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A Bibliometric Analysis of Evaluative Medical Education Studies: Characteristics and Indexing Accuracy

Sampson, Margaret MLIS, PhD; Horsley, Tanya PhD; Doja, Asif MD, MEd

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182820b5c
Research Reports

Purpose To determine the characteristics of medical education studies published in general and internal medicine (GIM) and medical education journals, and to analyze the accuracy of their indexing.

Method The authors identified the five GIM and five medical education journals that published the most articles indexed in MEDLINE as medical education during January 2001 to January 2010. They searched Ovid MEDLINE for evaluative medical education studies published in these journals during this period and classified them as quantitative or qualitative studies according to MEDLINE indexing. They also examined themes and learner levels targeted. Using a random sample of records, they assessed the accuracy of study-type indexing.

Results Of 4,418 records retrieved, 3,853 (87.2%) were from medical education journals and 565 (12.3%) were from GIM journals. Qualitative studies and program evaluations were more prevalent within medical education journals, whereas GIM journals published a higher proportion of clinical trials and systematic reviews (χ2 = 74.28, df = 3, P < .001). Medical education journals had a concentration of studies targeting medical students, whereas GIM journals had a concentration targeting residents; themes were similar. The authors confirmed that 170 (56.7%) of the 300 sampled articles were correctly classified in MEDLINE as evaluative studies.

Conclusions The majority of the identified evaluative studies were published in medical education journals, confirming the integrity of medical education as a specialty. Findings concerning the study types published in medical education versus GIM journals are important for medical education researchers who seek to publish outside the field’s specialty journals.

Dr. Sampson is manager, Library Services, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Horsley is assistant director, Centre for Learning in Practice, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Doja is neurologist and assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Ottawa and Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Sampson, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, 401 Smyth Rd., Ottawa, ON K1H 8L1 Canada; telephone: (613) 737-7600, ext. 2207; fax: (613) 738-4806; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges