Exploring factors affecting undergraduate medical students' study strategies in the clinical years: a qualitative study

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2011 Dec;16(5):553-67. doi: 10.1007/s10459-010-9271-2. Epub 2011 Jan 5.


The aim of this study is to explore the effects of clinical supervision, and assessment characteristics on the study strategies used by undergraduate medical students during their clinical rotations. We conducted a qualitative phenomenological study at King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, College of Medicine, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia during the period from November 2007 to December 2008. We conducted semi-structured focus groups interviews with students and conducted individual interviews with teachers and students to explore students' and clinical teachers' perceptions and interpretations of factors influencing students' study strategies. Data collection was continued until saturation was reached. We used Atlas-ti Computer Software (Version 5.2) to analyse the data, apply the obtained themes to the whole dataset and rearrange the data according to the themes and sub-themes. Analysis of data from interviews with twenty-eight students and thirteen clinical supervisors yielded three major themes relating to factors affecting students' study strategies: "clinical supervisors and supervision", "stress and anxiety" and "assessment". The three themes we identified played a role in students' adoption of different study strategies in the "community of clinical practice". It appeared that teachers played a key role, particularly as assessors, clinical supervisors and as a source of stress to students.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Clinical Clerkship / organization & administration*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Young Adult