The Narrative Dimension of Medical Case Reports


  • Renzo Mocini Sapienza University of Rome



Case reports, semiotic, narrativity, medical discourse, functional analysis


A medical case report is a written scientific text which describes and discusses the symptoms, signs, diagnoses, treatment and follow-up of a patient presenting with a pathological condition. It is a valuable genre of specialised literature that makes a vital contribution to the dissemination of medical knowledge. From a didactic point of view, case reports offer an excellent opportunity for prospective healthcare providers to publish reports of rare, unusual or relevant cases drawn from their medical practice. The aim of this paper is to show how the meaning of medical case reports is grounded in a narrative-type “generative” mechanism. Drawing on functional categories and using a semio-narrative approach of Greimasian origin, I shall try to foreground those “constant, essential, formal and abstract characteristics of the story that are more or less hidden both in the textual products that anyone would indicate as narrative, and, in general, in any type of discourse even apparently very distant and different from the actual tales” (Marrone 2011, 23). The analysis seeks to show how even a “dry” scientific text can be read as a story capable of engaging readers, especially novice members of the medical discourse community who, by delving into the deep mechanisms that generate the text and its meaning, may emulate the art of case-report writing.

Author Biography

Renzo Mocini, Sapienza University of Rome

Department of Surgical Sciences

Associate Professor


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