Introduction: Debriefing is a process involving the active participation of learners, guided by a facilitator or instructor whose primary goal is to identify and close gaps in knowledge and skills. A review of existing research and a process for identifying future opportunities was undertaken.
Methods: A selective critical review of the literature on debriefing in simulation-based education was done. An iterative process of analysis, gathering input from audience participants, and consensus-based synthesis was conducted.
Results: Research is sparse and limited in presentation for all important topic areas where debriefing is a primary variable. The importance of a format for reporting data on debriefing in a research context was realized and a "who, when, where, what, why" approach was proposed. Also, a graphical representation of the characteristics of debriefing studies was developed (Sim-PICO) to help guide simulation researchers in appropriate experimental design and reporting.
Conclusion: A few areas of debriefing practice where obvious gaps that deserve study were identified, such as comparing debriefing techniques, comparing trained versus untrained debriefers, and comparing the effect of different debriefing venues and times. A model for publication of research data was developed and presented which should help researchers clarify methodology in future work.