Information-seeking practices of senior medical students: the impact of an evidence-based medicine training programme

Nai Lai, Sivalingam Nalliah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Context: The practice of Evidence-based Medicine (EBM) involves physicians regularly accessing and appraising clinical information. Few prior studies have assessed the information-seeking behaviours of medical undergraduates. At the International Medical University (IMU), Malaysia, senior medical students receive clinically-integrated EBM training to facilitate their future practice of EBM.

Objectives: We assessed whether EBM training in the final six months of medical training changes our students' information-seeking practices and their confidence in understanding and appraising clinical evidence.

Methods: Between September 2005 and February 2006, self-administered questionnaires were distributed to 65 senior medical students at the beginning and again at the end of their clerkship training during which there was a clinically-integrated EBM curriculum. The questionnaires covered the topics of their preferred sources of clinical information, online search frequencies, estimated time to retrieve an abstract, and their understanding and confidence in their critical appraisal skills.

Findings: Sixty-four (98%) students completed the initial survey and 63 (97%) completed the follow-up survey. The majority indicated that they preferred to first consult another individual (colleagues, lecturers, hospital staff) for their clinical queries (60.9% in the initial survey and 61.9% in the follow-up survey), with no change in their overall preference following the EBM curriculum six months later (p=0.144). There were significant increases in search activities following the curriculum, for example, students who searched PubMed or Medline for more than three times per week increased from 9.7% to 31.7% (p < 0.001). Students reported that they more often accessed single journals than databases. Despite significant improvements in students' reported understanding of journals and their confidence in critical appraisal (p < 0.001), there was no improvement in reported search speed, with 48.4% in the initial survey and 49.2% in the follow-up survey reporting to take 30 minutes or less to trace an abstract of interest (p=0.979).

Conclusions: Our EBM training, offered within a supportive curriculum, increased our students' confidence and activity related to EBM, but failed to change students' reported information-seeking behaviours. Other factors influencing medical students' information-seeking practice need to be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-163
Number of pages13
JournalEducation for Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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