The following paper was published in Annals of Medicine and Surgery.

How to approach supervisors for research opportunities

It has nothing to do with medicine or surgery.

How can one think of submitting a paper like that (to such a journal)? And how can one accept a paper like that?

  • 16
    I don't get it. What's wrong with it? Not all articles in a journal have to be about primary research...
    – Eppicurt
    Nov 3, 2017 at 5:55
  • 52
    Given the number of questions that we receive here on how to approach supervisors, I wouldn't call such a paper "weird". And probably before submitting the authors had contacted the editor to verify the possible interest of the paper. Nov 3, 2017 at 6:15
  • 4
    @Eppicurt: "What's wrong with it? Not all articles in a journal have to be about primary research... " - but typically, all articles in a journal should be on research from the general subject area covered by the journal. The linked article is not secondary research on medicine or surgery, I think it is rather primary research in quite a different field (hmm, social interaction-something?), even though it may be using (teaching related to) medicine or surgery as a case study. Nov 3, 2017 at 11:04
  • 7
    I humbly suggest to call this type of publication a boat programming paper. Nov 3, 2017 at 11:13
  • 3
    @O.R.Mapper medical journals also cover practice. They are professional journals, not exclusively for research.
    – Fomite
    Nov 3, 2017 at 18:31

4 Answers 4


It has nothing to do with medicine or surgery.

I fully agree, and this should probably rule out a publication in a venue focusing on these topics.

However, the crucial detail here is probably that the journal in question includes a little more than these topics. According to the Guide for Authors:

As a general medical and surgical journal, Annals of Medicine and Surgery covers all specialties, and is dedicated to publishing original research, review articles and more all offering significant contributions to knowledge in clinical surgery, experimental surgery, surgical education and history.

(highlighting by myself)

Arguably, the paper in question is covered by the topic of surgical (or otherwise) education.


It has nothing to do with Medicine or Surgery.

This will come as a surprise to the large number of medical students, medical and surgical interns, etc. who are interested in getting some experience in research, either to broaden their base of knowledge or with the mind to transition toward academic medicine.

How can one think of submitting a paper like that (to such a journal)?

You think "Here is a pressing question some people in my field have encountered..." and, for something like this, you likely contact the editorial office to make sure it's of interest. Or you submit to a journal that has a consistent track record of publishing papers on the practice of their subject.

How can one accept a paper like that?

Having been a reviewer on similar types of papers - once the editor has decided it may be of interest you read it over, make sure you think the content is accurate and it will be of interest, make any comments you might have, and submit your review. Other times, the review is internal.

  • 9
    If the editor(s) of the journal think it is of interest to the readership, they are at liberty to accept it. If you're unsure what a journal is/isn't interested in publishing, you can usually email the editor and find out!
    – thomasfedb
    Nov 3, 2017 at 6:57
  • 32
    "This will come as a surprise to the large number of medical students, medical and surgical interns, etc. who are interested in getting some experience in research" - by the same logic, a list of traffic signs would be on-topic for the journal, because medical students and surgical interns might want to drive to their institution by car. It's well possible the journal accepts publications related to some topics not directly in the research focus, but "some people in my field have encountered [a given question]" does not seem sufficient to establish any kind of general topic. Nov 3, 2017 at 11:07
  • 42
    @O.R.Mapper Oh, come on. There's a world of difference between a question that many medical students have wanted to ask about the practice of their field and a question they have wanted to ask about some random other subject. Nov 3, 2017 at 17:27
  • 10
    @DavidRicherby my thoughts exactly. Especially given medical journals are not only research journals, but often involve professional practice in one form or another.
    – Fomite
    Nov 3, 2017 at 17:39
  • 14
    @O.R.Mapper I said pressing question. Getting into research is a somewhat opaque process that can change careers. Your example...is just being obtuse.
    – Fomite
    Nov 3, 2017 at 17:40

From the journal webpage:

Scope of the Journal

  • Audit Projects
  • Case Reports
  • Original Research
  • Reviews, Commentaries, Letters
  • AMS covers the whole of medicine and surgery - clinical and basic sciences

It would be an unusual article in a journal that only published research articles, but some have other types of entry as well, and this is one of them.

  • 6
    @O.R.Mapper The first page of the paper classifies it as "Review". Nov 3, 2017 at 11:34
  • 7
    @MassimoOrtolano: That makes things even more baffling, given that a review article typically reviews other works. This is corroborated by the Authors Guide that places review articles in the category of publications that may have more references (up to 50, or even more with editor approval) - while the paper in question has zero. Nov 3, 2017 at 11:47
  • @O.R.Mapper reviews also must have clear introducing and concluding sections
    – StrongBad
    Nov 3, 2017 at 15:02
  • 5
    To me, the article in question falls squarely under the 'Commentaries' listing, not a review. Still, as pointed out elsewhere, articles of broad interest to the journal's community are covered by the journal.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 3, 2017 at 15:51
  • 4
    @JonCuster I feel like an article titled How to ... falls squarely into the How To type article. That said the journal has 16 different article types, and as long as it is not labeled Original Research I am not sure that readers really care.
    – StrongBad
    Nov 3, 2017 at 16:04

This is really very common, especially in high-impact journals that expect to have a broad readership. Science and Nature routinely run editorials and news articles on many aspects of scientific and non-scientific culture. PNAS includes little biographies of their members. Journal of Virology includes comments from its editor (for example, "the change that is under way in scientific publishing"). A 5-second skim of various medical journals turns up recent papers on Racism in Medicine (Annals of Internal Medicine), Staying Current in Medicine: Advice for New Doctors (New England Journal of Medicine), and so on.

Many journals, especially but not only those published by Societies, see their role as serving their membership more broadly than simply stolidly publishing research. The "advice to a young doctor" theme, like the one the question refers to, is particularly common; Pubmed lists several hundred.

In sum, this is absolutely normal and extremely common. If you read journals for more than a year or so you will see dozens of similarly-themed articles.

(Nature in particular notoriously used to run April Fools articles; I don't think they still do, particularly since a researcher claimed he had spent significant money following up on an April Fools article, since in his country he had never heard of the April Fools tradition.)

  • You said that this is really very common, but all the examples you gave are related to medicine.
    – sean
    Nov 3, 2017 at 17:24
  • 1
    @qsp You are wrong. Two of the four topics I explicitly listed are non-medical (publishing and members' biographies). Science and Nature write on many topics.
    – iayork
    Nov 3, 2017 at 18:02
  • @iayork Agreed. I'd argue most of your examples are medical specific.
    – Fomite
    Nov 3, 2017 at 22:07
  • 5
    Two of seven examples is not "most". Journal of Virology, PNAS, Nature, and Science are not "medical specific". You seem to be reaching to make some kind of obscure point here. Is there something in the question that says "Ignore medical journals"? Is there some concept that says "Anything with 'ology' in it is scary and must be medical"? If you have a point, make it, instead of complaining about something that is (1) wrong and (2) irrelevant.
    – iayork
    Nov 4, 2017 at 1:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .