Clinical research in family medicine: quantity and quality of published articles

Fam Med. 2003 Apr;35(4):284-8.


Background and objectives: Publication of clinical research in peer-reviewed journals is an important measure of scholarly productivity. This study determined the quantity and quality of original clinical research published by family physicians.

Methods: We surveyed clinical research papers published in the year 2000 in four leading family medicine research journals and research originating in a family practice institution but published in 16 non-family medicine journals. All were selected on the basis of relevance to family physicians and "impact factor." The relevance and validity of papers was assessed using previously established criteria.

Results: The survey of family medicine journals revealed a total of 170 original research articles. Ninety eight were from academic family practice programs, and the remaining 72 were from other medical specialties or health care institutions. Most of the papers were cross-sectional surveys. There were seven qualitative studies, six randomized controlled trials, and no systematic reviews from family practice programs in these journals. Eight of the articles were from practice-based research networks. A total of 79 articles were considered relevant or highly relevant, and 22 of these were also considered valid (Patient-oriented Evidence That Matters or POEMs). The survey of 16 non-family medicine journals revealed 37 clinical research papers: 16 surveys, nine prospective cohort studies, seven randomized controlled trials, three systematic reviews/meta-analysis, one qualitative study, and one case-control study. There were nine "highly relevant" papers--seven could be classified as POEMs.

Conclusions: Most clinical family medicine research uses less-rigorous study designs, such as the cross-sectional survey. The majority of papers do not meet established criteria for relevance and validity. There are no standards or comparable studies to compare these results to prior years or to other disciplines.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Practice*
  • Humans
  • Research* / standards