Writing skills for medical writers: what MedComms agencies expect

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Description

This online workshop (split across two half-days, it runs 09.30-13.00 BST on both 1 June and 2 June), is designed for those who intend applying to work as a medical writer for a MedComms (medical communications) agency. Led by John Dixon, Trainer in scientific writing and presentation skills, this is a FirstMedCommsJob.com initiative (supported by AMICULUM Ltd,Ashfield Healthcare Communications,Envision Pharma Group, Fishawack Health, Helios Medical Communications, Highfield,and Oxford PharmaGenesis).

All attendees will receive a certificate of completion.

John Dixon MA FRCS MRCGP MBA. John initially qualified in medicine and worked as a surgeon and GP in the UK NHS. Since 2003, John completed an MBA at Warwick University Business School. He then spent five years as Director of Medical Communications in a UK medical communications agency, becoming a freelance consultant in healthcare communications in 2013. He now provides training in scientific writing for medical writers in UK medical communications agencies and for researchers from a diversity of scientific disciplines in universities and research institutes across Europe. John is coauthor of: How to Publish in Biomedicine: 500 Tips for Success. Third Edition. Nov 16, 2016. CRC Press.



An overview of the virtual workshops

Aim and content

The programme is primarily designed to help prospective medical writers tackle an agency writing test.

The two virtual workshops cover eight topics: be prepared, clear, readable, coherent, concise, relevant, visually aware, correct and consistent.
At the end of Workshop 1, Peter Llewellyn (NetworkPharma) will lead a short discussion about careers in medical writing. At the end of Workshop 2, Julia Walton (Media Contacts) will share her recruitment experience on writing an effective CV. The full programme is attached below.

Virtual workshops?

The two half-day virtual workshops are based on the one-day, face-to-face workshop that John Dixon has provided for prospective medical writers over the past two years.

  • Using the Zoom platform, they are designed to enable participants to learn and participate in the same way as face-to-face workshops.
  • They include interaction through exercises, discussion, breakout sessions for small groups and pairs, and opportunity for asking questions and making comments throughout.
  • Content is also delivered through short PowerPoint presentations.

Learning objectives

After the workshops, participants should be more confident in the following:

  • How to approach an agency writing test
  • Writing in a clear, concise and readable style that is appropriate and relevant for the intended audience
  • Constructing good sentences and paragraphs and enabling ideas to flow smoothly through text
  • Using familiar words and not overusing adverbs and adjectives
  • Formatting documents effectively by maximising white space and using good subheadings, lists, figures and tables
  • Using appropriate grammar, words and punctuation commonly encountered in scientific writing
  • Proofreading their work using good technique and a checklist.

Zoom platform

The Zoom platform simplifies listening to, viewing and interacting with the trainer and other participants.

  • Before the workshop, participants will receive a short guide on how to use Zoom on a laptop or desktop. This will also cover safety and confidentiality issues.
  • At the beginning of the workshop, John will cover how to participate, including how to ask questions through ‘Raise Hand’ and text-based ‘Group Chat’, and the process of being assigned to ‘Breakout Rooms’.

Timing and breaks

The workshops start at 09:30 and finish at 13:00 BST. John will be online from 09:10 to troubleshoot any IT issues. However, even the keenest of participants in the most engaging virtual workshops can only sit in front of a screen for so long!

  • So, two rest and refreshment breaks are scheduled during the workshop, with time at beginning and end for introduction and final questions.
  • Learning time will, therefore, be around three hours per workshop, and this includes exercises and discussion.

Preparation

A week before the workshops, participants will be given a little preparatory work to take around 30–60 minutes.



Programme: Workshop 1 of 2

The writing test, be clear, readable, coherent and concise

09:30: Introductions and using the Zoom interface

Be a planner

The writing test: types, what agencies expect, have a clear the brief, keep to the deadline

Preparation: get up to speed, perform a relevant literature review, know your audience and be sure you know what output format is expected

Discussion:

  • Participant experiences of writing tests

Be clear

Be clear and write for your audience: keep it simple, language, audience needs

Sentences: structure, length, unclear sentences, embedded phrases, active and passive voice, avoid noun-adjective strings and wordy phrases, smothered verbs, tenses

Words: use shorter, familiar words, unnecessary and imprecise words, think carefully about adverbs and adjectives

Exercises/discussion:

  • Examples of unclear sentences: what’s wrong and how to improve them
  • Complex sentences: dependent clauses, smothered verbs and the passive voice

10:45 BREAK

Readability: what is readability and why is it important?

Discussion:

  • Compare the readability of extracts from 2 papers
  • Results of analysing a piece of your own writing using MS Word readability statistics#

Be coherent

Group ideas, coherence between sections, coherence within paragraphs, transitions, flow and impact, parallelism

Exercises/discussion:

  • Compare two passages – how can flow be improved?

12:00 BREAK

Be concise

Be concise: delete, replace, reduce, change, avoid

Exercises/discussion:

  • Consider 2 sentences: identify words/phrases that could be improved/omitted
  • Answers to mini-exercises in concise writing#

Careers in medical writing – Peter Llewellyn of NetworkPharma

13:00 FINISH

#Pre-workshop preparation:

1. With instructions provided, use MS Word Readability Statistics to analyse some of your own writing for ‘readability’. Results to be discussed during the workshop.

2. Mini-exercises in concise writing.



Programme: Workshop 2 of 2

Be relevant, visually aware, correct and consistent

09:30: Welcome back and any IT issues

Be relevant

Consider your audience, their level of expertise, what information they need

Examples considered: ‘Introduction’ to research paper vs. full literature review; which results matter in ‘Results’; the ‘value message’

Abstracts: a test of concise and relevant writing

Exercise:

  • Condense a wordy abstract into more concise text

Be visually aware

Be visually aware: white space, lists, headings and subheadings, spacing, graphics

Exercise:

  • Format a graph and table

10:45 BREAK

Exercise/discussion:

  • Critique a congress slide: tips on professional design and layout

Be correct and consistent

Proofreading basics: techniques to spot errors, another pair of eyes

Check methodically: from sections/titles to references to spelling/punctuation

Check your work against: agency, client or other style guides

Grammar issues: punctuation in lists, use of semi-colon vs. colon, compared with or to, that or which, who or whom, split infinitives, correct use of hyphens and dashes, possessives, writing numerals, units and spaces, e.g. or i.e. with or without and commas

Interpretation and language: fact vs. opinion, interpretation of results, medical jargon

Discussion:

  • Discuss any outstanding issues from the words, grammar and punctuation quiz#

12:00 BREAK

Exercise/discussion:

  • Critique of selection of statements: correct the statement/language used
  • Proofread a passage (if time)

The CV from a recruiter’s viewpoint: – Julia Walton of Media Contacts

13:00 FINISH

#Pre-workshop preparation:

Complete a words, grammar and punctuation quiz.




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