Extracurricular participation in research and audit by medical students: opportunities, obstacles, motivation and outcomes

Med Teach. 2012;34(5):e317-24. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.670324. Epub 2012 Apr 3.


Background: Medical students should learn to critically evaluate research to inform future evidence-based practice. Participation in research and audit at medical school can help develop these skills whilst prompting interest in academic pursuits.

Aims: We investigate medical student attitudes and participation in extracurricular research and audit focusing on their opportunities, obstacles, motivation and outcomes.

Method: A 60-item questionnaire was distributed to final-year medical students graduating from the University of Nottingham Medical School in the United Kingdom.

Results: A total of 238 questionnaires were returned (response rate 75%). Of these, 86% felt research or audit experience was useful for medical students. The main driver for involvement was curriculum vitae (CV) improvement (51%). Male students and those involved in extracurricular research were more likely to agree that this experience should influence selection into training programmes (p = 0.017, p = 0.0036). Overall, 91 respondents (38%) had been involved in such activity with a mean number of projects undertaken of two (range one to four). Those interested in a surgical career were most likely to have undertaken projects (58%). Frequently cited obstacles to involvement were time constraints (74%) and a perceived lack of interest from potential supervisors (63%).

Conclusions: Despite significant CV motivation, many are enthusiastic regarding extracurricular research opportunities but frustrated by obstacles faced. Our study suggests there is scope for providing further opportunities to participate in such activities at medical school.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine / education*
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Audit
  • Population Surveillance
  • Research / education*
  • Students, Medical*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom