Write-up and dissemination of undergraduate and postgraduate research at the University of Rwanda: a cross-sectional study
Introduction: research is essential in all areas of health development. However, medical students and residents frequently lack the time and training on performing research. This is especially prevalent in resource-limited settings. We aimed to compare the word counts of undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations with published projects in Rwanda, and to identify the proportion of postgraduate pediatric research projects that have been published since 2012.
Methods: retrospective, cross-sectional study of undergraduate and postgraduate research dissertations at the University of Rwanda. Dissertations were then compared to randomly selected published papers of Rwandan research. Each IMRaD (Introduction, Methodology, Results and Discussion) section word count was compared using Student's t-test.
Results: 19/190 (10%) undergraduate dissertations and 22/41 (54%) postgraduate dissertations, were available in electronic format for word-count analysis. The mean total word count for postgraduate dissertations (5163 words) was significantly longer (p<0.001) than the randomly selected peer-reviewed journal articles (2959 words). Each section of the IMRaD structure of postgraduate dissertations was significantly longer than those of the control group. Undergraduates used a similar number of words to published papers, but used significantly more tables and figures. Of the 41 postgraduate dissertations, only four (10%), were published in peer-reviewed journals.
Conclusion: this is the first study to assess the writing style of Rwandan medical students and pediatric postgraduate residents. A simple step to increase dissemination of research findings would be for institutions to modify academic regulations so that students write-up in manuscript form rather than dissertation format.