Writing a medical case study

When you are a student of medicine, one of the most important things you can learn how to do is to write a medical case study. Medical case studies are useful, not only for practising your ability to diagnose disease and to understand the effects of drugs upon the human system but also to understand how best to write medical material that can be used by yourself and others in the future. A good medical case study, like any good piece of academic work, must follow a specific structure and ensure that it is easy for the person reading it to understand what the document says and how it can then be used when treating patients and understanding how to use specific types of drugs. This can ensure that the treatment of a patient is done in a way that ensures that they will have the best possible help available to them and mean that future doctors and patients can benefit from your research. If you don’t know how to write a medical case study, this may seem somewhat daunting. However, if you read this article you will be certain to feel much more confident with writing one.

 

The initial stages

When writing your case study, it is important to ensure that the initial stages of the case study are well written and follow the structure that you need to ensure the paper’s cogency and its authority. If you make some minor mistake with setting out the initial stages, don’t worry – as long as you go back and edit them then you can make sure that your case study has legitimacy and is taken seriously.

One of the first things you must do is to think of a name for the case study. Your name must not only reflect the content of the study but also be short and easy to search, so that if your study is published online, it is easy to find. It is worth considering the search engine optimisation of your title, so that you have something which is easily findable and will ensure that your work is found by as many other health care professionals as possible. However, if you aren’t entirely happy with the name you shouldn’t worry about it too much – you can always edit it or change it once you have completed the study.

Once you have thought of a name or at least a place holder name, it is important that you make sure that the people involved in the case study have their name near the top of the paper. It may simply be your name, or you may be part of a team. If the latter is the case, make sure to include all of their names in the document so that it is clear that the paper was a team effort. If you are the main person responsible for the study then you need to only put your own name – you don’t need to include the names of anyone else who helped you during the study as they can be saved for the acknowledgements.

 

It is then important to think about a list of key words to include in your case study. Like with the name of your study, if it is going to be published online it is important to consider how people will find your study. As such, it is vital that any particular words that are pertinent to the study as repeated throughout to ensure that other health care professionals can find your study easily. This doesn’t matter so much if your study is being printed as a paper or as part of a journal, but it is important to include them if your study is being put online.

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The writing of the abstract usually comes after the writing of the case study – if you write the abstract first then you won’t know what to include and you may confuse the reader by writing an abstract that isn’t as clearly linked to the case study as possible. However, it is worth considering what you intend to put in the abstract beforehand and make a short plan so that you can easily write it up later. You must ensure that your abstract is as short and to the point as possible – it should only be around three hundred words and briefly describe what your case study is about and what you hope other people will gain from it. It is also important that your abstract doesn’t go into too much detail about what is contained within the case study – if you simply write out everything that is in the case study in the abstract, not only will the abstract be far too long but it will also mean that reading the case study itself is pointless. Your abstract is like the synopsis of a book – it should encourage the person reading it to read the item it is promoting.

The main body of your case study should be logical, organised and ensure that the person reading it will be likely to understand the intent and content of your case study and that they will go away feeling that they have learned something. Your case study should follow a pattern like this:

  • Introduction. Unlike your abstract, your introduction should formally introduce the reader to your work and allow them to be able to understand fully what it is that your case study demonstrates. Your introduction, like your abstract, should be short but not too short – your introduction is attempting to not only interest the reader but also to inform them and if your introduction does not contain any informing details of your case study then it is likely to be seen as less than rigorous and will therefore be less likely to be used in the future.
  • Evidence. Before you come to your argument, it is important to outline the evidence that you have found regarding this particular case. This may be test results, drug analysis or a whole range of scientific factors relating to the case. You must ensure that your evidence is clearly set out and properly referenced in the main body of your case study to ensure that anyone reading it is clear as to the evidence you have found and can easily refer to your findings in a way that will help them.
  • Your argument. The main body of your case study should be your main argument. Your argument, using the evidence that you have obtained from the case that you have been working on, will be to put forward a particular solution or resolution to the specific illness that you dealt with in your case study. As such, your argument can have some conjecture and opinion in it but it must be mainly evidence based. By following the evidence and coming to a strong and sustainable conclusion, you will be demonstrating not only your ability to think rationally but also your ability to conclude which is unlikely to be disputed. Of all your case study, your main argument is the element that you must work on the most to ensure that it is not only rigorous but that it also has depth to it.

Once you have finished writing the main elements of your case study, it is time to review it and make certain that it is as accurate as it can possibly be. Make sure that you check that there are no factual or grammatical mistakes which may hinder the acceptance of your case study by the wider medical community or errors in the structure which could make the piece more difficult to read.

Hopefully this piece will have enlightened you as to how to write a medical case study. If, however, there are some elements that you didn’t understand or worried you might not be able to do accurately, perhaps we can help?

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