Context: Scholarly experiences have been increasingly employed to support the development of scholarly skills for medical students. How the characteristics of the various scholarly experiences contributes to scholarly outcomes or the complexities of how the experiences build skills warrants further exploration. Objectives: To identify how medical students’ scholarly experiences lead to scholarly outcomes under what circumstances. Methods: A realist review was conducted with a search of Ovid MEDLINE, CINAHL, Scopus and ERIC databases using the terms “medical student” and “scholarly experience” and related synonyms. Studies involving the engagement of medical students in a range of compulsory scholarly experiences including quality improvement projects, literature reviews and research projects were included. Key data were extracted from studies, and realist analysis was used to identify how contexts and mechanisms led to different outcomes. Results: From an initial 4590 titles, 28 studies of 22 scholarly experiences were identified. All were primarily focused on research-related scholarly experiences. Organisational research culture that valued research, dedicated time, autonomy and choice of experience were found to be key contexts. Adequately supported and structured experiences where students can see the value of research and quality supervision that builds student's self-efficacy were identified as mechanisms leading to outcomes. Outcomes included increased research skills and attitudes, scholarly outputs (eg publications) and future interest in research or other scholarly endeavours. Conclusions: The design of scholarly experiences for medical students needs to ensure protected time, adequate supervision and autonomy, to achieve scholarly outcomes. Much of the focus is on research and traditional outcomes with little known about the role or outcomes associated with other scholarly work.