6 Steps to Getting Published in Dentistry

For lots of dental applications and to grow your portfolio, you might be looking to get something published.... but how do you go about it?

1. Decide what you want to write about

The easy part yes? But finding something you WANT to write about that others will also WANT to read can actually be quite challenging. 

Is there something you particularly care about? A project or audit that has made a big difference to patients? Or an interesting or unusual case report? Have a look at journals you read and articles that you find engaging for ideas of what you could write about and what types of articles there are out there. They can be:
  • Opinion pieces
  • Original research
  • Quality improvement/audit
  • Case reports/case series
  • Overview of topics/conditions - often as part of a literature review

2. Decide where you want it to be published

Once you know what you're going to write about, the next question is where do you want to get it published? 

Different journals and magazines have different audiences who read them. If you want to make an impact with an academic piece, then also look at the impact factor the journal has which is the number of citations/readership that journal gets in a year - the higher the number, the greater the impact. 

Depending what the purpose is of your publication, it is probably important to get in into a peer reviewed publication as this shows the journal has critically reviewed your submission and if you want to list any publications in applications for postgraduate training for example, it tends to be only peer reviewed publications that you can include in your portfolio. 

Is your topic a general topic that will appeal to most general dentists? Then the British Dental Journal, Dental Update or the Primary Dental Journal might fit. There are also journals for each of the dental specialities, and don't forget non-dental journals too which might be a good fit. Also remember sister publications such as the BDJ team or student, or other dental magazines. 

3. What literature is out there already?

Once you've decided what you want to write about, search the literature to see what is already out there. This might help you when you are writing your article, but be aware that if there is lots already out there on a topic that is similar to the angle to what you want to write from, that perhaps there isn't a need for the piece. If this is the case, rework your angle or work out how your piece adds to the body of literature. Otherwise you might want to reconsider what you are writing about. 

If you are unsure about literature searches and how to go about them, there are organisations that can help you out. Does your hospital, trust or university offer library services that can support you with searching the literature? If you are a BDA member or member of one of the Royal Colleges, they also offer library services so I would recommend reaching out to them too. 

4. Find your team

Although you might be wanting to get published as first authors, don't think you have to do everything by yourself! Writing papers is hard work and can take a long time and so find people who can write papers together. Not only does it spread the workload, but it also gives more than one perspective on your article!

Especially if you aren't that experienced in writing papers, or you are aware of someone who is an expertise in the area you want to write in, having others as part of your team will really help you. If you're writing papers as a team, I would recommend laying out a plan of the paper you're writing and the roles of each team member or sections each of you will write - alongside target deadlines to get things done by. This makes you accountable to each other. 

5. Sort your references

Personally, my least favourite part of writing any paper! But keeping on top of your references from the beginning will make your life so much easier!

Look at what referencing system the journal you are looking to publish asks for - this will be in the guidance for authors instructions. There are some great referencing software programmes you can use that makes your life easier and can store papers and references for you for any future publications too! The software we were taught to use at university was Endnote, but I also hear great things about Zotero. Work out which system works for you!

6. Listen to feedback

Once you had written your paper, if you have a mentor or colleague who can read it over, not only to proof read, but to give you their opinion on it, then ask them if would kindly look over things for you... and listen to their feedback! Reviewing/looking over papers takes time and people are busy so value their time and what they have to say. 

If you submit an article for publication and it gets rejected or it is returned with comments or a request to re-write, don't be disheartened. Reviewers can leave lots of very useful comments which can include why they might not think it is suitable for that particular publication, so you could try somewhere else. If there are lots of mark ups on your piece, this shows there is promise within the article itself and you can therefore make the relevant changes in order for it to be accepted. Feedback is constructive and a learning opportunity! 

Writing articles and papers isn't easy and you may get a few rejections or have unsuccessful attempts but keep persevering! Writing pieces can be really enjoyable and fulfilling.... it isn't just a tick box exercise for applications! Good luck!

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