We assessed the reading habits of internists with and without epidemiological training because such information may help guide medical journals as they make changes in how articles are edited and formatted. In a 1998 national self-administered mailed survey of 143 internists with fellowship training in epidemiology and study design and a random sample of 121 internists from the American Medical Association physician master file, we asked about the number of hours spent reading medical journals per week and the percentage of articles for which only the abstract is read. Respondents also were asked which of nine medical journals they subscribe to and read regularly. Of the 399 eligible participants, 264 returned surveys (response rate 66%). Respondents reported spending 4.4 hours per week reading medical journal articles and reported reading only the abstract for 63% of the articles; these findings were similar for internists with and without epidemiology training. Respondents admitted to a reliance on journal editors to provide rigorous and useful information, given the limited time available for critical reading. We conclude that internists, regardless of training in epidemiology, rely heavily on abstracts and prescreening of articles by editors.