MEDICAL RESEARCH- THE TREASURE AND THE KEY
-Dr. Manasi Rege
JR1, M.D. Pharmacology
LTMMC, Sion hospital, Mumbai
Curiosity and research go hand in hand. It stems from the ability of humans to wonder and ask, “why?” Many contributions have been made to the field of science. However, it is not just those who discover who are contributing to this field, but also those who learn about those discoveries. There is an endless sea of research papers in the field of medicine itself. And knowing how to effectively access all that knowledge is like having a key to a priceless treasure.
When we wonder how to utilize the vast sea of research we are often grappled by a number of questions. How do we find out studies on topics that are our field of interest? How do we know how valid is the research paper that we refer to? Or some more basic questions such as, how to search for and read an article?
Popular databases like Pubmed have eased searching for an article. Hereafter entering some major keywords related to our field of choice, we get a plethora of articles. Then to narrow down the search there are a number of filters where we can choose the type of study such as Clinical trials, Meta-analysis,
Randomized control trial, Reviews, etc. Some articles are available only as abstracts where payment or subscription is required to access them while some are available as free full texts. They can further be narrowed down based on the publication date or the number of years before it was published.
After doing this, if we still wonder whether we have landed the right article or not, that is where the importance of citations comes in. A citation means a reference to any published item. As a result, if an article has been cited, I.e. used for reference multiple times in other published works as well, it adds to the strength of that concerned article. Hence citations can be major performance indicators for research papers as they show how many times research has been referred to by other published works.
Based on the number of citations received, a journal has an Impact Factor. It is based on the number of citations received by that journal over the past 2 years. The impact factor serves as an indicator of the relative importance of a journal within its field.
Once we have found a number of articles pertaining to our field of interest, comes the question, how do we read it. Reading a research paper itself can be a long process, hence the right approach helps in rapidly locating the useful articles without spending too much time on the ones that are not relevant. Starting to read
the paper from the title and the abstract which contains a summary of the entire paper gives us a rough idea about the category and the context of the study. The abstract contains a gist of all that the article contains, in a very concise manner, such as the purpose, methods, result, and conclusion. The introduction tells us about the reason and background behind performing the study. These steps give us a rough idea about whether we want to go more in-depth with that study. It is only then that we proceed to the methodology and discussion of the paper. Referring to graphs and illustrations helps to ease the understanding of the study. There are also certain guidelines to assess the correctness of a research paper as every paper needs to be formulated by those guidelines. The ARRIVE guidelines are used for pre-clinical studies while the CONSORT guidelines are for clinical studies. The format, presentation, and content must be based on these. In fact, someone who reads an article can also criticize the contents of the article on the basis of these guidelines.
However, no research paper is infallible. When we get to the conclusion of the paper, we do not know how valid it is. Whether it can be extrapolated to a larger population. Hence, comparing the study with other similar studies from standard journals helps us to arrive at a conclusion and form an opinion. We can access more articles by looking for those with similar keywords. The ones that are peer-reviewed, I.e. evaluated by a panel of reviewers followed by
a panel of experts, are known to be considered more valuable than those that are not peer-reviewed. Referring to citations and references mentioned in that study itself can also be a valuable source for comparison of the conclusion of the article.
Sometimes an article that we may want to access may not be available beyond an abstract if it is online or it may be unavailable in institutional libraries that we may be using. In such cases, it is possible to request the author for the article directly. Here one can try to procure an article by directly writing an email to the author requesting him/her for the article due to its lack of availability. It would be advisable to mention the reason why that article is required. However, the author can accept or reject the request and is not compelled to share the article on request.
We now have a rough idea of how to float and swim in this vast sea of research. We may have heard of famous journals such as The Lancet. Here we shall see some important journals in various fields.
The Journal of Physiology (https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14697793)
American Journal of Physiology (https://journals.physiology.org/)
Journal of Biomedical Science (https://jbiomedsci.biomedcentral.com/)
Journal of Biochemistry (https://academic.oup.com/jb)
Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science (https://www.japsonline.com/)
International Journal of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology (https://www.karger.com/journal/home/224274)
Journal of Clinical Pathology (https://jcp.bmj.com/)
Acta Neuropathologica (https://www.springer.com/journal/401)
Journal of Clinical Microbiology (https://journals.asm.org/journal/jcm)
Journal of Medical Microbiology (https://www.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/jmm)
British Journal of Surgery (https://bjssjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/13652168)
Annals of Surgery (https://journals.lww.com/annalsofsurgery/pages/default.aspx)
The American Journal of Cardiology (https://www.ajconline.org/)
European Heart Journal (https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj)
Nature Reviews Nephrology (https://www.nature.com/nrneph/)
Kidney International (https://www.kidney-international.org/)
Journal of Nuclear Medicine (https://jnm.snmjournals.org/)
Journal of American College of Radiology (https://www.jacr.org/)
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (https://www.jaad.org/)
British Journal of Dermatology (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/13652133)
JAMA Paediatrics (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics)
The Journal of Paediatrics (https://www.jpeds.com/)
Now that we are suitable equipped with the key to this treasure, it is time that we ourselves contribute to the ever-changing and ever-challenging field of medicine by adding to as well as availing of all the research to satisfy the quest of “why?”