Writing tips

By Melissa Lopez Ph.D.


Use the double-funnel approach to organize your paper

Start with the broad discussion of your topic area  (Ex., Many hospitals are actively pursuing strategies that integrate physicians into their management and governance structures)

As you continue to write, your content will become more specific, as you provide more detail about your topic (This study focuses on one type of hospital-physician integration strategy – involvement of physicians on the governing board)

End with a more general discussion of your topic issues (The paper has several implications for hospitals using or considering adoption of hospital-physician integration strategies)


Find balance in your paper on three dimensions

          1.       Context (Background of the paper)

          2.       Technical (Analysis of the paper)

          3.       Aesthetics (Presentation/appearance of the paper)


Be concise and keep it simple

Words are expensive, use few as possible.

Determine whether additional words add value.

Keep sentences short & direct


Before:  It is my vision that in 3 to 5 years, we will have accumulated a sufficient amount of data that we can allow on line access to our strongest allies allowing them to case manage other facilities that are not part of our network.


After:  In 3-5 years, our company can collect enough data to justify providing it on-line to our strongest allies, enabling them to case manage out-of-network facilities.  


Be kind to your reader/ make sure your paper is organized.

          Inform your reader about the content in your introduction section.

Provide an overview of the entire paper at the beginning.

Introduce headings and sections of your paper.

Use direct, short, simple sentences, sentences should not exceed 3 or 4 lines.

Paragraph should include 3-8 sentences


Explain causal connections made in individual sentences. 


Before:  The involvement of 1-2 physicians on the governing board may increase the commitment of all physicians on the medical staff to the goals of the HSO.


After:           The involvement of 1-2 physicians on the governing board may increase the commitment of all physicians on the medical staff to the goals of the HSO because physicians may perceive that their opinions and preferences are being conveyed to governing board members and senior managers.


Use active voice

The active voice is usually more direct than the passive voice.

The active voice requires that the author takes ownership of the idea.

In the active voice, the subject is positioned early in the sentence and followed with a clear description of the action/phrase.


Passive:    The first opportunity to attend a board meeting will always be remembered by me.


Formatting and appearance

Always use page numbers

Use headings that are clear and intuitive  (Unclear example:  “The Starting Point”  Clear example; “Literature Review of Health Care Integration”)

Use reference/footnotes when information has been attained from an external source

Use numbers to list more than three things (for example, Smith proposed four measures of hospital competition: 1) concentration; 2) density; 3) geographic distance, & 4) service overlap.

Utilize any and all resources for writing.


Re-read your paper

Write your paper and then re-read like you are an editor (you are paid/compensated to cut or minimize words)


Use Plural


Use of the plural form in your text to inform the reader that you are referring to a set rather than individual cases. 


Before: A hospital is facing competition in its local market.

After: Hospitals are facing competition in local markets. 


Use terms consistently


Use the same term consistently throughout the entire paper.

          (for example, use one term consistently for merger and acquisition and consolidation)

          (for example, use one term consistently for organization, firm, enterprise)


Re-read all instructions


          Make sure that you re-read all instructions and guidelines for your paper before submitted.