In graduate school, it is a common practice for groups of students with a common interest get together to read and discuss articles in a particular field or subject. These meetings are frequently identified as “journal clubs.” Reading and discussing articles with others who share your interests and background will really help you get the most out of the articles that you read and the community aspect will also help keep you motivated and at the same time provide a useful degree of personal accountability. If you are working at a graduate research or comprehensive university there may already be some active journal clubs in your department. If not, there are any ways to organize and run journal clubs. No matter how you choose to do it, you will find it works best when:
- The group meets regularly in the same location at the same time – a weekly frequency is probably best as this gives everyone some breathing room;
- Responsibility for leading the discussion of articles is rotated among all of the regular participants;
- Articles selected for reading and discussion are of interest to the majority of the group; and
- Everyone participates actively in the discussion of the articles.
Useful Questions for Guiding Journal Club Discussion
Here are some useful general questions you may find it to consider when reading and discussing articles from the current peer-reviewed technical literature in your Journal Club:
- What type of article is this?
- What is your evaluation of the presentation of the science in this paper? Possible areas for consideration include:
- What if any personal biases are you bringing to this evaluation?
- What, if anything, do you know about the authors of this paper? What is their field of expertise? What other papers have they published in this area recently? How is that work related to the present paper?
- What is the quality of this journal?
- Is the paper well written? Grammar? Style? Clarity of the presentation? Is the language vague or unclear?
- What is your evaluation of the quality of the work described in this paper?
- What is the quality of the materials, methods, and instrumentation used to carry out this study? How were data analyzed? What is the quality of the interpretation of the data?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen experimental design?
- For quantitative work, what if anything has been done to evaluate the validity and reliability of the results?
- Are there any errors that the authors may have missed? What do you believe may be the impact of these errors on the authors’ data, interpretations, and/or conclusions?
- What is the overall significance of this work to your field of study?