Confronting challenges: an inductive thematic analysis of barriers and solutions to undergraduate medical research in Pakistan
Keywords:Undergraduate medical education, Qualitative research, Focus groups, Interview, Pakistan
Objectives: To qualitatively analyse the barriers in pursuing undergraduate research, and to propose solutions for the problems identified.
Method: The qualitative study was conducted from May to October 2021 after approval from the institutional ethics review board of the Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, and comprised undergraduate students of either gender at various public and private medical universities across Pakistan having some level of research experience and good communication skills. Data triangulation was employed to collect qualitative data through open-ended survey, face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions. Using the information of one method to inform the rest, linked trajectories were established that allowed validation of information at each level. Data was coded manually by two researchers independently. Data was subjected to inductive thematic analysis.
Results: Of the 33 subjects, 17(51.5%) were males, 17(51.5%) were from private medical colleges, 18(54.5%) were from Karachi, and 11(33.3%) were in the final year of medical school. Overall, 13(39.4%) students completed the open-ended survey, 6(18.2%) completed face-to-face interviews, and 14(42.4%) participated in focus group discussions. Thematic anlsysis showed that students were interested in research to improve their career prospects, but not all were passionate about it. Students were not satisfied with the quality of research being conducted Pakistan in the country. Dearth of motivated faculty, unavailability of well-maintained and digitalised data registries, ineffective research methodology teaching and lack of access to medical journals and research software were the major barriers in undergraduate research. Time constraint was a projecting problem which challenged the students. Frequent research workshops and conferences, strong networking, reorienting curriculum to provide early exposure to research and student-led initiatives were suggested to improve undergraduate research in Pakistan.
Conclusion: Students’ lack of initiative coupled with administrative and faculty-related issues pose a serious threat to the future of evidence-based medicine. Proposed solutions offer a ray of hope to the future of undergraduate research in Pakistan.
Key Words: Undergraduate medical education, Qualitative research, Focus groups, Interview, Pakistan.
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