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GMS Z Med Ausbild. 2010;27(5):Doc72. doi: 10.3205/zma000709. Epub 2010 Nov 15.

Benefits and pitfalls of scientific research during undergraduate medical education.

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1
Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Hamburg, Deutschland.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

The integration of scientific research into medical education is a widely discussed topic. Most research training programs are offered on a voluntary basis. In Germany, it is mandatory to complete a doctoral thesis to obtain the academic title "doctor". The reasons why students start a dissertation project and the influence of this project on their undergraduate studies and later career choices are not well known.

METHOD:

This study was conducted at five German universities in 2003, with a total of 437 fifth-year students participating in it. A standardised questionnaire was used to ask participants about their current or finished dissertation (group A), a dissertation they had discontinued (group B) or why they had never started a dissertation project (group C).

RESULTS:

The two most important reasons for students from group A to start a dissertation were "interest in the topic" and "advantage for job applications". Compared with group B, they mentioned "improved ability to critically appraise scientific studies" and "doing scientific work independently" significantly more often as a result of working on their dissertation. Starting a dissertation project early during undergraduate studies was correlated with a less successful outcome. Moreover, working on a dissertation significantly reduced time spent on undergraduate studies. Students from group C named the "workload of undergraduate studies" and "no time" most frequently as reasons for not having started a dissertation.

CONCLUSION:

Students who have been working successfully on a dissertation rate items regarding the acquisition of scientific research skills significantly more positively, and participation in undergraduate studies seems to be negatively affected by working on a dissertation project. Therefore, basic training in scientific research methodology should become an integrated part of the medical undergraduate curriculum, while special programs should be offered for students with a particular interest in scientific research programs or an academic career.

KEYWORDS:

dissertation; doctorate; medical education; medical research; scientific work

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