Journal Club: A Forum to Encourage Graduate and Undergraduate Research Students to Critically Review the Literature
This contribution outlines a strategy to counteract literature lethargy and train beginning and continuing undergraduate and graduate researchers in a professor’s research group to efficiently learn from and critique archival journal articles. Journal Club is a weekly one-credit-hour class where a research article related to each research student’s project is reviewed by the student and discussed by the entire research group. Due to multiple projects in the lab, each researcher contributes to discussions of articles tangentially related to his / her own research; this is a long-term benefit because it increases the breadth of each individual’s knowledge. The discussion questions strive to increase the depth of knowledge in each topic. Student involvement in discussions teaches critical thinking and aids in developing skills to more effectively plan experiments. A final paper is due for the class that is written as an archival journal article on the student’s own research project utilizing the articles discussed that semester. Assessment was conducted of the students’ self-determined skill-level with regards to a) searching the literature for relevant published work related to their research project as well as b) reading articles and extracting important information to understand the work that was done and how to apply it to their own research. Outcomes of the Journal Club course have been increased student knowledge of the literature, decreased apprehension in younger students toward understanding technical publications, and an increase in publication productivity within the research group.