Writing for a Clinical Audience

Summarizing clinical trial data for a specialized audience


In the medical writing field, writers will encounter a range of project types and clients. Projects may include providing succinct summaries of specific research or clinical fields. Clients may be individual authors, science communication or medical groups, or pharmaceutical, biotech companies, or insurance companies. When working with clients, medical writers must gain a clear understanding of the overall goal of the project, stakeholders, the product, the audience for the product, and how to make the product fit into previous similar products.

The Process

Summarizing Field Literature

  1. Client specifies what information they need and the format of the deliverable
  2. Define search terms for the deliverable
  3. Read and summarize relevant articles uncovered in the search
  4. Create the deliverable for the client (may include partnering with a graphics team)
  5. One or two rounds of editing of the deliverable
  6. Present the deliverable to the client

The Exercise

For this exercise, you are a medical writer in a company that provides written summaries in the field of cancer research. You are hired by a group that wishes to keep their physicians, lung cancer specialists, apprised of new developments in the lung cancer field through newsletters, pamphlets, or in-person presentations.

Medical writers may often work on projects using data or results that are still confidential. In those cases, clients may ask you to sign an NDA or non-disclosure agreement that allows you to work on sensitive data without compromising confidentiality. In this job simulation, the data you are summarizing has already been published, and is not subject to confidentiality agreements.

Read this Journal of Clinical Oncology paper based on clinical trial data NCT00048997. Prepare an executive summary of the paper aimed at a physician audience in a slide format.

The Deliverable


Create a presentation with a total of 1-2 slides with the executive summary of the paper. The executive summary should include a brief 3-4 sentence summary, key messages, and conclusions from the paper. Include graphics or tables as needed. Remember to be concise and clear. Doctors, nurses, and clinical staff should be able to understand the information presented without additional explanation.

Sample Deliverable



General resources to get you started:


Skills used to perform this task:

  • Creating presentations
  • Analytical thinking
  • Synthesizing new information quickly
  • Understanding clinical trials

Skills used in the scientific journal editing field:

  • Being comfortable with writing about unfamiliar topics
  • Oral and written communication with diverse stakeholders
  • Time management
  • Project management

To view detailed lists of skills in job descriptions for communication careers, please see workforce data generated by Boston University’s BEST program.

Additional responsibilities

A professional in the medical writing field may also perform these activities:

You are viewing a job simulation. To get started, set up SMART Goals to perform this simulation in a reasonable timeline. If you have completed the task, fill out the Self-Reflection Sheet.

Simulation authors: Linet Mera, PhD
Simulation vetted by professionals in the Bay Area