HOW TO WRITE A CASE REPORT- THE 19 STEPS OF CASE REPORT WRITING:
In my teaching career of academic writing, one of the most asked questions I have encountered is, how to write a case report. Therefore, in this blog I will shed some light on this subject.
In order to understand how to write a case report the medical students need to understand the difference between a case report and a case study. A case study is a research study design that researchers design while studying one unit (one case). A researcher from any field can write a case study, however, when a medical student, clinical researcher, or a physician writes a case study about a patient or a disease, we refer to it as a “Case Report “.
Now the question is, can anyone write a case report? The answer is Yes. You do not have to be an expert writer of English language to write a case report. English is just a language; you don’t need to be perfect at English language. You just need to know the rules of scientific writing. Because the scientific writing checks your scientific presentation skills not English skills. It is not the TOEFL or IELTS exam. Therefore, stop being afraid of scientific writing.
Now lets see what are the steps of writing a case report.
HOW TO WRITE A CASE REPORT?
STEP 1: CASE SELECTION
First, you need to decide the case that you would like to study. It could be anything, a person, a patient, a city, a building for non-medical students and researchers. However, for medical students it is mostly a patient or some patients (depending upon if it is a single case study or multiple case study, we will touch base that subject in another blog). The main thing to remember is that a case report is clinical in nature.
Therefore, selecting the clinical case you want to write should be the first step.
STEP 2: DATA COLLECTION
The second step is the data collection of your case. If it is a patient that you have access to, then start with a “consent form.” Always seek permission and informed consent before collecting the necessary information.
Now begin data collection. The key to remember here is that the data collection of case study is different than other study designs because in case studies there are multiple sources of data collection. This multiple source of data collection is hallmark of case study design.
STEP 3: ANALYZE
Now it is time to analyze the information. If it is just qualitative data, then it is easy. However, if it is quantitative data, then involve a statistician to avoid mistakes.
STEP 4: BEGIN WRITING
Once data is collected, organized, and analyzed, now it is time to commence writing. To start writing, begin with an outline.
STEP 5: CREATE AN OUTLINE
Create an outline for your paper. This outline is your written plan of writing. This outline will guide you and keep you focused. Decide, how many headings will you use, then, decide what will those headings be, then decide the numbers of tables and figures you are planning to have in your manuscript.
STEP 6: PROPER PLANNING
The planning was initiated while deciding the outline. Now it is time to decide what to write and how much to write in each section. Decide the total length of your manuscript, and then decide the length of each section, and what to write in each section. It is like setting up a house. We plan which room will have what furniture and how many pictures and decoration pieces, the same is true for planning a manuscript.
You are the decision maker of your case report, if you want to write a long case report, then go ahead and do it.
STEP 7: INTRODUCTION SECTION
The first section of the article is the introduction section, I know some will say that the first part is an abstract. However, I am discussing my style of writing here. According to my style, I write abstract in the end, and I suggest you do the same.
In this section, you need to write what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you plan to do it. Then comes a short section on literature review. Add previously published papers as your secondary data to elaborate more on what is already known and the importance of the topic.
STEP 8: METHOD SECTION
The method section is optional in a case report. You may keep it if you like. However, if you do want to keep it so be specific about the details of how you collected your data.
STEP 9: THE CASE
Usually the method section is followed by “the case.” Your case is your results, this is the reason we do not have a results section in a case report.
What to include in my case and what not to include is one of the most asked questions regarding the case report. The best answer to this question is to include only those points that are mentioned in the CARE checklist. Ideally, open CARE checklist for case studies while writing this section (you can easily find care checklist on google). Once all the points in the CARE checklist are covered, your case section is completed.
The point 5 to 10 of CARE checklist should be addressed in this section.
You may add CT scan images, X-rays, MRI, or lab findings in this section to make the case more interesting (remember, the consent is necessary).
STEP 10: DISCUSSION SECTION
Now following the CARE checklist make sure your discussion explains your findings and analyze the findings. The data you analyzed before, can come here in this section. After this it is best to bring previous papers published by other authors to compare your case findings with their findings. This comparison will make your case report strong and interesting. If the tables and figures were used in the case section, you now have an opportunity to add the tables and figures in this section. (Always use your tables and figures rather than using someone else’s illustrations. If you really must use someone’s illustrations, then seek proper permission from the main author and publisher as necessary).
The CARE checklist suggests you add limitations and strength of your paper. You also need to ensure literature review is mentioned here in this section, the rationale for your conclusion, and take away lesson.
STEP 11: CONCLUSION SECTION
Conclude your case report with an interesting paragraph on the lessons learned, the importance of the findings, and future recommendations. CARE Checklist suggests that you mention this information in the discussion section. However, writing the conclusion section separately will not hurt your manuscript. You can choose any of these styles, and check with the journals’ suggestion regarding this point.
STEP 12: THE CARE CHECKLIST
The CARE checklist suggests you bring patient perspective on the treatment they received, after the discussion section (one or two paragraphs usually).
STEP 13: INFORMED CONSENT
Mention this information if required.
STEP 14: ABSTRACT
Now it is time to write the abstract section. Write a short summary of 200-250 words of the full paper and your abstract is ready.
Again, using CARE checklist is the idea approach to make it interesting.
STEP 15: REFERENCES:
Always give the references in the end of your manuscript. There is no limit how many references you can cite in your paper. Look at the journal guidelines
STEP 16: PLAGIARISM CHECK
Check your manuscript for possible plagiarism by using a paid plagiarism checking software like Grammarly or similar software.
STEP 17: EDITING AND GRAMMAR
Like I said, do not worry about your English skills. Because now it is time to check Grammar by using a grammar checking software like Grammarly or Turnitin. If you feel your English is bad, don’t worry, visit freelancing websites and find a professional proofreader and editor to correct your English errors.
STEP 18: SUBMISSION
Now submit your manuscript in the journal of your own choice. Don’t worry about rejection. The rejection is a normal part of publishing process. If your manuscript gets rejected, submit it to another journal. Until a journal accepts it.
STEP 19: CELEBRATE
Once the article is accepted, now it is time to celebrate. Congratulations…
THE ESSENCE OF THIS BLOG:
Anyone can write a case report. Just be patient and have a firm belief that yes I can do it. If you believe in yourself, you can do it. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one can help you become a published author.
Dr. Hassaan Tohid