Background: Logbooks are used by clinical clerkships in undergraduate medical education as tools for individual student guidance, programmatic evaluation, and Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accreditation. The purpose of this narrative review was to summarize the published literature on the form and function of logbooks and to review logbook validity and reliability. We performed a literature search from 1980 through 2004 and reviewed 50 articles on logbook use during clinical clerkships.
Summary: Articles were categorized into 5 themes: description and feasibility of logbooks (27 articles), accuracy and completeness of logbook entries (14 articles), utility to student education (11 articles), utility to program evaluation (26 articles), and connecting logbook process measures to clerkship outcomes (2 articles).
Conclusions: A feasible and acceptable logbook system is an attainable goal, although students usually did not complete logbooks unless required. The available literature does not establish that logbooks currently in use have sufficient reliability or validity to allow for the routine use of the information for program change or accreditation purposes. The ideal logbook should be inexpensive, feasible, and acceptable to students and should allow rapid collation of accurate, relevant data for timely analysis and feedback to the student and clerkship director.