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The Yale Journal of Medicine and Law: An Undergraduate Publication welcomes writers of any skill level with a basic interest in the intersection of medicine and public policy. We’re not necessarily looking for the next Charles Dickens or George Orwell (though if you are one, that’d be pretty awesome); all we need is a mind to think critically about an issue and find facts and evidence to help you understand it and inform the world about it. While your own initiative will be of great use in the writing process, remember that you are not alone; our editors will work with you in a variety of ways to help you turn your ideas into an interesting, engaging piece of journalism.
In this guide, we offer suggestions for how to start researching your article, possible organizational structures, information on interviews, and some basic guidelines for all submissions. Ultimately, these guidelines allow us to create a cohesive Journal that is vibrant, thorough, and informative.
Once you receive the assigned topic for your article, begin conducting relevant background research as soon as possible to give yourself enough time to write. Your editor can point you in the right direction and serve as a starting point for your article.
Some fantastic sources include:
• Google Scholar – Collect pertinent articles related to your topic
• Wikipedia – While you cannot cite Wikipedia as a reference, you can explore the References and External Links section at the bottom of an article, which can serve as a springboard for your search
• Reputable newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, or scholarly journals
• Yale Library Databases – This often overlooked treasure trove of information can be found at library.yale.edu. Though this site, you can freely access databases such as Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, BIOSIS, and MEDLINE, giving you access to an immeasurable amount of statistics, articles, scholarly papers, and points of argumentation.
• The Congressional Budget Office – This government agency will serve as a large source of largely unbiased numbers on healthcare economics and costs
• Research Organizations such as the Center for Global Development offer research and reputable analysis on many topics the Journal will cover.
While interviews are not required for YJML articles (except Interview Articles, see below), they are highly encouraged and can both provide insight from a leading expert in the field and lend authority to your assertions.
If you do decide to conduct an interview for your article, make a list of possible candidates immediately. Good interviewees include anyone from political leaders to professors, researchers, doctors, businessmen, and more. Your editor can also refer you to potential contacts if you have trouble coming up with a list.
You can obtain contact information for potential interviewees online. Start by searching for the person’s name; if the interviewee is affiliated with an institution (e.g. a university or company), the institution’s website may contain contact information for him/her. If you cannot find an interviewee’s contact information anywhere, look for any of his/her associates who might be able to put you in touch with the interviewee. For people like national politicians or CEOs, you may need to talk to the Press contact at their office to make an appointment with them. Be sure to consult with your editor if you have any trouble.
Email or call the interviewee as soon as possible to schedule the interview, and state that you are a writer for the Yale Journal of Medicine and Law: An Undergraduate Publication (emphasizing the word “Yale” can never go wrong). Give a brief explanation of your article and what you hope to gain from the interview. You can use some flattery in the process (e.g. “since you’re a leading expert on pharmaceutical marketing…”). In addition, feel free to call a professor or other source to ask what direction he/she thinks you should take the article in. He/she might know about an aspect of the issue you’re examining that may not have been explored in the media yet.
Remember, most of your interviewees will be very busy people, so do NOT be discouraged if they do not reply to you at first: try contacting them again, and perhaps through multiple means of communication (e.g. email and phone). Most professionals will actually be excited to talk to YJML writers, and again, don’t hesitate to make use of the Yale name and the scope of our Journal (e.g. YJML readership extends across campus, from the undergraduate College to Yale Law School, Med School, etc., to subscribers around the world) to get them to take you seriously. However, do make sure to have a long list of potential interviewees in case some don’t get back to you.
How to Conduct the Interview
Ideally, you should carry out the interview in person. However, if this is logistically impossible, phone interviews are the next best option. We generally discourage email interviews, so try to either conduct the interview in person or by phone if at all possible.
You must remember 3 important things before you conduct an interview:
• Be informed – thoroughly research the topic you’ll be discussing, along with the interviewee’s background and any positions they’ve taken on the issue (e.g. in prior interviews for other publications)
• Prepare a list of interview questions beforehand, but feel free to deviate from the plan if you strike upon a particularly interesting subject
• Ask the interviewee if you can record the interview (if you do not have a recording device, you can ask your editor to borrow a YJML voice recorder)
Once you conclude the interview:
• Thank the interviewee for his/her time (preferably send them a note as well), and tell them you’ll send a copy of the issue once it is published
• If any other people assisted in arranging the interview (e.g. a senator’s press secretary), be sure to thank them as well
• Email the interviewee’s name and mailing address to our Business Director (currently Swati Yanamadala, firstname.lastname@example.org) so a copy of the issue is mailed out upon release
• If the interviewee asks to sign off on a copy of the article before printing, inform your editor of the request. Do not, however, offer this option unless the interviewee specifically asks for it.
Interview Source Attribution
Make sure the interviewee understands that everything he/she says will be “on the record” (meaning you can quote him/her by name in the article) unless requested otherwise. Due to the controversial nature of some issues, interviewees may wish to remain anonymous (also known as “not for attribution” or “on background”). You can refer to them in your article by their contextual or job description (e.g. “a senator who opposes the bill” or “an expert on Medicare reform”). If an anonymous source is used, the interviewee’s identity may still be needed internally for the editorial process. YJML editors will keep any such information secure.
If you know beforehand that an interviewee does not want to be identified by name in the article, and especially in the case of phone interviews, be sure to clarify the exact terms of the interview (including if your proposed description of the person for the article is acceptable – e.g. “a D.C. lobbyist representing a European medical device maker” in place of “Jack Smith, a lobbyist for XYZ Co.”).
If the source insists on speaking with you only “off the record” (or “deep background”), you can use information from the interview to direct further investigation or support what you’ve heard from someone else but cannot quote the interviewee himself/herself.
In some cases (e.g. interviews with members of Congress or other public figures), you may wish to have a second person present during the interview (either your editor or another YJML staff member), even if the interviewee will be fully identified by name in the article. He/she can serve to verify the interview terms agreed upon, and any statements made, should the need arise. If you are conducting the interview by phone, inform the interviewee about the second person beforehand.
There is no required or fixed structure for YJML articles. We encourage writers, along with their editors, to develop their article according to their own vision and creative impulses. Of course, all articles should follow a basic format in which the author:
• introduces the problem
• provides background information
• launches into the meat of the issue and discusses various ways it is being addressed
• concludes by outlining the future of said problem, or (for Opinion articles) the author’s view on the best solution to tackle it
Two specific article types that will be briefly discussed below: Interview articles and Opinion articles. If you need any help with structuring your article, contact your editor or the Editor-in-Chief (currently Ashish Bakshi, email@example.com).
Interview articles follow a standard Question & Answer format. The article should include the full title of the interviewee (e.g. Michael Taylor – Senior Vice President, Pfizer Global Research & Development) and a short blurb describing his or her job. The questions should be well-crafted, pertinent, and elicit a substantial response from the interviewee (e.g. “Senator Wyden, in what ways would you say the private market for health insurance described in the Healthy Americans Act you proposed is superior to the employer-based health insurance in place today?”). The questions should also not have answers that could be found through a simple online search.
Opinion Articles (“Commentary”)
Opinion articles are persuasive pieces intended to argue a particular point in which the author defends a stance on either a controversial issue or an issue the author believes merits further public attention. Remember, the article topics should not restate obvious truths or rehash trite issues (e.g. “We need health care reform because 47 million Americans are uninsured” – whereas an issue worth arguing could be “A private market for health insurance would better address cost and coverage issues than the current employer-based health system”). A little more creative freedom is allowed in opinion articles, as we also want to see an infusion of the author’s personality. Opinion articles require a good amount of research to enable the writer to properly defend his/her view, and interviews with experts in the field are highly recommended.
Editing and Deadlines
Here are some things to remember once you have completed your article:
• suggest some interesting “pull quotes” to your editor – these are lines from the article or interview that are printed in large font to grab the reader’s attention
• if you conducted an interview, you may want to fact-check your article with your interviewee
• stick to the word count range (unless otherwise noted)
Deadlines & Communication
You will be informed of the submission deadline when you sign up for an article. Always remember to meet the deadline, as the YJML production cycle depends on timely submissions.
It is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to keep in touch with your editor (and if necessary, the Editor-in-Chief), especially if there’s a chance you may not meet the deadline, for whatever reason.
Here are some important tips to remember as you are writing your article:
Keep your writing concise
• Do not repeat ideas, and refrain from long, run-on sentences
• Reading your article aloud helps to catch confusing or rambling sentences
Keep the reader interested
• Even if the topic is convoluted or full of small technicalities, your job as a writer is to make it accessible and interesting to read
• Use active sentences where possible (e.g. instead of “The drug compound was created in 2005 by researchers at Yale,” say “Yale researchers created the drug compound in 2005”). Also, avoid starting sentences with “It”
• Begin your article with a “lede” – a short, interesting sentence or two that catch the reader’s attention (for news articles, it can summarize the story)
Keep the audience in mind
• YJML’s readership includes a wide array of people, from students to professors in all different fields, doctors, lawyers, Yale administrators, policymakers, and more
• Balance technical details with explanations (e.g. for an article about a new medical research finding, include details to inform scientifically-inclined readers, but do so within a broader framework so that other readers can still get the “big picture”)
Clarity is King
• Make sure your article flows smoothly from one sentence to the next and similarly, from one paragraph to another – make use of transition words
• If you introduce a term and use it later on in the article, you can abbreviate it after the first use (e.g. “Healthy American’s Act (HAA),” then “HAA”). If you use a term only once, do not abbreviate it
Use Proper Citations
• While you should provide source information with your article (for editorial purposes), all citations MUST be made in the article text itself, we do NOT print footnotes.
• Good: According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, 62 percent of Americans under 65 currently receive health insurance coverage through job-based healthcare coverage.
• Bad: 62 percent of Americans under 65 currently receive health insurance coverage through job-based healthcare coverage (Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured).
YJML generally does not break articles into subsections with headings. If you feel this would greatly improve the clarity of your article, contact your editor.
Grammar and Conventions
January 31, 1974; January 1974; January 31; on the thirty-first; the sixties; or the 1960s.
Numbers up to one hundred should generally be spelled out. However, if two numbers describe the same subject, make their notation parallel. For example, “there are 145 of them here today, but there were only 62 yesterday.” Additionally, write out the word “percent.”
Active Voice – USE VERBS!
Use verbs and active voice instead of nouns and passive voice! Do not say “The breaking of the floor took place” when you can much more effectively say, “The floor broke.” Instead of “The data are indicative of…” say “The data indicate.”
Healthcare vs. Health Care
The YJML convention is to use “healthcare” when an adjective is needed and “health care” for the noun form. For example, “healthcare policy” and “better health care for Americans.”
Gender neutrality is best, but when gendered pronouns must be used, the masculine form is preferable to listing both forms. For example, use “himself” instead of “himself or herself,” “his” rather than “his/her,” and “he” in place of “he/she.” This results in cleaner and more readable text and, in the right context, generally implies both genders.
Be sure to look out for homologues like “its” (possessive) / “it’s” (contraction for “it is”) and “your” (possessive) / “you’re” (contraction for “you are”).
By YJML convention, all items in a list should be preceded by a comma, including the last item. For example, use “He ate a sandwich, cookies, and a granola bar” rather than “He ate a sandwich, cookies and a granola bar” (the second construction omits the terminal comma before “and”).
Remember to clarify exactly what you mean when use vague terms such as love, success, freedom, good, moral, democracy, and any -isms (chauvinism, Communism, feminism, racism, sexism).
Affect vs. Effect
“Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of a parent’s low income on a child’s future is well documented.”
Adapt vs. Adopt
“Adapt” means to change, while “adopt” means to take as one’s own.
Awhile vs. A while
“Awhile” means “for a while” and can thus be used as its own preposition in sentences such as “I waited awhile for the train.” “A while” must follow the preposition “for” to be correct, as in “I waited for a while, but he didn’t show up.”
Definite vs. Definitive
“Definite” means clear, precise, and certain, while “definitive” implies that something is conclusive or the final word.
Well vs. Good
“Well” is an adverb, and “good” is an adjective. Many writers over-correct and misuse the adverb form. For example, if someone asks, “How are you?”, the correct response is “I am good.” This is because “good” is describing “I,” a pronoun; thus the sentence calls for a predicate adjective and not an adverb. Conversely, one could write “he played well,” since “well” is modifying “played,” a verb.
Not a word! Use “regardless.”
For the sake of clarity, make sure all participles refer to the correct subject. For example, the sentence “After rotting for about a week, we finally threw out the apples” means something different from what the writer likely intended, because “rotting” refers to “we” when it should likely refer to the “apples” instead.
Me, Myself, and I
“I,” being the nominative case, is used as a subject or as a predicate nominative. For example, it is correct to say “He and I went to the store” or “It is I.” On the other hand, “me” is always used as the object of a phrase. For example: “The baby came with Henry and me” – note the use of “me” instead of “I” in this construction. “Myself” can appear in two contexts – to emphasize the self, as in “I myself took care of it,” or as a reflective, as in “I asked myself…” Do NOT use “myself” as an object, as in the incorrect sentence, “The boss spoke to John, Henry, and myself.” Here, “myself” should be replaced with the objective “me.”
Avoid the tendency to use “different than.” Things are “different from” one another.
In lists, especially make sure the individual items are of parallel construction. For example, in “John bought a computer, some speakers, and pre-ordered a video game”, the three item are clearly not parallel. But, this is an easy fix; either add “ordered” in from of “some speakers” to make all three verb phrases, or remove “pre-ordered” from the third to make all three the objects of “bought”.
i.e. vs. e.g.
“i.e.” means “that is to say.” For example, “The company is in quite a slump, i.e. its stock has plunged 35% this month.” On the other hand, “e.g.” means “for example.” For instance, “The company has seen its stock tumble several times this year, e.g. 10% in January, 7% in April, and 16% in August.”
Subject Predicate Agreement
Make sure to match verbs with subjects. This is a common mistake in complex sentences. For example, in the sentence, “The concept of eating brains is quite pervasive in the zombie community.” Here, “is” is used instead of “are” because the verb refers to the subject, “concept,” rather than “brains.”
The subjunctive “were”
When you are speaking of the hypothetical, it is proper to use the subjunctive form “were” rather than the indicative “was.” For example, write “If I were a rich man” instead of “If I was a rich man.”
Words such as absolute, overwhelmed, straight, opposite, right, dead, entirely, eternal, fatal, final, identical, infinite, mortal, opposite, perfect, immortal, finite, unique, or irrevocable inherently imply an absolute and don’t require any additional superlatives. For example, it is incorrect to say “That lamp is fully identical to that other lamp” since the word “identical” already means exactly the same and any preceding modifier is redundant. Similarly, one would not say that “the wound was completely fatal,” because partial fatality is impossible.
For further information, contact your editor or the Editor-in-Chief (firstname.lastname@example.org).