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Use of a journal club and letter-writing exercise to teach critical appraisal to medical undergraduates

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Martin White, Jo Gray, Dr Colin Fischbacher


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Introduction: There is growing interest in methods of teaching critical appraisal skills at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. We describe an approach using a journal club and subsequent letter writing to teach critical appraisal and writing skills to medical undergraduates. Methods: The exercise occurs during a 3-week public health medicine attachment in the third year of the undergraduate curriculum. Students work in small groups to appraise a recently published research paper, present their findings to their peers in a journal club, and draft a letter to the journal editor. Evaluation took place through: informal and formal feedback from students; number of letters written, submitted and published, and a comparison of marks obtained by students submitting a literature review assignment with and without critical appraisal teaching during the public health attachment. Results: Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive. In the first 31/2 years, 26 letters have been published or accepted for publication, and 58 letters published on the Internet. There were no significant differences in overall marks or marks for the critical appraisal component of the literature review assignments between the two student groups. Discussion: We believe our approach is an innovative and enjoyable method for teaching critical appraisal and writing skills to medical students. Lack of difference in marks in the literature review between the student groups may reflect its insensitivity as an outcome measure, contamination by other critical appraisal teaching, or true ineffectiveness.

Publication metadata

Author(s): White M; Fischbacher C; Gray J; Edwards R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Medical Education

Year: 2001

Volume: 35

Issue: 7

Pages: 691-694

Print publication date: 01/01/2001

ISSN (print): 0308-0110

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2923

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2001.00972.x

PubMed id: 11437973


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