Open Access

Writing letters to the editor: A workshop

Yuki Kataoka[1], Miho Kimachi[2], Junji Kumasawa[3], Sayaka Shimizu[2]

Institution: 1. Hyogo Prefectural Amagasaki General Medical Center, 2. School of Public Health in the Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, 3. Sakai City Medical Center
Corresponding Author: Dr Yuki Kataoka ([email protected])
Categories: Research in Health Professions Education
Published Date: 20/07/2018
Keywords: letter to the editor; continuing medical education


Critical appraisal of current literature is important when embarking on a new clinical study (Laidlaw 2012).

Several workshops teach critical appraisal as step 3 of evidence-based medicine. However, few workshops address critical appraisal in anticipation of implementing a clinical study, much less, how to deliver the results of the critique to the original author is not described.

We presented a two-day workshop on how to write a letter to the editor as part of a two-year distance-learning program to acquire the skills necessary to conduct clinical studies.

Participants were recruited online, and the inclusion criteria comprised medical doctors with at least four years of clinical experience who had never learned how to do clinical research.

During the first year, they watched a three-hour movie about clinical research and then submitted homework every month. Thereafter, group feedback was given for one hour each month between May and November via online conferences, and they participated in a two-day workshop review in July.

Another 8-hour, two-part workshop proceeded during December. Before the first day, students in groups of 3 or 4 selected a full original article to critique. The first half comprised a lecture about confounding, bias, and how to write a letter to the editor. Each group was provided with a facilitator who had at least one year of clinical research experience. The second half comprised presentations about their critical appraisals and suggestions for the article.

Three workshops proceeded in 2015, 2016, and 2017. A total of 38 participants in nine groups wrote 13 letters about articles, of which 11 were accepted.

Generally, the workshop was well received and the students were satisfied. However, two groups could not achieve acceptance. One group missed the deadline in 2015. We held a flipped lecture about how to write a letter to the editor before the workshop and gave two hours to write one. One group missed the reply from the journal and missed the deadline in 2016. We will limit the journal choices and inform the students of the actual reply.

To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to teach the skills required to write a letter to the editor. We plan to improve the workshop to support clinicians who embark on clinical research projects.

Take Home Messages

After two-day workshop, participated medical doctors acquired skills to write "letter to the editor".

Notes On Contributors

Yuki Kataoka is a Medical Head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at the Hyogo Prefectural Amagasaki General Medical Center.

Miho Kimachi is a Program-specific Assistant Professor of the Department of Healthcare Epidemiology, School of Public Health in the Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University.

Junji Kumasawa is an Assistant Head Physician of the Department of Critical Care Medicine, Sakai City Medical Center.

Sayaka Shimizu is a Program-specific Assistant Professor of the Department of Healthcare Epidemiology, School of Public Health in the Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University.



Laidlaw, A., Aiton, J., Struthers, J. and Guild, S. (2012) ‘Developing research skills in medical students: AMEE Guide No. 69’, Medical Teacher, 34(9), pp. 754–771. https://doi.org/10.3109/0142159X.2012.704438



There are no conflicts of interest.
This has been published under Creative Commons "CC BY-SA 4.0" (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

Ethics Statement

This program was not reviewed by an institutional review board, but we followed the Declaration of Helsinki (2013) and obtained written informed consent from each of the respondents to participate and we anonymized the presentation.

External Funding

The Problem-Solving Oriented Training Program for Advanced Medical Personnel was funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).


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P Ravi Shankar - (20/07/2018) Panel Member Icon
This article describes how writing a letter to the editor can be used to teach critical appraisal skills to doctors. Critical appraisal is an important skill for doctors and having your work published as a letter to the editor can be a powerful incentive for students. Three workshops were held in 2015, 2016 and 2017. I would be interested in further details. What exactly were the criteria followed while carrying out the critical analysis? To which journals did the authors submit their letters to the editor? What criteria were followed while writing the letter? How many groups were created each year? Why did the two groups miss the deadline for submission of the letter? I did not exactly understand what the authors meant by the deadline for submitting the letter? The article is interesting but further details will make it more useful to the readers.
Sateesh Babu Arja - (20/07/2018) Panel Member Icon
Very simple and well written. I enjoyed reading this paper. It is interesting to see that there are workshops on how to write the letters to the editors. The results are promising that eleven out of thirteen letters to the editors were accepted. But I would have been happy to see the quality of these journals which accepted the letters. Even the description of the curriculum in the first year of the workshops is vague and just mentioned as clinical research. It would have been more useful to the readers to see what is involved in the first year. But I would like to appreciate the attempt to conduct these workshops. Thank you.