Catarina has built a fantastic guide with 7 tools and parallel alternatives for aspiring medical writers that are helpful shortcuts to keep you productive and on top of your work!Virginia Chachati – Editor at Write Clinic
As a fellow aspiring medical and scientific writer in the field of medical communications, I have struggled to find the best tools to aid me in my daily work. After a long search, I have found some tools and guidelines that I believe are essential to produce high-quality documents and simplify tedious tasks. Here are my top 7 tools and guidelines!
1. ⚠️Grammarly: grammar and spelling checker
If you don’t use Grammarly yet, please do so. It’s an AI-powered tool that checks for spelling and grammar errors and analyses your sentence length, word choice, tone of voice, and more. It’s free, easy to use, and can be used in different applications and websites.
You can customize the app to match your goals: from choosing your language option (only English is currently supported) to defining your writing style. Another great feature (available only in the Premium version) is plagiarism detection.
Alternative tool: ProWritingAid.
2. 👩🏼🎨 Biorender: scientific illustration for everyone
Has a client asked you to produce a scientific scheme, but you lack illustration skills? Then, Biorender is the right choice for you! It has an easy interface that allows you to create a scientifically accurate image within minutes.
The free plan includes the opportunity to create up to 5 simple figures for educational purposes but does not grant you permission to publish them in journals. The paid versions bypass this issue and allow you to share figures with your partners.
Alternative tools: Bioicons and SMART Servier Medical Art.
3. 📰 Endnote: reference management tool
If you still format your references one by one, this tool is for you! Endnote allows you to search for references in different databases, share your library with your collaborators, insert citations from your library in Microsoft Word, and automatically organizes references in a bibliography section.
Another important function is the ability to import Journal specific reference styles. However, Endnote is paid and there are free alternatives that you might want to consider.
Alternative tool: Mendeley.
4. 📈 GraphPad: statistical analysis and graph customization
The world of statistical analysis can be very challenging for all of us who are not biostatisticians. While most of the statistical analysis is performed by qualified personnel, a part of the medical writer’s job is to garnish the graphs with relevant information and make them more captivating.
GraphPad is a very intuitive program that allows you to organize your data, run statistical analysis and create appealing and customizable graphs. A useful feature is exporting graphs directly into Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.
Alternative tool: Microsoft Excel.
5. 📚 PubMed: the medical writer’s best friend
With so much information available online, it can be difficult to search for the answers you seek. Especially if you are new in the field. The best way to go is using a medical and scientific literature database, such as PubMed, which has millions of citations and abstracts on the biomedical field and that can link you to the original journal articles.
Some of the best tips to help you conduct an effective PubMed search are: use an asterisk (*) to search for word variations, use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and filters to refine your search.
Alternative tools: Web of Science, or Scopus.
6. 📑Reporting guidelines
When writing medical content, it’s important to follow specific guidelines that depend on the type and objectives of your study. Complying with these guidelines enhances the quality and transparency of health research. The Equator Network has a list of the main guidelines that should be followed to report randomised trials (CONSORT), observational studies (STROBE), systematic reviews (PRISMA), among others.
If you’re working on a company-sponsored biomedical research project, you might also look at the 2022 update of the Good Publication Practice guidelines. These guidelines provide details on how company-sponsored clinical trial publications should be approached to follow responsible and ethical principles.
7. 📎Other AI-writing tools
I could not end this post without mentioning this trending field. ChatGPT has been around since the end of 2022 and has raised numerous discussions about its benefits and disadvantages in medical writing. Some fear that AI tools may rob our jobs, and many perceive it as cheating. I believe it must be faced with caution like any other evolutionary step.
ChatGPT can produce human-like text answers to input prompts. Nevertheless, this tool cannot create language-rich texts, create texts based on unpublished data and the produced content has to be fact-checked. Still, for medical writers, it can be a great help to stimulate our creativity when we are stuck and to obtain a summary of other related terms that can be used in more robust literature research.
Alternative tool: Writesonic.
Once you start writing your first articles, you will find many other tools that will be essential for you as a writer in medical communications. Each medical writer is different and what works for one might not be your cup of tea. When you search online for these top 7 tools and guidelines, various others will appear, and you will find the ones that suit you best.
That’s the beauty of medical writing: research leads the way!
About the author
Thank you so much Catarina S. Silva for writing a thoughtful and helpful post for aspiring medical writers!
Minor edits made by Virginia Chachati – Editor at Write Clinic.