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Student Careers

How to get involved in research as a medical student

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 23 January 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:i6593
  1. Anna Kathryn Taylor, final year medical student1,
  2. Sarah Purdy, professor of primary care and associate dean1
  1. 1Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Bristol, UK

Participating in research gives students great skills and opportunities. Anna Taylor and Sarah Purdy explain how to get started

This article contains:

  • -How to get involved with research projects

  • -Questions to ask yourself before starting research

  • -What can you get published? Research output

  • -Advice for contacting researchers

  • -Different types of research explained

  • -Stages of research projects

Students often go into medicine because of a desire to help others and improve patients’ physical and mental wellbeing. In the early years of medical school, however, it can seem as if you are not making much difference to patient care. Involvement in research can provide exciting opportunities to work as part of a team, improve career prospects, and most importantly add to the evidence base, leading to better outcomes for patients.

Research is usually multidisciplinary, including clinical academics (medical doctors who spend part of their working life doing research), nurses, patients, scientists, and researchers without a medical background. Involvement in such a team can improve your communication skills and expand your understanding of how a multidisciplinary team works.

Participating in research can also help you to develop skills in writing and critical appraisal through the process of publishing your work. You may be able to present your work at conferences—either as a poster or an oral presentation—and this can provide valuable points for job applications at both foundation programme and core training level. This is particularly important if you are considering a career in academia. You will also develop skills in time management, problem solving, and record keeping. You might discover an area of medicine in which you are keen to carry out further work. For some people, getting involved in research as a medical student can be the first step in an academic career.

Kyla Thomas, National Institute for Health Research clinical lecturer in public …

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