Medical journal articles are the major component of medical literature, which comprise all such articles and texts in books related to the medicinal field. Methods of diagnosis, prognosis, therapy and treatment of diseases have been documented for thousands of years. The first known written work in medicine is “Edwin Smith papyrus”. In early days, most of the medical treatises were related to warfare since war was the most common occasion of contracting diseases and instigating health issues. Following William Harvey, Vesalius, Ignaz Smmelweis and others, the medical profession has modified its research methods. As the scientific method is incorporated into medicine, the concept of “peer-review” was introduced into medical literature, which is now divided in journals and textbooks.
Like every established discipline, medical profession has its specialized journals. The medical community shares information in these publications. Some of the notable journals include New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, CMAJ [Canadian Medical Association Journal] and JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association]. There are three basic types of medical journal articles:
1. Original Articles – They share methods, results, discussions and conclusions of a recently conducted research. Thus, original articles provide new information. The conclusions are supported by the data provided in results.
2. Reviews – These are not original articles but an overview of a specific clinical topic. They help in refreshing readers’ memory or to enhance a new concept. Reviews analyze latest developments on a topic in detail. This sort of article does not provide new information and the writer’s opinion or personal experience is excluded. Other types of reviews include systematic reviews and meta-analysis reviews which answer a particular clinic dilemma by gathering and summarizing all published data relating to a specific topic.
3. Case Reports – These report on clinical cases of special interest, rare phenomenon or a latest clinical method which was used in disease management. However, most of the top medical literature currently, does not include case reports as it is not evidence based medicine.
4. Technical Note – This category of articles is also called “Technical Innovation”. It describes a particular technique, alteration of an existing technique, or latest equipment for a branch of medicine.
5. Pictorial Essay – This article is for teaching purpose and contains high quality pictures. The text is limited with greater emphasis on the message contained in images. The message is current and does not introduce new information.
6. Commentary – It is a short article which presents an author’s personal experience of a particular subject. It may be controversial as the writer’s perspective is provided. However, this type of article may also outline different viewpoints that exist regarding the topic.
After reaching consensus, many of the medical journal articles which cover latest research or discovery, are included in medical textbooks.
It is also worth-discussing what article structure the medical journal articles employ. It is the famous scientific scheme called IMRAD which stands for:
• Introduction [E.g. what was asked?]
• Methods [how was it studied?]
• Results [what were the findings?]
• Discussion [what do the findings mean?]