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Mil Med. 2017 Nov;182(11):e1803-e1808. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-17-00059.

Appraising Medical Literature: The Effect of a Structured Journal Club Curriculum Using The Lancet Handbook of Essential Concepts in Clinical Research on Resident Self-Assessment and Knowledge in Milestone-Based Competencies.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA 98431.



Training in literature appraisal and statistical interpretation is one of the residency training requirements outlined by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Frequently, a journal club format is used to teach this competency although this teaching modality is not standardized or well studied in regard to its efficacy.


This study sought to determine the effect of a structured journal club curriculum that incorporated The Lancet Handbook of Essential Concepts in Clinical Research on objective and self-assessed knowledge pertaining to study design and interpretation. The study was a retrospective observational study evaluating the effect of a structured journal club curriculum using the Lancet text with pre- and postimplementation assessment using a resident self-assessment survey. The study examined a monthly journal club curriculum that covered 1 topic/chapter from the assigned text, paired with a contemporary article to highlight the chapter topic. Resident self-assessed and objective knowledge was evaluated and compared using a survey taken before and after the curriculum change. The study was completed during 1 academic year at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, an academic military medical training and tertiary care center. Study surveys were distributed to all 17 obstetrics and gynecology residents throughout the 4 residency training years. Of the 17 potential participants, 13 (76%) participated in the precurriculum assessment and 14 (82%) participated after its completion.


There was no significant improvement in resident self-assessed knowledge following curriculum implementation. There was a trend toward improved objective knowledge pertaining to study design and interpretation after curriculum completion, but this was not statistically significant.


There is a lack of standardized and well-studied methods to teach residents how to evaluate and appraise medical literature and research. The Lancet Handbook of Essential Concepts in Clinical Research may be a useful tool to teach some of these tenets in the residency training environment, but this limited study did not prove this assertion.


Three is a dearth of proven and well-studied means to teach the tenets of study design, statistical interpretation, and critical literature appraisal to trainees with any consistency or validity. This study demonstrated a trend toward better objective knowledge related to study design, interpretation, and understanding after a change in our training curriculum that implemented The Lancet Handbook of Essential Concepts in Clinical Research into the monthly journal club curriculum. Resident self-rated knowledge and proficiency in their abilities to understand research and study design were not significantly changed with the curriculum.


Better evidence is needed to guide future educational curricula directed toward teaching the competency of medical literature review and appraisal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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