The Cochrane Students’ Journal Club
Posted on 1st August 2013 by Lucy Homer
What’s it all about?
The Cochrane Students’ Journal club is an initiative aimed at introducing the concept of evidence-based medicine (EBM) to medical students. It provides a prologue to the key concepts of EBM and to support students in question formulation, searching for evidence and critical appraisal.
The site recognises that most students aren’t familiar with the process of evidence-based medicine and takes the reader through the ‘ABCs’ as well as providing further reading on specific EBM topics. There are detailed sections on PICO statements, search strategies, critical appraisal, systematic reviews and meta-analysis detailed as the ‘basics’ as well as more information for the more experienced EBM researcher. The resources on the site are well written and easy to follow, bar a couple of formatting mistakes, but this can be forgiven as the site is still in its early stages.
While traditionally a journal club takes the format of the reading of a paper and its critical appraisal, perhaps its title is a slight misnomer, but the intentions of the site are good. Instead of this more traditional format, the group make hypothetical scenarios which they then invite students to formulate an evidence-based recommendation from the scenario. This requires the student to formulate a research question, search the evidence and then critically appraise what they have found and make a recommendation for the fictitious patient in the scenario.
While this appears to be a daunting task to complete for the first time alone, if you create an account (completely free) and select to ‘submit a recommendation’ the site has created a handy submission form that takes you through the steps. First, using P.I.C.O, you are asked to define the search question specifying each term. Then, using the Cochrane Library you are asked to search for your question and find the most appropriate systematic review and copy the URL into the appropriate text box. After, using the systematic review that you have found, you are asked to summarise the evidence that informs your opinion or recommendation, and make an overall opinion (with reasoning). All of these are compulsory steps if you want to be in with a chance of winning a prize for the best recommendation that is then featured on the site. After submission of your recommendation you are then shown a standard recommendation as made by the Cochrane Students’ Journal Club Faculty to compare what you have done and help you improve for the next month when a new scenario is released.
As well as taking students through the process of critical appraisal the site offers help to set up a journal club at your institution. This is done by contacting the site administrators.
This site is aimed at students interested in EBM but perhaps are unsure where to start or want more practice of the whole process of evidence based medicine, not just critical appraisal.
Time to complete
Realistically it may take about an hour (depending on your EBM experience) to complete the scenario, search for the evidence and formulate an opinion. But, this is something, as with most, that becomes easier with practice. The fact that you are given an example helps you learn about key steps that you may not have been aware of and improve for the future.
While the title may be a slight misnomer you should not let this be a deterrent. This Cochrane Students’ Journal Club offers a hand to hold through the perhaps unknown world of EBM. From the novice first starting out to the more experienced, this site offers an EBM for all, that can only help the health care practitioners of the future. Give the site the hour that it needs to completed the scenario and you will find critical appraisal and the EBM process second nature in no time. An essential for all.