BACKGROUND: Surgical education peer-reviewed publications have markedly increased over the last decade. The purpose of this study was to review the surgical education literature published over the last 10 years and address the following questions: What subjects in surgical education tend to be studied? What are the most to least commonly employed research designs and statistics? Has there been a change in how research data are collected? Where are these studies published? METHODS: A literature search encompassing surgical education papers published between January 1988 and August 1998 was performed. Four investigators coded qualifying abstracts on journal type, subject of research, data collection methods, research design, and statistics. Each investigator was asked to code 10 articles at the start of the study to assess interrater reliability. RESULTS: A total of 420 abstracts were evaluated. Interrater reliability yielded percent agreements ranging from 82% to 96%. Curriculum and teaching were the most frequent topics studied (40%), followed by assessment (23%) and program evaluation (18%). Most research designs used were descriptive (41%). Experimental design has progressively increased from 2% in 1988-89 to 16% in 1998. A total of 551 statistical methods were accounted for in the 420 abstracts. The most common statistical analyses used were descriptive statistics (32%). The predominant mode of data collection was through testing or direct observations (34%). Survey instruments followed closely as a popular data collection method at 27%. The majority of papers were published in peer-reviewed surgical journals (64%), followed by medical education journals (22%) and 'other' journals (14%). CONCLUSIONS: An analysis of the surgical education literature demonstrates the growing emphasis on the use of educational research to explore relevant issues and problems. Descriptive research is most popular, with an increasing trend in experimental research. Publication of educational research in peer-reviewed surgical journals is becoming more popular. This study informs those interested in the surgical education research literature of current trends, and what they need to know for a more critical appraisal of this body of literature.
ASJC Scopus subject areas