informed consent from the participants. The participants should be given all the information about the trial, including the benefits and risks, so they can decide whether to participate in the trial or not.

Subjects were included if they met the following criteria: (1) BMI>25; (2) non-smoker; and (3) no history of diabetes. Subjects participating in weight loss programs were excluded from the study. A total of 50 subjects (25 male & 25 female) participated in the study at the age range of 15-60. The eligibility was evaluated by interview. They were asked to fill in a questionnaire to gather demographic information. An informed consent was obtained from all the participants. Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria, Patient Recruitment & Consent

4.3. Outcomes and Follow up

Let us now explain how the participants were divided into groups. In our study, the participants were randomly split into intervention and control groups.  The intervention group was given vitamin D supplements, and the control group was given a placebo. Our study is double-blinded, which means neither the participants nor the researchers knew which group they belonged to. Let’s talk about the follow-up period. Choosing an appropriate follow-up period for your study is important because a shorter follow-up period leads to an underestimation of the effects being measured. On the other hand, a long follow-up period increases the risk of subjects dropping out of the study. In our case, we have chosen a follow-up period of 12 months, and the measurements were performed every 6 months.

Then we have to explain what parameters we are measuring on the participants during the course of the study. In our case, we measured BMI, waist circumference and blood pressure.  BMI is the primary outcome. It means it is the most important outcome, and we will analyze the changes in BMI values to either prove or disprove our hypothesis. The secondary outcomes, such as waist circumference and BP, are additional measurements that we perform to provide supporting evidence for the main finding.

Participants were randomly divided into intervention and control groups, and received vit D supplements and placebo, respectively. Patients were assessed at 0,  6 and 12 months for a follow-up period of 1 year. BMI (primary outcome), waist circumference (secondary outcome) and BP (secondary outcome) were measured by a trained personal at each visit. Grouping, Outcome & Follow-up Period

4.4. Statistical Analysis

Let’s talk about the statistical analysis and tools used for the study. In our case, we are using an independent sample t-test for statistical analysis. The independent sample t-test compares the means of two groups, in our case, the vitamin D group and the placebo group. We also specify the definition of statistical significance; if the p-value is less than 0.05, then we will consider the difference to be statistically significant. We also give the format of the data presented in the paper. In our case, all the data will be represented in the format mean ± SE.  We also mention the name of the statistical package used for the analysis. In our case, We are using SPSS statistical software, and the version number is 10.0.

Analyses were performed with independent t-test and paired t-test. All data were shown as mean ± SE. In all analysis, P value <0.05 was considered statistically significant. The data were analyzed using SPSS 10.0 ( software. Statistical Analysis

Let’s move on to the results section. This is where you present the core findings of your study. You have to present your results in a logical sequence. Do not interpret the results here. Instead, save them for the discussion section later. Before jumping into results, you must first let the audience know if you did any preprocessing or data cleanup before the analysis. In our case, four participants had to be excluded from the study due to health issues. And two participants dropped out due to personal reasons. So it means we are dealing with a slightly smaller sample size than we initially set out. Try to present your data in figures and tables, and only elaborate on the most important results in the main text. In our case, we are presenting the characteristics of both groups in a table. And we are plotting the change in BMI over time as a graph and presenting it as a figure in the paper.

From 50 participants, four subjects were excluded due to health issues. Two participants withdrew from the study due to personal reasons. Table 1 illustrates the characteristics of two groups participated in the study. In Figure 1, the BMI values are plotted as a function of duration for both groups. The results show that vitamin D supplementation caused a significant decrease in BMI (p<0.001). There was no significant difference in BP (p=0.71) between vitamin D (121 ± 3.1) and placebo groups (123 ± 4.2). Results

Now let’s start with the main finding. In our case, we found a significant drop in BMI among the cohort taking vitamin D supplements. Since we use the word significant, we have to provide a p-value. Let’s move on to the next result. We are reporting that there is no significant difference in blood pressure between the two groups. We are also providing actual values in the text. We have already mentioned in the methods section that the data will be in the format mean ± SE.

6. Discussion

Let’s move on to the discussion. This is where you interpret your findings and compare your results with previously published work in this domain. This is the place to talk about limitations and the future direction of your work. It is a good idea to start with the main result. In our case, we found that vitamin D reduces BMI, which supports the main hypothesis. Let’s also mention how these findings fit into existing research in the domain. In our case, these findings are in line with the results of previous studies published on this topic. Now, let’s move on to a negative result. In our case, we observed a negative association between waist circumference and vitamin D. Now give your interpretation of this negative result. We think it is because of the shorter duration of the study. Let’s report an unexpected result. In our case, we found that the blood pressure was a bit on the higher side with the cohort taking vitamin D supplements. Let’s give our interpretation of the result. We believe it is because of limited data.

Vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced the BMI over a 1 year period supporting the main hypothesis. The results agree well with the findings of existing studies [7-8]. A negative association was observed between waist length and vitamin D supplementation. The findings are in contrast with the previous studies [9-10]. This outcome is likely due to the shorter duration of the study. It was quite surprising to find that there was a slight increase in BP among the vitamin D group. The result must be interpreted with caution due to limited data. Interpretation of Results

Let’s talk about the implications of our research. This is where you describe the significance of your findings. You must explain how your findings will benefit society. You can also explain how your findings contribute to the existing body of knowledge and impact future research in the area. Then add one or two lines about the novelty of your research. Explain what is so unique about your research. In our case, this is the first study to be conducted on a healthy population. Let’s move on to limitations. Every study has limitations. If you hide your limitations, I can guarantee that reviewers will reject your paper. Be honest about the limitations and explain how future studies can rectify the shortcomings of your work. In our case, the major limitation is that our study uses a small number of participants. Let’s move on to the final statement of the paper. Finish your paper with one or two lines about the possible future direction of your research. In our case, we can conduct a much bigger study to reconfirm our findings in the future.

The results demonstrated in this work provides a new perspective on the link between vitamin D and obesity from a clinical treatment perspective. To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest study to date to be conducted on health population. One of the most important limitation of the study is the small sample size. Larger clinical trials are needed to confirm the findings. This should be considered in future studies. Implications, Limitations and Future work

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how to write clinical research paper


  1. How to Write a Medical Research Paper: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

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    Include your main title, running title (often a shortened version of your main title), author's name, course name, and semester. 3. Compile your results. Divide the paper into logical sections determined by the type of paper you are writing.

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  15. Writing a clinical research paper

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  16. Writing a Medical Clinical Trial Research Paper

    In this blog, I will explain how to write a clinical trial research paper for a medical journal. We will go through the basic components that make up a good clinical paper. The title of our research paper is "The Effects of Vitamin D Supplements on Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial Study" I must insist that this is not an actual research ...

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    In the last decade, the number of publications dedicated to research in gastroenterology has expanded dramatically. 1 In parallel, the number of clinical trials has been increasing, with more than 18,000 ongoing clinical trials in the United States alone. 2 With this rapid growth in research, clinicians find themselves trying to keep up with wave after wave of studies and trying to determine ...