Starting a Journal Club

Why Have a Journal Club?

Journal clubs are a popular way for medical residents, professionals, graduate students, and scientists to stay current with advances in their field. Many programs require participation in journal clubs for instruction in the critical assessment of medical literature, clinical epidemiology, and medical statistics.

ASPEN Makes It Easy

Every issue of ASPEN’s Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (JPEN), features an article specifically written for journal clubs. These articles include questions and talking points to spark discussion and provide a foundation for interesting and engaging meetings. See JPEN Journal Club articles by Ronald L. Koretz, MD.

Selecting articles that offer continuing education credits is another great way to incentivize attendance. See articles from the ASPEN Journal CE Program where readers earn CE credits after they pass a knowledge assessment test. It’s also free for members!

Learning Goals

Educational activities directed toward clinical nutrition and metabolism will have goals similar to these:

  • Acquire knowledge in the area of clinical nutrition and metabolism research.
  • Develop critical appraisal skills through discussion of study aims and objectives, methods, statistics, data, and conclusions.
  • Update understanding of evidence-based clinical nutrition and metabolism practices.
  • Identify further learning needs as they relate to the subject matter.

Basic Elements for Success

The audience for your journal club will vary depending on your institution and the goals you define, but all clubs benefit from these components:

  • Organization:
    • The journal club has a “home” in an organizational department—incorporate it as a mandatory part of an education program, internship, or in the department’s professional activities.
    • Club size affords all members a chance to participate (n=12 or less).
    • Participants are shielded from bias if the journal club receives commercial support or sponsorship.
    • ASPEN Chapters and Sections may be interested in helping to drive engagement and attract new members.
  • Meetings:
    • Are scheduled on a regular basis and provide time for advance reading and preparation
    • Can be attended in person, online, or by conference call
    • Provide snacks and beverages for participants
    • Follow a standard agenda
  • Participants (club members and guest attendees):
    • Rotate and share responsibility for presenting articles and leading the discussion
    • Contribute specialty knowledge and perspective (e.g., physicians, pharmacists, dietitians, nurses)
    • Support an educational, collegial environment, where senior members mentor junior members and foster an open exchange of ideas

Tips on Reading Research Papers

Added Benefits

Journal club members are recognized as being part of a learning community; they create friendships and network by having shared experiences and similar interests with colleagues in the club.

  • Explore ways in which the work of the journal club can be shared outside the club, such as summarizing the article and discussion highlights in the organization’s newsletter or on social media platforms.
  • Encourage members to list their role in the journal club on their resume and/or issue an annual certificate of participation.