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Quality Improvement and Research Skills for Medical Students

This guide signposts key resources and Library services to support medical students undertaking Quality Improvement or Research projects

Literature Searching

One of the first steps in undertaking any Quality Improvement (QI) or Research project is to establish what others have already done on your topic. Conducting an effective search of existing literature will help you to identify what gaps exist in knowledge of a specific problem.  It will also serve to inform you of the interventions that have been tried and tested in the past.

See our guides on Principles of Effective Literature Searching, Ovid Search Guide and Keeping Up-To-Date for more information about literature searching.

Where to search for information

What is it?

The library’s search engine, Hunter, allows you to search across all of the library’s collection at once. It gives you access to thousands of books and academic articles free of charge. 

What is it good for?

Hunter is easy to use and will often be the only tool you need to find high quality information.

When to use it?

Hunter is great if you are searching for a specific article, as you can type the name of the article in the search box and find out very quickly if the library holds it. You can also set up Library Links from Google Scholar so that you can see at a glance if it’s in our online collection. See below for instructions.

It’s also a great place to start any search as it doesn’t require any specific skills or knowledge. You can perform a basic search on any health-related topic and it will allow you to quickly see what relevant material the library holds.

However, since it is such a simple tool, it lacks the functionality to refine your search and filter out the less relevant articles. This is when using databases can be more beneficial.

Click on the below links to launch  searches on Quality Improvement in Hunter, to find books, articles and more.

Search Hunter for QI books

Search Hunter for QI articles

What are they?

Databases index articles from thousands of subject-specific journals so you don’t have to look through the contents pages of individual journals for relevant articles. Databases, like Medline, CINAHL and Embase (see links below), index different journals which means you can search through millions of articles relatively quickly and easily.

What are they good for?

Unlike Hunter, databases do not give you access to everything in their index.  They are more precise search tools and using them effectively requires some skill and knowledge.

When to use them?

You should use databases when you want to run a focussed and systematic search for high quality literature. Databases allow you to perform sophisticated searches, which helps you to focus the scope of your search and retrieve a higher proportion of relevant results. Learning how to use databases will take some practise, but it will save you a lot of time and is an essential skill for healthcare professionals.

The library runs regular training sessions on how to use databases. See our Information Skills Training page for more information.

You can change the settings on Google Scholar so that it shows you the academic articles you can freely access via St George's Library. To set this up, follow these steps:

  1. From Google Scholar, click on the three small lines in the top left hand corner of the screen.
  2. Click on Settings or the gear icon. 
  3. In the left panel, click on Library Links.
  4. In the Search box, type St George's, University of London.
  5. Click on the Search button and select St George's, University of London. Note: if you see the box for Open WorldCat - Library Search, select that too. This will allow you to access freely available content.
  6. Click Save. Now when you search Google Scholar, you will see Find it@SGUL links to the right of the articles where access is available via St George's University.

Disseminate your research

You might wish to publish your work in a peer reviewed journal such as BMJ Quality Improvement Reports.

The Resources section on the BMJ Open Quality website provides instructions and tutorials on how to structure and write up your report for publication.

In addition, you can share interesting clinical experience in the journal BMJ Case Reports; see their helpful guide on writing your first report. St George's has a BMJ Case reports fellowship code that allows our students to submit case reports free of charge. If you're planning to submit, email us at journals@sgul.ac.uk for the code.

If you are trying to publish your work, but don't know which journals are most suitable, try JANE.

Just enter the title and/or abstract of your paper in the box, and click on 'Find journals'. JANE will then compare your document to millions of documents in PubMed to find the best matching journals.

Beware of predatory journals

JANE relies on the data in PubMed, which can contain papers from predatory journals, and therefore these journals can appear in JANE's results. To help identify high-quality journals, JANE now tags journals that are currently indexed in MEDLINE, and open access journals approved by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

You can share the outcomes and learning from your QI project in various ways. For example, you could present your work at a conference.