How to measure success: the impact of scholarly concentrations on students--a literature review

Acad Med. 2010 Mar;85(3):438-52. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181cccbd4.


Purpose: Scholarly concentrations (SCs) are elective or required curricular experiences that give students opportunities to study subjects in-depth beyond the conventional medical curriculum and require them to complete an independent scholarly project. This literature review explores the question, "What impact do SC programs have on medical students?"

Method: In 2008, the authors retrieved published articles using Medline, ERIC, and PsycINFO electronic databases and scanned reference lists to locate additional citations. They extracted data from selected articles using a structured form and used Kirkpatrick's evaluation model to organize learner outcomes into four categories: reactions, learning, behavior, and results.

Results: Of 1,640 citations, 82 full-text papers were considered, and 39 studies met inclusion criteria. Most articles described SC programs that offered students research opportunities. Fourteen articles provided evidence that SC experiences influenced students' choice of clinical specialty or fostered their interest in research. Eight articles reported that SCs improved students' understanding of research principles and methods. Nineteen articles reported publications and presentations to document students' ability to apply acquired knowledge and skills. Twelve studies confirmed the entry of SC graduates into academic medicine with continued engagement in research or success in obtaining grant funding. Students' criticisms focused on requiring research during clinical training and the effort needed to complete scholarly projects.

Conclusions: The diversity of articles and variable results prevent definitive conclusions about the value of SCs. Findings suggest several implications for future SC program evaluations and educational research. The authors advocate increased rigor in evaluation designs to demonstrate SCs' true impact.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / education*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical / standards*
  • United States