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Reporting quality of Master of Medicine (MMed) mini-dissertations using the STROBE checklist

E S Grossman


Background. The 2011 Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) directive to make a research component compulsory for specialist registration has been decried in some circles as encouraging low-quality research.
Objective. To assess the reporting quality of South African (SA) MMed mini-dissertations using the STROBE checklist.
Methods. A total of 100 monograph-format mini-dissertations reporting retrospective observational research were extracted from a pool of 335 minidissertations. Analysis of each was undertaken using a 24-point STROBE Statement checklist. Scoring was as follows: 1 = the item was compliant with STROBE recommendations; 0.5 = partially described; and 0 = not addressed at all. Satisfactory compliance was set at 66%, thus a STROBE score of 17-24 was considered satisfactory. Data were entered into an Excel spread sheet and analysed descriptively.
Results. STROBE item compliance for individual mini-dissertations was at a mean of 83.1%; range 50-97%; median 85% and mode 89%. Sixteen minidissertations were non-compliant, scoring below 17 as per the set threshold of 66%. This indicates an 84% satisfactory sample. Only Item 5 (Key settings and locations) was at 100% compliance. The four lowest scores were for STROBE items (9) Bias (29.5%); (10) Study size/power analysis (52%); (1) Title (69%) and (14) Missing data (69%).
Conclusion. The majority of sampled mini-dissertations, evaluated as per STROBE recommendations, are transparently reported to allow the reader to follow what was planned, done, found and which conclusions were drawn. As such the results confer a measure of reporting quality on the SA MMed research endeavour. The use of dissertation templates, commonly using STROBE-type headings and prompts, might have contributed to the good scores obtained. Importantly, areas of weakness in the writing of the SA MMed mini-dissertations have been highlighted and show which items require attention.

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