Guidelines – Brief Report

Brief reports are similar to original research in that they follow the same rigor, format and guidelines, but are designed for small-scale research or research that is in early stages of development. These may include preliminary studies that utilize a simple research design or a small sample size and that have produced limited pilot data and initial findings that indicate need for further investigation.  Brief reports are much shorter than manuscripts associated with a more advanced, larger-scale research project.  They are not meant to be used for a short version of an article about research that would otherwise qualify for a full original research manuscript or for publishing material on research that lacks significance, is not rigorous or, if expanded, would not qualify for a full article or for research.


Order of Sections

  1. Title Page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. References
  8. Illustrations (Figure/Tables)


Manuscript Limits

  1. Total Length: up to 1500 words (not including abstract, illustrations, and references)
  2. Abstract Length: up to 150 words
  3. Table/Figure Limits: up to 3 tables and figures
  4. References: up to 40 references


Title Page

The title page should carry the following information:

    • Article Title (concise information about the study, limited to 100 characters)
    • Author Names (Mark D. Smith B.S.1*, Jeremy Michael Howes M.S.2, Jessica P. Masters M.D. Ph. D.1,2)
    • Institutional Affiliations of all authors in order of appearance in author names (1 College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA. 2 Dept. of Internal Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA)
    • Contact information for corresponding author(s) including address, email, phone, and fax. The corresponding author should indicate clearly whether his or her e-mail address can be published. Corresponding author(s) is indicated with asterisk by name in author listing; the medical students should be corresponding author.
    • Short Title (50 character limit shorter title for headers)
    • Key Phrases – Relevant words or short phrases that aid search engines or indexes in finding your work (use MeSH headings if possible). Use key phrases that are not present in the title. Maximum of 6, e.g. (Pemphigus, Bullous Skin Disorder, Autoimmune, Blistering, Skin Diseases, Monoclonal Antibody)
    • Disclaimers, if any
    • Word Count: Abstract and Body (excluding abstract, illustrations, and references)
    • Table and Figure Count
    • Source(s) of support in the form of grants, equipment, drugs, or all of these
    • Conflict of Interest Statement



Abstracts are the only substantive portion of the article indexed in many electronic databases, and the only portion many readers read. Authors must be careful that they accurately reflect the content of the article in the abstract. This description should include:

  • Context or background for the study
  • Purpose, basic procedures, main findings, and principal conclusions
  • Emphasis on new and important aspects of the study or observations
  • No references, illustrations, or references to illustrations are allowed in the abstract
  • The abstract should be structured with similar headings as in the main article (e.g. introduction, patient profile, interventions, conclusions)


Provide a context or background for the study including the nature of the problem and its significance to medical learners and scientists. State the specific purpose or research objective tested by the study; the research objective is often more sharply focused when stated as a question. Both the main and secondary objectives should be clear, and any pre-specified subgroup analyses should be described. Provide only directly pertinent references, and do not include data or conclusions from the work being reported.



The methods section should include information on materials, methods and procedures in sufficient detail such that the study can be repeated and/or validated. The methods section should include only information that was available at the time the plan or protocol for the study was being written; all information obtained during the study belongs in the results section. The methods section is comprised of the following subheadings (if applicable):


Selection and Description of Participants

Describe your selection of the observational or experimental participants clearly, including eligibility and exclusion criteria and a description of the source population. Explain the use of variables such as gender and age when they are included in a study report–for example, authors should explain why only participants of certain ages were included or why women were excluded. The guiding principle should be clarity about how and why a study was done in a particular way.


Technical Information

Identify the methods, apparatus (give the manufacturer’s name, city, and state in parentheses), and procedures in sufficient detail to allow others to reproduce the results. Give references to established methods, including statistical methods, describe new or substantially modified methods, give the reasons for using them, and evaluate their limitations.



Describe statistical methods with enough detail to enable a knowledgeable reader with access to the original data to verify the reported results. Avoid relying solely on statistical hypothesis testing, such as p-values, which fail to convey important information about effect size, but include averages with confidence intervals if available, in addition to the p-values. Define statistical terms, abbreviations, and most symbols. Specify the computer software used.



Present your results in logical sequence in the text, tables, and illustrations, giving the main or most important findings first. Do not repeat all the data in the tables or illustrations in the text; emphasize or summarize only the most important observations. Extra or supplementary materials and technical detail can be placed in an appendix. Restrict tables and figures to those needed to explain the argument of the paper and to assess supporting data. Avoid interpreting the data, as this section is pure information that the reader can interpret for themselves; the authors’ own interpretation of the data is meant for the discussion section of the manuscript.



Emphasize the new and important aspects of the study and the conclusions that follow from them. For experimental studies, it is useful to begin the discussion by summarizing briefly the main findings, then explore possible mechanisms or explanations for these findings, compare and contrast the results with other relevant studies, state the limitations of the study, and explore the implications of the findings for future research and for clinical practice.

Limitations: Because every experiment or project can always be improved, a healthy discussion of the limitations of the study should be included. All manuscripts should include a brief discussion on the adequacy of the research methods to draw a valid conclusion. Authors should comment on changes that would improve the methods of the study or reasons why the methods are able to draw a strong conclusion. The discussion of limitations should not be a separate heading or sub-heading in the actual manuscript, but should be a flowing part of the discussion section.



Please see the directions for formatting References.


Illustrations (Figures and Tables)

Should follow the same format as mentioned in the General Guidelines.


Copyright Notice

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This page was last updated on 2/15/2014 KCP.