Curriculum initiatives to enhance research skills acquisition by medical students: a scoping review

Carberry, Crea, McCombe, Geoff, Tobin, Helen, Stokes, Diarmuid, Last, Jason, Bury, Gerard and Cullen, Walter (2021) Curriculum initiatives to enhance research skills acquisition by medical students: a scoping review. BMC Medical Education, 21 (1). ISSN 1472-6920


Abstract Background

Although it is accepted that providing medical students with opportunities to engage in research activity is beneficial, little data has been collated on how medical degree curricula may address this issue. This review aims to address this knowledge gap by conducting a scoping review examining curriculum initiatives that seek to enhance research experience for medical students.

This review looks to specifically look at ’doing research’ as defined by the MEDINE 2 consensus rather than ‘using research’ for the bachelor component of the Bologna Cycle. The framework developed by Arksey & O’Malley was utilised and a consultation with stakeholders was incorporated to clarify and enhance the framework.

A total of 120 articles were included in this scoping review; 26 related to intercalated degree options and 94 to non-intercalated degree options. Research initiatives from the United States were most common (53/120 articles). For non-intercalated research options, mandatory and elective research projects predominated. The included studies were heterogeneous in their methodology. The main outcomes reported were student research output, description of curriculum initiative(s) and self-reported research skills acquisition. For intercalated degree options, the three main findings were descriptions of more ‘novel’ intercalated degree options than the traditional BSc, student perspectives on intercalating and the effect of intercalating on medical student performance and careers.

There are several options available to faculty involved in planning medical degree programmes but further research is needed to determine whether research activity should be optional or mandatory. For now, flexibility is probably appropriate depending on a medical school’s resources, curriculum, educational culture and population needs.

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