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Dr Maria Kołtowska-Häggström - Writing a paper

Dr Maria Kołtowska-Häggström - Writing a paper

Maria Kołtowska-Häggström, MD, PhD., is a leading communications expert at She is highly experienced in making data presentations and overseeing peer-reviewed publications. She gives us some tips on how to be better medical writers.

What is the best way to start writing a paper? Where to start? What is the recommended order of writing? Should you start with the Introduction?

This is a common problem and many authors, including the most experienced, struggle with getting started. The order in which you write a paper does not have to be in the same order as the final manuscript. Very often the easiest way is to start with the Methods section, as this is perhaps the most straightforward and self-contained section. Therefore, my recommendation is to start with the Methods section and do it while you are still conducting the research. Then, continue by writing the Results section, followed by the Introduction and Discussion section. The Abstract should always be written last of all, when the final version of the manuscript has been agreed. Overall, the golden rule is to start writing; write anything, just to get started. You can’t correct what you haven’t written!

How to structure introductions? How much information should be included in the introduction?

The introduction is a relatively short part of the manuscript (up to one page) and its main function is to set the stage for the entire paper. It should be limited only to the field you are researching and must not cover the whole discipline. It should starts with a brief description of what is known, followed by what remains unknown, and finally should formulate your research question(s) and the rationale for your study.

What are the basic rules for preparing poster presentation?

To start with, it is important to understand that a poster presentation is not a full paper and should contain only the most important information, structured in a way that is easy and quick to follow and comprehend. Posters are usually presented at large meetings, among hundreds of other posters. You cannot therefore expect participants to spend a long time reading your poster. Hence, the basic rules are:

  • Use as few words and as many graphics as possible
  • Use a font that is large enough to be easily seen from 1–2 meters
  • Include only critical information but enough for readers to understand the study
  • Ensure that you have a clear and short take-home message.
  • Finally, a practical tip – include the authors’ contact details!


Maria Kołtowska-Häggström, MD, PhD

Programme leader at Proper Medical Writing
Senior Medical Director at KIGS/KIMS/ACROSTUDY Medical Outcomes, Pfizer Endocrine Care in Sollentuna, Sweden.
Widely experienced in data presentations including peer-reviewed publications. Most papers published in:Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism; European Journal of Endocrinology; Clinical Endocrinology; Growth Hormone and IGF Research; Hormone Research; Value in Health, Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

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