How I maintain scientific integrity as a medical writer

Integrity and authenticity are important values of mine. As a medical writer, it can be a challenge to maintain these values under the constraints of public-facing content marketing within which I often write. Here are the strategies I use to maintain scientific integrity as a medical writer.

As much as possible, only say things that are true.

When I write, I am careful to only make claims that I have investigated and believe to be true. This often means I have to make weaker claims than would perhaps be ideal stylistically, but the integrity is more important to me. For example, I use vague terms like “may be associated with” much more often than certainties like “causes”. I also try to include additional information that provides context on the claims I make, such as a study’s flaws or limitations. If I cannot investigate a claim thoroughly due to time constraints, I draw conclusions that are proportional to the depth of the investigation.

Learn to operate within the rules of the game.

Much of the time, I’m writing in a marketing or marketing-adjacent context. Therefore, there are certain rules I have to follow in order to do the job and satisfy the organization. When I worked in the cannabis world, most of the organizations I was writing for were pro-cannabis (although they certainly valued a complete scientific perspective). That meant I had to approach the articles with a slight bias toward the positive aspects of cannabis. However, I learned to provide balance copy that highlighted the limitations of the findings, or that was flat-out negative (for example, cannabis may be harmful to mental health), while still entertaining the pro-cannabis perspective and approaching the topic from within that frame. I find this a fun challenge that adds to the enjoyment of the job.

Push back on changes that decrease scientific accuracy.

A lot of the time, the person editing my work does not have a scientific background. Therefore, it is my responsibility as the medical writer to review the changes they make and ensure they do not compromise the integrity of my work. I don’t always have the opportunity to do this before publication, but if I do, I take it. If a change makes a statement untrue, it’s part of my job to push back. I find that editors generally appreciate this.

Pick your battles.

There are times where the publication’s other priorities will trump the scientific accuracy of the piece. It’s a sad reality, but it’s not cause for despair. I’ve learned that all I can do is make my case and push for the most scientifically accurate writing possible. If the editor won’t accept my argument, that’s on them. It’s also okay for an imperfect piece of writing to be published under my name. Almost everything I write ends up with some changes I disagree with, whether stylistic or in terms of accuracy, but that’s the reality of writing for a living.


Scientific integrity is essential for any medical writer. When we write for a general audience, it’s our responsibility to represent the science in the most unbiased, balanced way possible, while still acknowledging the constraints imposed by the company’s business needs or the publication’s political leanings. By aiming to only write things that are true, writing as accurately as I can within the contextual constraints, pushing back on inaccurate changes, and choosing my battles, I do my best to write with integrity at all times.

Think you might need a freelance medical writer? Feel free to reach out to me using my contact form, or via email at I am interested in working with health charities, health publications, businesses, and medical organizations.

The Value-Add of Hiring a Freelance Medical Writer

Some projects just can’t be completed in-house.

My clients are busy marketing professionals, content managers, and business owners who are trying to get projects completed. They work tirelessly for health charities, medical organizations, and health publications. When I talk to these clients about the content-related challenges their businesses face, I hear the same thing over and over. 

“We tried to compete this project in-house, but realized too late that it was better meant for a professional.”

That’s sometimes the point where they call me in, and I take care of the project. I am always happy to be involved, but I can’t help but think the whole experience would have been simpler, and cheaper, if I had been involved from the start.

To that end, here are 6 value-adds a freelance medical writer can provide!

?Professional writing experience and skill. 

Writing is something we all do, in some capacity, whether it be communicating via email, texting, or interacting on social media. This can make it tempting to ask someone whose job is not writing to take on a writing project.

Sometimes, this can work out, but you may end up with a passing grade instead of an A+. When you hire a professional, you can be sure the results will reflect the calibre, authority, and trustworthiness of your brand.

?Science education and knowledge.

A medical writer is someone with specialized knowledge of medicine and the life sciences. When you hire a professional, you gain access to knowledge that cannot be gleaned from Google alone. 

Most medical writers have a degree in biomedical sciences. Some are even practicing medical doctors or published researchers. 

It is essential that medical writing projects be written by someone with the knowledge and education to provide your reader with accurate, comprehensive information. 

?Taking the project off your radar.

Hiring a freelancer is one of the best ways to outsource a project. After the initial brief, my clients can relax. The project is in my hands until I submit. 

Once a client gives me feedback, I complete revisions, and they walk away with the project completed to their ideal standards.

?You can capitalize on a roster of different freelancers with different skills. 

When you start using freelance medical writers, you open yourself up to a world of opportunity. As you build your roster, you can offer projects to the writer whose skills, style, and experience match the project best. 

?Can be faster and cheaper than completing the project in-house.

Asking a person who is not a writer by trade, or who does not have a background in medical sciences to complete your medical writing project can cost the company in terms of the employee’s time. 

You may also find the project lacking in quality following submission, and you may have to invest more resources into bringing the project up to snuff.

?Freelance medical writers can act as consultants. 

As an independent contractor, I have an entrepreneurial spirit and consider myself a consultant on every project I engage in. When a client approaches me with a brief, I always like to take a slightly critical eye to it before agreeing. This ensures that the client is getting the project that is best for them.  

A freelance medical writer can catch a bad idea before it becomes a reality. They may think of things you didn’t think of, or see things in a way you didn’t see them. They often bring years of diverse experience to the table, which your business can then capitalize on. It is truly a win-win situation.

Think you might need a freelance medical writer? Feel free to reach out to me using my contact form, or via email at I am interested in working with health charities, health publications, businesses, and medical organizations.

When To Use Phone vs. Email Interviews as a Medical Writer

When I first started writing articles that required expert sources, I was simply instructed to “interview” the relevant person. I was given their email and no further instructions. Other times, I’m given an assignment where I have to locate and solicit sources myself.

There are two main ways that interviews are conducted these days: by phone and by email. Each one has its merits, and both can be used to create excellent content. 

Through trial and error, I’ve learned when it’s appropriate to use email and when a phone call is required. Here, I’ll share what I’ve learned about phone and email interviews, and some tips for success. 

Phone interviews

Phone (or in-person) interviews are the gold standard in journalism. They allow for a more natural speaking style, and it can be easier to feel a connection with the interviewee. Plus, they allow for real-time follow up questions, which can really help you to get what you’re looking for from the source. When in doubt, I would suggest you try for a phone interview.

When to use a phone interview

When I first started interviewing, I didn’t want to have to call. Secretly, I wished everything could be done by email. Compared to email, phone calls are more taxing, they’re more stressful, and there’s more work involved. But after gaining more experience, I understand why they’re important. 

When the article is focused on narrative, a phone interview is essential. You end up with much more content overall (a half-hour phone call transcript can be 5,000 words), whereas with email interviews, you generally end up with a few hundred words to work with. 

When the article is focused on something else, a phone interview can mean you end up with thousands of words to sift through to find a small quote. As long as you’re not strapped for time, though, this is still a good outcome because it means you have a lot to work with.

Generally, I try for a phone interview whenever I need more than a simple quote, and whenever the article is focused on narrative. I find this results in better content overall. 

Tips for phone interviews

When conducting a phone interview, be sure to test your recording setup before the call. I like to make the call on speakerphone on my cell phone, and record it using two methods: 1) a dedicated recorder device and 2) using my MacBook’s voice memos app. This means that if one of my recording methods fails, I have a backup. This is essential when dealing with busy people who are doing your client a favour. 

I like to offer to send the questions in advance of the interview. This is not standard practice, but as someone who is not a fan of public speaking, I understand that it can help ease people’s nerves. Almost everyone says they would like to see the questions, and I find the interview goes more smoothly when they’re prepared.

When preparing for a phone interview, I plan meticulously, to the point of almost having a script. My nature is to prepare, and I like to make sure everything gets said right. 

I like to begin by giving the interviewee a bit of a spiel about the article, and some background information. I also tell them what I’m hoping to gain from the interview so they understand how to frame their responses. All of this helps the source get more comfortable before we start the interview. 

Then, I go through my list of questions, altering them and asking follow-ups as required. I like to ensure the first question is something simple, like their biographical information or work background. 

I generally end interviews by asking the source if there’s anything else they’d like to say, or anything we didn’t get to. Then I let them know what to expect in terms of the article and end the call. 

After the interview, I use to transcribe my phone interviews. It’s an AI-powered transcription service that does a good enough job for my purposes. You can also consider services like Rev, where real people are paid to transcribe the conversation. 

Email interviews

Email interviews, or even DM interviews, are becoming increasingly more common in the fast-paced content world. In certain scenarios, they work well, and sometimes even better than a phone interview. They allow you to contact people who would otherwise not be easy to contact. They open the door to conversations with people who simply don’t have time for a phone call.  

Email interviews are best for situations where you’re looking for less content, or a quote that fills a very specific role. They can also be an efficient way to manage your time if you are not being compensated sufficiently to justify a phone interview, and they’re a last-resort option if the person you need isn’t available otherwise.

When to use an email interview

I frequently use email interviews for SEO and blog posts that are not focused on narrative. Often, I only need a very small quote to add some credibility or answer a simple question, and the article is not focused on the interviewee’s input. 

Email interviews are easy for the interviewee. When propositioning a potential source for an SEO or blog post, I tend to ask for a phone interview, but also send the questions and let them know they can respond by email if preferred. Frequently, they get back to me with the answers jotted in the body of the email.

This works particularly well with busy doctors who don’t have time to schedule a phone call, especially if they aren’t involved with your client’s organization and are simply doing you a favour. They’re also easier for the writer, because you don’t have to record or transcribe the call.  

Tips for email interviews

Keep the email brief, and be clear about what you want and when. Consider bolding important sentences e.g. “Let me know either way so I can find someone else if you are not available”, especially if the interviewee is a doctor or another busy person.

I always include the questions in the first email, so they can simply respond with the answers if they want to.

If you’re DMing a source on twitter, be sure to also tweet at them so they see the DM. Some people don’t get notifications for DMs from those they don’t follow. 

Think you might need a freelance medical writer? Feel free to reach out to me using my contact form, or via email at I am interested in working with health charities, health publications, businesses, and medical organizations.

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