Purpose: This article provides clinician-teachers with an overview of the process necessary to move from an initial idea to the conceptualization and implementation of an empirical study in the field of medical education. This article will allow clinician-teachers to become familiar with educational research methodology in order to a) critically appraise education research studies and apply evidence-based education more effectively to their practice and b) initiate or collaborate in medical education research.
Source: This review uses relevant articles published in the fields of medicine, education, psychology, and sociology before October 2011.
Principal findings: The focus of the majority of research in medical education has been on reporting outcomes related to participants. There has been less assessment of patient care outcomes, resulting in informing evidence-based education to only a limited extent. This article explains the process necessary to develop a focused and relevant education research question and emphasizes the importance of theory in medical education research. It describes a range of methodologies, including quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods, and concludes with a discussion of dissemination of research findings. A majority of studies currently use quantitative methods. This article highlights how further use of qualitative methods can provide insight into the nuances and complexities of learning and teaching processes.
Conclusions: Research in medical education requires several successive steps, from formulating the correct research question to deciding the method for dissemination. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages and should be chosen according to the question being asked and the specific goal of the study. Well-conducted education research should allow progression towards the important goal of using evidence-based education in our teaching and institutions.