Fixation on Histology

How to Write a Scientific Manuscript for Publication


How to Write a Scientific PaperThe Journal of Histotechnology is the official industry journal of the National Society of Histotechnology. Submitting articles is relatively easy and they do not charge a publication fee as many journals do. At the 2021 NSH Convention, I am presenting a virtual workshop on how to write a manuscript for publication. While it can be successfully argued that I am not an amazing writer myself, I am getting better, and practice makes, well if not “perfect”, then at least I am a little better than before.

The portions of a research paper are:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion/Conclusion
  • References

Important to remember is that no one has to have a graduate degree or even be certified as a histotechnologist to perform sound science and write up their findings for publication.

“Research” does not mean that a person has to transfect cell cultures, extract protein, run gels, or do experiments on rodents. There are plenty of people who do that sort of thing, who like it, and are very successful.

But “research” can also be in the form of what is called a technical note. These are the type of projects I like a lot. There is not a lot of biology involved, but often a bit of chemistry. Projects centering around the histology lab often try to improve a method of detection, make day-to-day tasks easier, or demonstrate a new way to do something old.

For example, once I was looking for a way to bleach melanin out of tissues so that I could do immunohistochemistry (IHC) assays on the tissues. My students and I did a literature search and tried several different methods to remove melanin. The methods that removed melanin effectively changed the affinity of the tissue for the plus-charged slide and allowed the tissue to slough off during the antigen retrieval step of IHC. The gentler methods that worked well with IHC typically left some melanin in the tissue which was easily confused with the diaminobenzidine (DAB) chromogen. Then, when presenting a poster at NSH with our meager findings, another attendee asked me about it and told me what they used in their lab. His method had never been published, so we agreed to collaborate. He sent me his protocol, and the students and I spent a great deal of time in the lab testing several different variations of bleaching of melanin and performing IHC. And, happily, our work was published a couple of years ago by JOH.

More recently, it bothered me that some labs do not use anything on their biopsy tissues to make the tissues easier to see during embedding and microtomy. If a histotech cannot easily see the tissue, he/she has difficulty making sure the entirety is embedded flatly, and also finds it challenging to section the tissue to the correct depth to achieve an entire section on the slide. Either task performed poorly could result in a missed diagnosis by the pathologist who counts on the skills of histotechs to give them a satisfactory specimen to evaluate. A student and I recently spent more time in the lab again and tried different solutions on tissues to see which would provide the best visualization during embedding and microtomy without compromising subsequent staining. That paper has been accepted to JOH and is pending publication.

Those types of projects are really fun, and they help improve processes across labs. It is exciting to think that even a decade or two from now, someone might read those articles and hopefully benefit from the information. I invite you all to find a similar problem to investigate. There might be a publication in it for you.

For more information, register for the 2021 NSH Convention, and make sure you attend WS-31: How to Write a Scientific Paper for Publication, Thursday, Sep 16; 2:30 PM ET - 3:30 PM

Written by Shelia Criswell, PhD, HTL(ASCP)QIHC