Sir, I regularly give lectures on periodontology and implant dentistry and have noticed that dental students often have poor knowledge of research methodology and evidence-based dentistry. They then have difficulty interpreting evidence reported in scientific articles. My teaching approach integrates the concepts of teaching and research and can improve the research methodological background of dental students.
My research focuses on systematic reviews and meta-research, and I guide candidates in their first research project as they aim for a German doctoral title (Dr.med.dent). I initially make a personal one-to-one appointment with candidates, where I explain to them the aim of the project and provide them with comprehensive literature on the topic to be researched. During a second meeting, candidates can clarify any questions they have and further meetings are scheduled if required to allow familiarity with the methodological concepts that are pivotal to the development of the project. In the second phase, I explain in detail the different steps of a systematic review/meta-research study. This procedure is divided into several weeks/sessions by piloting small samples of data. For example, for the data selection, the students choose articles based on the eligibility criteria described in the research protocol, and I check my selections with them for inter-rater agreement. We repeat this approach until we have a minimum acceptable agreement. We then progress to the next phase (data extraction) and use a similar approach for this and the following phases of the project. In the final stage, the candidates will draft the first version of the manuscript under my guidance. The input of other co-authors will then lead to a final version to be submitted. Depending on the complexity of the research project, we may also involve the work of other colleagues, statisticians, methodologists etc, and the candidates will also be able to profit by learning how a research team works. The candidates are stimulated throughout to learn methodological concepts by themselves from different sources.
In the last three years, this approach has demonstrated positive results: eight candidates had their research projects published as scientific articles in highly ranked academic journals. Although some of the candidates intend to follow a clinical practice path, they informed me that they feel more prepared to assess and interpret evidence to apply in clinical practice. There were no failures in this process, although some students needed more time than others. This could be further tested in robust studies but I anticipate that this one-to-one approach can boost the development of a self-study learning process that may have positive consequences for the rest of a candidate's professional life.
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Faggion Jr, C. Teaching research methodology. Br Dent J 234, 73 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-023-5474-9