Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Manchester (2010) Proc Physiol Soc 19, PC83

Poster Communications

Introduction of a Learning Activity to Support Final Year Undergraduates when Critically Reviewing Primary Literature

W. E. Leadbeater1

1. Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


Primary research literature is an integral part of research. It allows for the validation of scientific evidence by the wider scientific community. In the second year, Bachelor of Medical Science (BMedSc) students at Birmingham University are introduced to critical analysis of a primary research article. This is a good basis for the research-focused final year, but many students still have not developed sufficient skills to critically review a research article or comfortably challenge published interpretations. By their final undergraduate year, medical science students are expected to be familiar with research articles and use these to develop their knowledge of a chosen field, and take part in journal club-style discussions. Most cannot do this more than superficially. Willmott et al., 2003 described a series of exercises to train students how to handle primary literature. A framework was developed as a tool to support the final year students in their critical analysis of a research article. The framework consisted of an initial tutorial to place a scientific paper into context and discuss the experimental methods used. The facilitator selected a research article that complemented the preceding lecture. This gave relevance to the session and reinforced the students’ understanding of the lecture through experimental evidence from the research article. Students were grouped and allocated tasks (meet with peers, answer set questions to each section of article, prepare short presentation of figure allocated) to dissect the article prior to a second tutorial. In the second tutorial students were encouraged to present, interpret the data, consider appropriate controls, question the methods and discuss the findings with their peers. By addressing the relevance of the experimental research to their recently acquired knowledge from the lecture, guiding students through the article, and offering immediate feedback, students felt they had actively participated and discussed the article. Students confirmed this via feedback questionnaires. This framework could be effectively applied to support self-directed critical analysis of research articles to support students’ imminent research-based dissertation. This framework could be used for any research-based module. It will be applied again with cohorts in the upcoming academic year.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements