writing level | choosing a topic | minimum number of references | length and style | rough drafts | grading | writing the introduction | how to use citations | writing the body | writing the conclusion | format for reference list
Drug Information Paper
You will need to prepare a written drug information consult for a question of interest to you. This web page will give you information about the process and expectations of your paper.
You will write this at a level appropriate to give to a physician requesting the information. Therefore, for the purposes of this exercise, assume that a physician has asked you the question and requested a written reply, i.e., you will write at a level appropriate for a health care professional. This means that you can and shoulduse highly technical words.
Your topic will be written in the form of a question that the physician has asked you. This question should be one sentence long, and should appear at the top of your paper after the heading "Question:". The question must be related to a medication of some type (this includes prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal products). It also must include the disease state or condition for which the drug is being used. One type of question that makes an excellent topic for this kind of paper is asking about the effectiveness of a specific agent when used for a specific medical condition. There are many studies examining effectiveness of medications. There are not as many studies examining adverse reactions to medications, drug interactions, or drug mechanisms, so these topics may not be ideal for this type of paper.
Examples of questions used by past students include:
You will need to use at a minimum three sources from the primary literature and three sources from the tertiary literature. It is traditional and logical to use the tertiary literature when preparing your introduction, and primary literature when writing the body of your reply.
The tertiary literature you use should be from reliable databases, with at least one from a drug database, such as Drugdex (Micromedex), Facts and Comparisons, or Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database, and at least one from a disease database, such as UpToDate, Harrison's, or the Merck Manual. Any of the resources noted in the tertiary resources lecture notes are reasonable candidates for additional references in the introduction. Also good for additional resources in the introduction are the web sites of disease state foundations/organizations, such as the American Diabetes Association (if your topic is related to diabetes), web sites from government organizations such as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and recent reviews from the medical literature (you can find these via PubMed).
In order to locate primary literature (for the body of your paper) you will need to use PubMed and at least one other indexing (secondary) source (EMBASE, IPA, Current Contents, Biosis, or Science Citation Index) and you must indicate at the end of each reference which secondary source you used to locate that reference. The primary literature you locate will be studies. A study is any kind of investigation. At least one of the studies must be a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a specific type of study, done specifically in humans, where investigators assign some subjects to a specific treatment and other subjects to a control (such as a placebo or another drug).
The finished paper should be 5-6 pages in length and typed double-spaced in 12-point font. It should contain an introduction (that is at least two paragraphs in length), the body of the paper (including one paragraph for each study you review), a summary or conclusion paragraph (where you summarize the evidence, answer the question, and provide appropriate and specific recommendations), and your reference list.
Your paper should be written in third person language only. Avoid using emotion-evoking words. Keep your wording objective. Your conclusion should be evidence-based and should clearly answer the question.
One publication which contains articles very similar in format to the paper you will write is The Annals of Pharmacotherapy. There are some copies of this journal in the student lounge. Every edition of this pharmacy journal contains 1-3 articles in a section called Drug Information Rounds. These articles are written in basically the same format as you are expected to use. Please look over the format and content (as well as type of question) used in these articles, if you would like to see an example.
Please do not use a cover sheet. Place your name at the top of the first sheet of your paper. Format your question as a query sentence, not as a title (i.e., do not capitalize each important word in the question, and make sure that your sentence ends with a question mark).
You will complete two rough semi-drafts.
There is more information below on specifics of what to write about in the introduction and body paragraphs, so be sure to read this information before writing your rough draft.
Papers will be graded on both content and mechanics, as follows:
Remember that the whole purpose of the rough drafts is to help you get a grade of 3.0 or higher on your finished paper.
The purpose of your introduction is to explain to your reader why the question you have asked is important and why the answer is not universally already known. You will need to present the issues which led you to the primary literature to seek an answer to the question. It is traditional to use a heading of either "Introduction" or "Background."
Your introduction will generally be two paragraphs in length. It should provide information about the disease state or condition for which the drug is used; your introduction should also include a description of the pharmacology of a drug, where appropriate. For example, if you were trying to answer the question, "Does the maternal use of caffeine during pregnancy adversely affect the child?" you might want to outline in the first paragraph information about the ubiquity of caffeine use, why pregnant women might consume caffeine, and adverse effects that can happen to the fetus during pregnancy. In the next paragraph you will outline how the pharmacologic effects of caffeine could decrease placental blood flow, leading to a relative hypoxemia and thus decreased fetal growth and/or development, or even cause fetal demise.
You will find that it is usually most logical to introduce the disease or condition in the first paragraph. Make good use of numbers to explain to your reader how prevalent the condition is—remember that you can get information about disease epidemiology from good review articles and also through the statistics links you can find on Healthlink's red "references" tab. Be sure to explain clearly the pathophysiology of the condition, particularly that part of the pathophysiology that is affected by the drug(s) you will describe in the second paragraph.
It will then be logical to introduce the treatment for the condition in the next paragraph. Begin by outlining the different treatments used for that condition and then focus your reader on the specific treatment about which you will be providing evidence. If you can review what is known or theorized about the pharmacology of the active consitituents in the drug, it will help you maintain a professionally technical tone.
The last sentence in your introduction shouldl transition your reader to the body of the paper. It should make your reader want to read on to examine the evidence regarding the question. Please do not phrase this last sentence as a question. Avoid the awkward, "This paper will examine..." transition style. Most importantly, do not answer your question in your transition sentence, in effect summarizing what your reader is about to read (why should the reader read any further if you have answered the question?).
Remember that you are writing this for a physician, so you do not want to use the more simple language you would use when explaining a medical concept to a lay individual. If you tend to write colloquially (i.e., you write using the same words you use in everyday conversation), then writing both the introduction and the conclusion may challenge you. If you are having problems with word choices, do review the information provided in the lecture on technical writing. Be attentive to the wording you choose. Avoid emotion-evoking or vague phrases such as "suffer from," "exploded," "more and more," and "turning to." Journalists love to use such phrases, but they are at best misleading and at worst completely incorrect.
In summary, plan to reference at least one common medicine resource (such as Harrison's, UpToDate, or the Merck Manual) and one common drug resource (such as Drugdex, Facts and Comparisons, or Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database), and a minimum of three resources in your introduction.
One thing you may be unsure of is where, when, and how to use citations. Please read the information on the citations and references web page.
The body of your paper should contain a series of paragraphs outlining studies from the primary literature. A reasonable heading for the body of your paper would be "Published Literature."
How do you summarize a study in one paragraph?
This should give you a paragraph for each study that contains approximately 6-13 sentences.
In your conclusion you will need to summarize the evidence you have reviewed and use it to form an evidence-based answer to the question posed at the start of your paper. Your recommendation should be practical, clear, and specific. If you are going to recommend the use of a drug in a particular disease state, it is best to also provide the dose, route, frequency, duration of therapy, and monitoring parameters, if appropriate. Remember not to say, "I recommend..." Instead, you will want to say what the evidence appears to support (for example, "There is inadequate evidence available to support the use of gorillacillin for acne"). Your conclusion will be judged on whether or not you answered the question, and whether or not your answer was evidence-based.
Links to expected formats for references are on the main PHARM 309 home page. Please do not use Endnote style or function for your references. Your style should look like the following:
The first nine references provided general background information and were cited in the introduction. Note that references 7 and 8 are internet sites and are given as examples of the correct format for citing something located on the web. Reference 9 is a review article. The remaining five articles were studies and were outlined in the body of the paper.
Note that for the journal articles, the title of the journal article is abbreviated. If you are unsure of the correct journal title abbreviation, you can find it via PubMed. Go to the journals database and type in the full name of the journal. You will find the correct abbreviation on the "MEDLINE abbr:" line.
One last thing...
I hope to ask those of you who do phenomenal jobs on your drug information paper, and who tackle a topic that is probably of interest to many pharmacists, to strongly consider submitting your paper to the Washington State Pharmacy Association (WSPA), to consider publishing it in Washington Pharmacist. This would give you a publication on your resume, and would allow pharmacists over the state to benefit from the outstanding work you did researching the answer to the question.
Questions about the drug information paper? Please email the coursemaster.
Last updated 23 October 2006