Regardless of who joins you, it is vital to identify the roles of all of the contributors early in the process. Because the roles of first, senior and corresponding authorships are so important, these need to be discussed and negotiated along with the associated expectations.
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2. Set realistic deadlines. Although case reports are not as time consuming as other types of scholarly work, case reports can still take up quite a bit of time. And time is something that we fellows do not have. Therefore, it’s important to set deadlines and place them on your calendar. Of course, these have to be flexible, especially if you are dealing with collaborators whose schedules you have little control over, but if the case report is not at the forefront, it’s likely to be forgotten altogether.
3. Figure out your angle. Case reports are, in essence, short stories. And just like short stories, they have themes, characters, settings and plots. In fact, the strength of a case report lies in the interplay between these various facets of storytelling.
Whether you want to set it as a detective story, in which a culprit disease is slowly identified through methodical reasoning, or a futuristic fantastic illustration of a new medication to treat disease, the choice is essentially up to you. One common misconception is that rarity imbues a case report with value and that simply relaying the details of an uncommon disease will lead to compelling reading. In fact, it’s quite the opposite—without making the argument that this narrative has importance to other patients, it might come across as a fish story that readers are likely to ignore altogether.
4. Know who you are pitching to. It’s also incredibly important that, very early in the process, you consider which types of journals or medical news magazines you would like to submit your case report to. Certain publications have very particular formats that authors should be aware of so they can tailor their work accordingly. Some only offer to publish letters to the editor or clinical communications, which are quite short. Others, like Arthritis Care & Research and the New England Journal of Medicine, have extended Clinicopathologic Conferences (CPCs), in which there is running dialogue interspersed with the case presentation and can run for several thousand words. Knowing the publication’s audience is just as important. The discussion section of a case report intended for a rheumatology journal should be approached very differently than one intended for a general internal medicine journal.