Background: Research training is essential in a modern undergraduate medical curriculum. Our evaluation aimed to (a) gauge students' awareness of research activities, (b) compare students' perceptions of their transferable and research-specific skills competencies, (c) determine students' motivation for research and (d) obtain students' personal views on doing research.
Methods: Undergraduate medical students (N = 317) completed a research skills questionnaire developed by the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Applied Undergraduate Research Skills (CETL-AURS) at Reading University. The questionnaire assessed students' transferable skills, research-specific skills (e.g., study design, data collection and data analysis), research experience and attitude and motivation towards doing research.
Results: The majority of students are motivated to pursue research. Graduate entrants and male students appear to be the most confident regarding their research skills competencies. Although all students recognise the role of research in medical practice, many are unaware of the medical research activities or successes within their university. Of those who report no interest in a career incorporating research, a common perception was that researchers are isolated from patients and clinical practice.
Discussion: Students have a narrow definition of research and what it entails. An explanation for why research competence does not align more closely with research motivation is derived from students' lack of understanding of the concept of translational research, as well as a lack of awareness of the research activity being undertaken by their teachers and mentors. We plan to address this with specific research awareness initiatives.