Titling and authorship practices in medical case reports: a diachronic study


  • Françoise Elisabeth Salager-Meyer Universidad de Los Andes
  • María Ángeles Alcaraz Ariza Universidad de Alicante
  • Marianela Luzardo Briceño Universidad de Los Andes




BMJ, BMJ Case Reports, case reports, diachrony, medicine, titles,


This paper is a diachronic analysis of a corpus of 180 titles drawn from CRs published in the BMJ and the BMJ Case Reports between 1840 and 2009. The corpus was divided into three Blocks, and the frequency of occurrence of 69 text-internal variables was recorded in each title. Between-Block comparisons were carried out, and Student’s t-tests were applied to the quantitative results. Our findings show that CR titles have evolved over the 160-year period studied in the sense that they have increased in length, syntactic complexity, semantic richness and title type diversity. Authorship patterns and collaboration practices have changed too. Although internationalization of case reporting has increased over time, today's preferred practice is still local collaboration. The only variable that has remained constant over the years is the nominal nature of CR titles. We put forth several social and scientific factors that could account for the various shifts observed. We claim that non-informativeness of CR titles that persisted over time can be explained by the fact that CR authors are reluctant to give a generalization flavor to their findings.

Author Biographies

Françoise Elisabeth Salager-Meyer, Universidad de Los Andes

Françoise Salager-Meyer was educated at the University of Lyons, France, and at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of numerous publications on written medical discourse, mostly from a diachronic, cross-linguistic and cross-generic perspective. In 1994 and 2004, she was awarded the Horowitz Prize for her works on the pragmatics of written scholarly communication. Shewas the editor of the ‘Language and Medicine’ section of the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (Elsevier, 2006), and for the past ten years she has coordinated the Multilingual and Multidisciplinary Research Group on Scientific Discourse Analysis (Graduate School of Medicine, University of the Andes, Venezuela).

María Ángeles Alcaraz Ariza, Universidad de Alicante

María Ángeles Alcaraz Ariza received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Alicante (Spain), where she is currently working as a tenured lecturer. Her research interests include the influence of English on medical Spanish and the discourse analysis of medical prose written in English, French and Spanish from a diachronic, cross-linguistic and cultural standpoint.

Marianela Luzardo Briceño, Universidad de Los Andes

Marianela Luzardo Briceño obtained her PhD in Statistics from the University of the Andes (Mérida, Venezuela), where she teaches statistics both at the undergraduate and the graduate levels. She is currently on sabbatical leave at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Bucaramanga, Colombia).



How to Cite

Salager-Meyer, F. E., Ariza, M. Ángeles A., & Briceño, M. L. (2014). Titling and authorship practices in medical case reports: a diachronic study. Communication and Medicine, 10(1), 63–80. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.v10i1.63