Writing for Publication in Peer Reviewed Journals
Kim Johnson, Executive Director of ICUDDR
One of the key skills graduate students and junior faculty need to develop is writing for publication in
peer reviewed journals. Scientific writing is formulaic. The standard formats are designed both for ease
of writing and ease of reading. It is much easier to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a study
if the paper about it follows a standard format that we have read many times before. Because it is
formulaic, we can help students understand the rules and conventions. It is not a mystery why some
papers are published and others are not.
Even for students who are not going on to a career in research, understanding the standard structure of
various types of scientific papers and the way outcomes are generally reported is useful. We want to
encourage our students to continue to stay abreast of the research so that they can provide the best
care and service to the patients, families and communities that they serve. If they can’t distinguish
between a good study and a poor one, they may promote practices that are really not that well
My experience with universities in the United States is that we don’t have a formal method for teaching
these skills. We expect graduate students to pick it up during the process of writing papers for class or as
co-authors with their academic advisor. For PhD students, we expect the dissertation to fill the role of
teaching scientific writing skills. But the formula for the dissertation is quite different from that of peer
reviewed publications as many first time first authors discover after much unfruitful labor. We expect
students to discover the secrets to getting published rather than just teaching them directly.
ICUDDR in conjunction with ISAJE, the International Society of Addiction Journal Editors, with funding
support from the National Institute for Drug Abuse, a U.S. government research funding organization, is
working to change this standard. We have two projects in which we hope you will participate.
First, we have a call for proposals to create an academic class, preferable a full credit semester-long
class on writing for peer reviewed journals. We will provide some funding support and training materials
developed by ISAJE to use in the development of the class. Applications are due on December 4, so
there is still time to apply.
Second, we are hosting two learning collaboratives, one starting in January and the other in April to train
faculty to use the ISAJE materials with their students to improve their writing. Through a process that
includes brief didactic presentations and paper review and discussion to highlight common errors made
by authors, we hope to engage faculty in developing skills in preparing their students to write for peer
You can get more information on the call for applications on our website homepage. If you
have questions or are interested in either the learning collaborative or course development, please