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EMR - Effective Medical Reading

A practical course, for physicians and biomedical researchers, organized in 2 days or 4 half-day sessions, for up to 20 persons. Each session is composed of short presentations followed by small group work in which research papers are read according to the method of Browsing* and then presented and critically discussed in class. The course can be given either in Italian language (with frequent use of English terminology) or entirely in English by a native speaker. Only papers written in English are read and discussed.

Main goals of course
  • Understand the structure of a research paper and feel confident navigating its contents
  • Realize that published papers are not final words on a subject and are meant to be critically appraised (and that difficult comprehension is not always the reader's fault)
  • Understand the importance of clarity and rigor in the communication of scientific information (and expect this from journals)
Didactic strategies
  • Alternation between lectures (0.5 h) and small group work (1.5 h):  maintains participants' attention level
  • Small group work:  participants pool knowledge of English and science
  • Papers are read on a wide variety of topics:  expose the problems of poor scientific writing
  • Short course:  establishes a framework in which participants can continue to learn independently
  Main course topics
  • Biomedical journals (types and characteristics)
  • Articles published in biomedical journals
  • The process from manuscript to published work: peer review, editorial selection, prepublication editing, postpublication peer review
  • The scientific method and scientific hypotheses
  • Structure of a research paper (IMRAD) and how it relates to the scientific method
  • Types and qualities of abstracts, and problems of abstract-only reading
  • How to Browse* a research paper
  • Reading the Results (numerical data, tables, figures)
  • Main issues of descriptive statistics
  • Basic concepts of hypothesis testing (inferential statistics)
  • Reporting statistics; implications for readers
  • Clinical research design
  • Authorship, contributorship, conflicts of interest: implications for readers and authors
  • Critical appraisal
This course has been given on several occassions to community and hospital physicians, graduate students and medical device company employees, in Veneto, Lombardy and Piedmont, Italy.  Prerequisites for participation  university degree in medicine, biology or related biomedical fields; ability to read English well

*Browsing  is a fast, superficial but structured approach for the first evaluation of a research paper [1]. Proposed as an alternative to abstract-only reading, with browsing one dedicates about the same amount of time and reads about the same number of words. However, with browsing the reader obtains graphical information and makes a first step toward critical appraisal. Browsing permits readers to delve into the text of a research paper without reading from start to finish. The goals of browsing are to: 1) identify key points of a paper, 2) make a preliminary assessment of quality, and 3) decide if the paper is interesting or important enough to be read in further detail.

The course is organized for preformed groups and is held conveniently in your institute. A brief bio of the instructor is available here. For further information:   Dr. V. Matarese, Ph.D. (+39-345-449-5281;

1. Matarese V (2006) An introductory course on getting to know journals and on "browsing" a research paper: first steps to proficiency in scientific communication. Croat Med J 47:7657-775 (Medline, Full text)

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