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SAGE Open Med. 2018 May 25;6:2050312118778728. doi: 10.1177/2050312118778728. eCollection 2018.

Outlining and dictating scientific manuscripts is a useful method for health researchers: A focus group interview.

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Center for Perioperative Optimization, Department of Surgery, Herlev Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Herlev, Denmark.
Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Young researchers may experience difficulties when writing scientific articles for publication in biomedical journals. Various methods may facilitate the writing process including outlining the paper before the actual writing and using dictation instead of writing the first draft. The aim of this study was to investigate the experiences and difficulties for young, experienced researchers when writing articles using a detailed outline and dictation of the first draft.


We used qualitative focus group interviews and the study was reported according to the COnsolidated criteria for REporting Qualitative research guideline. Participants were sampled from a group of researchers participating in a writing retreat/course. The interviews were recorded on a digital recorder and transcribed. The text was analyzed according to content analysis and coded and condensed into themes and subthemes. Groups of participants were added until data saturation was reached.


A total of 14 researchers participated (9 women and 5 men). Their clinical experience was median (range) of 6 (1-11) years since graduation from medical school. Two themes arose during the analyses of the data: "Process guidance with the outline as the map" and "arrival at dictation." The outline was used in the preparation phase leading up to the day of dictation and was used in collaboration with co-authors and supervisors. The participants found it to be a useful tool for preparing the manuscript and dictating their initial first full draft.


Experienced young researchers found beneficial effects of using a structured outline to prepare for dictation of scientific articles. The outline was a tool that would develop in close collaboration with co-authors and mentors. With dictation, a full first draft of a manuscript can be produced in a few hours. Participants positively evaluated this structured and reproducible way of producing scientific articles.


Medical education; focus group; medical writing; qualitative methods; scientific publishing; scientific writing

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of conflicting interests: The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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