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Medical Students Test Advanced Literature Search Skills in Small Group Assignments

Drexel librarians are ready to collaborate with faculty to integrate literature search skills into the curriculum. One example at Drexel University College of Medicine is the Program for Integrated Learning (PIL), which offers first- and second-year medical students an alternative to a lecture-based curriculum.

Guided by faculty, PIL students meet in small groups, where clinical cases act as a framework for learning the scientific basis of medical practice.  Students identify information they need in order to explain the facts of the case.  After searching for relevant information between group meetings, they present it at the next session. This interactive learning format has extra benefits of building skills in teamwork and lifelong, independent learning.

Students’ need to find case-related information makes PIL a good opportunity to introduce advanced literature search training into the curriculum.  Students already know how to do simple, Google-type searches, but in the career of a physician, the cost of missing information can be high -- a patient or research subject could die.   That’s why it’s important to learn advanced features of MEDLINE (PubMed), physicians’ key source for primary literature.

Teaching begins with a presentation by a Health Sciences librarian and continues as students complete hands-on-the-keyboard learning with a tutorial.  Next, students work in pairs to find research articles (primary literature) on a case-related topic.  They meet with a librarian to review the search and clear up any confusion about advanced techniques, and finally, they present the information they found to the group.   Students express gratitude when they recognize the new search power at their command, for example:   “These skills were imperative to have during the Primary Care Practicum and I utilized my new search knowledge every week”.

Faculty are encouraged to contact a reference or liaison librarian to discuss collaborative teaching opportunities.

Article by: Martha Kirby

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