Disclaimer: This is a brief write up of a live lecture I took for Community Medicine PGs under the aegis of IAPSM eConnect recently. Although the title mentions journal club, the suggestions are applicable to any scientific presentation.
For my full lecture (in which I discuss more points, and provide several examples to illustrate my points), please click on the link to the YouTube recording of the lecture provided at the end of the article.
The first recorded journal club dates back to 1835, when Sir James Paget met students to review articles.
However, it was only in 1875 that the first known regular journal club was reported by Sir William Osler.
Initially journal clubs served to purchase and distribute journals which members could not afford to subscribe to on an individual basis.
Types of Journal Clubs
- Traditional: Juniors select articles, and seniors critique juniors’ presentation
- Problem and evidence based: These journal clubs follow a systematic approach with checklists and/or guidelines to critique scientific articles
- Methodology teaching: The emphasis is not on critiquing articles, so such a journal club focuses on stimulus questions posed by faculty to stimulate learning. Naturally, the faculty play an intensive role in such journal clubs.
- Combined problem-based with methodology teaching: Attendees are briefed on research methods used in the article in addition to the use of checklists (as would happen in problem or evidence-based journal clubs.
Expectations from a presentation
Mastery of topic
- Adequate breadth and depth of reading
- Familiarity with context/background and related concepts/ articles
- Familiarity with diverse opinions/perspectives on same topic
- Ability to explain key points/concepts in simple language without excessive use of technical jargon (conceptual clarity5yr old/5th grader test)
- Ability to answer questions with further explanation
- Ability to synthesize information from various sources and defend claims
- Familiarity with relevant technical terms
- Ability to expand all acronyms used and explain relevance
- Ability to explain related concepts using simple, everyday language and illustrations
- Ability to make linkages with practice/other topics
Good communication skills
- Ready eye-contact and engagement with audience
- Audible and clear with good pronunciation
- Judicious and good use of visuals and graphics
Demonstration of critical thinking
“Essentially a questioning, challenging approach to knowledge and perceived wisdom. It involves ideas and information from an objective position and then questioning this information in the light of our own values, attitudes and personal philosophy.“
Arriving at one’s own conclusions based on the available evidence.
Immediately accepting an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem is not critical thinking.
- Unfamiliar with background concepts/context
- Reading limited to a few articles and/or superficial reading
Lack of rehearsal: This can make the difference between an average and a good presentation.
Poor communication skills
- Dependent on notes/slides and no/minimal eye contact
- Inaudible/poor pronunciation (the audience must make an effort to hear/understand)
- Stiff body language
- Insufficient/inappropriate use of visuals/graphics (too small/ illegible/ crowded)
Insufficient/inappropriate critical analysis: Performing a superficial analysis, or using the wrong tool, or both.
Failure to link article with theory and/or practice
Lack of critical thinking
- Unquestioningly/readily accepting claims/conclusions
- Failure to consider contradictory/opposing/alternative positions/explanations
- Failure to account for bias (authors’ and own)
- Failure to synthesize own meaning/inference from evidence
- Inability to take a considered stance and defend it
Tips to improve presentation
Aim for mastery of content
- Become an expert on the topic- literally!
- Read extensively (not just a single article/ few articles)
- Clarify unfamiliar concepts
- Understand nuances: to avoid falling into potential ‘traps’ during discussion
Anticipate questions and prepare answers for them
- Contentious areas- prepare a stance
- Confusing/complicated topics- prepare simplified explanation preferably using non-technical language that is easy for even a 5th grader to understand.
Provide brief explanation(s) during your presentation, reserving detailed explanations for the discussion/question and answer session.
- Check for grammatical, spelling errors
- Avoid duplication, repetition
- Reduce text, include more visuals/graphics
- Ensure coherence
Consider your audience
- Best way to communicate?
- Background knowledge
- Level of interest
Ensure consistency throughout
- Use the same presentation template/design for all slides
- Maintain uniform font family; font size for headings, body: This is to ensure smooth transitions between slides.
Rehearse your presentation
- Seek feedback on explanations, style, etc. from peers and incorporate the suggested changes into your presentation
- Time yourself
- Refine presentation in an iterative manner (make changes after each review/ mock presentation)
Provide copies of the article beforehand: This will ensure that your audience pays attention to your presentation instead of trying to somehow quickly read the article instead. You will also have to spend less time providing basic details about the article during the journal club session.
Prepare a brief, structured summary of the article on your own
- Brings clarity and focus
- Tests how well you have read the article
Use standard tools to assess article quality/perform critical appraisal.
There are several standard critical appraisal tools. Ensure that you use the tool appropriate for the type of article you will be presenting.
Link to the lecture recording on YouTube: