When students go to college they’re usually expected to do some sort of research. Depending on the degree, the level of research practice can vary, especially if they’re in a medical field.
Physicians and other healthcare providers go through rigorous training on how to research, what to look for, and how to potentially do research in the future. To a seasoned provider – research becomes refined over time and becomes second nature. Searching for answers, advice, and recommendations becomes part of their daily, even hourly, practice.
But what’s exactly involved when students, specifically med students look for answers? Today we’re going to talk about a few of the key factors when it comes to how medical students research.
Med students and other healthcare science majors learn the basics of research early on. One of the biggest criteria is choosing peer-reviewed articles.
Peer-reviewed articles are also called scholarly articles and mean an article about a specific study has been reviewed by other experts in the field.
When colleagues review the article they’re looking for a few things. They want to make sure:
Once the article and the study have been reviewed by their peers, the article is approved to be published. Healthcare professionals are taught to look for peer-reviewed research as it helps verify the validity of both the study and the article written about the study.
Peer-reviewed journal articles tend to have a similar look and often mention the article is from a peer-reviewed journal. The authors will be listed as well as citations used for the article. There will also be any conflicts of interest from the authors stated within the article.
An example of conflicts of interest could be employment or endorsement by the drug being studied. This doesn’t mean the study is negated – but it’s important to know of any potential bias that may be present to get the bigger picture.
In addition to verifying an article is reviewed, the study itself is reviewed by students to determine how substantial the information is.
There are several different types of studies available for researchers to choose from. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) produce the most reliable data when it comes to determining cause-and-effect.
Cohort studies, case-control studies, cross-sectional studies, and qualitative studies are other examples of research methods commonly used in reputable journals.
Systematic reviews and meta analyses are popular ways to analyze existing data and share information through journal articles.
Sample size, sample characteristics (in vitro, animal, human, etc), length of study, and significance of the results are all things med students are taught to look for in research articles.
For example, the results from a study done in humans with a sample size of 1,000 will be much more clinically significant than a study done in mice with a sample size of 20.
Additionally if the results produced aren’t considered statistically significant, there’s probably not enough evidence to change clinical practice.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be wondering why doctors and med students need to look for articles at all. Don’t they learn everything they need to when they’re in school and can reference their books?
The time it takes for medical knowledge to double is becoming shorter and shorter. In 1950 it took 50 years for medical knowledge to double. But for students who graduated in 2020, the doubling time is estimated to only be 73 days.
Put another way, the knowledge learned by med students during med school will only be 6% of the knowledge they’ll learn in the next decade as a physician.
This means med students and the doctors they become have to be proficient in learning and digesting new medical information using the above criteria. Clinical guidelines and recommendations change with this new knowledge as we learn better ways to treat patients and cure disease.
Doctors want to feel confident the advice they're giving or medications they’re prescribing are the most effective and up to date recommendations. And the only way to do this is to have a pulse on the new information being shared in medical journals.
Even with the tools and tricks to sift through articles to find quality research, the amount of data out there is overwhelming. Using search engines, paying for library access, and subscribing to journals still leads to hundreds of articles a month that are up for consideration.
So how can med students keep up with this influx of medical information?
For starters, they can use tools that help filter relevant content. Apps like Juisci help curate the most relevant articles and share them in bite sized chunks, or shots of juice.
Juisci looks at what your focus is – cardiology, neurology, primary care, etc to curate your feed. But that’s not all, Juisci also pays attention to what other med students and practitioners are reading.
If an article is being shared or talked a lot about in the community forums – it may be something worth reading.
With Juisci you have the freedom to personalize your feed and what type of articles are being shared with you, you can create a community with other med students at your school or healthcare institution to more easily share and discuss new medical knowledge, and it’s all available in the palm of your hand through the app store.
Download the free Juisci app today by clicking here to experience personalized medical knowledge that you actually want to read to help stay up to date in your practice.