The Hematologist

January-February 2006, Volume 3, Issue 1

How to Prepare an Outstanding Journal Club Presentation

Rishi Sawhney, MD

Published on: January 01, 2006

Dr. Sawhney is a member of the ASH Trainee Council and a Fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Journal club presentations provide a forum through which hematology trainees keep abreast of new developments in hematology and engage in informal discussion and interaction. Furthermore, honing presentation skills and mastering the ability to critically appraise the evidence add to our armamentarium as clinicians. Outlined here is a systematic approach to preparing a journal club presentation, with emphasis on key elements of the talk and references for electronic resources. Use of these tools and techniques will contribute to the success of your presentation.


The foundation of an outstanding journal club presentation rests on the choice of an interesting and well-written paper for discussion. Several resources are available to help you select important and timely research, including the American College of Physicians (ACP) Journal Club and the Diffusion section of The Hematologist. McMaster University has created the McMaster Online Rating of Evidence (MORE) system to identify the highest-quality published research. In fact, the ACP Journal Club uses the MORE system to select their articles1. Specific inclusion criteria have been delineated in order to distinguish papers with the highest scientific merit2. Articles that have passed this screening are then rated by clinicians on their clinical relevance and newsworthiness, using a graded scale3. With the help of your mentors and colleagues, you can use these criteria and the rating scale as informal guidelines to ensure that your chosen article merits presentation.


  • Study Background: This section provides your audience with the necessary information and context for a thoughtful and critical evaluation of the article's significance. The goals are 1) to describe the rationale for and clinical relevance of the study question, and 2) to highlight the preclinical and clinical research that led to the current trial. Review the papers referenced in the study's "Background" section as well as previous work by the study's authors. It also may be helpful to discuss data supporting the current standard of care against which the study intervention is being measured.

  • Study Methodology and Results: Clearly describe the study population, including inclusion/exclusion criteria. A diagrammatic schema is easy to construct using PowerPoint software and will help to clearly illustrate treatment arms in complex trials. Explain the statistical methods, obtaining assistance from a statistician if needed. Take this opportunity to verbally and graphically highlight key results from the study, with plans to expand on their significance later in your presentation.

  • Author's Discussion: Present the authors' conclusions and their perspective on the study results, including explanations of inconsistent or unexpected results. Consider whether the conclusions drawn are supported by the data presented.


This component of your presentation will define the success of your journal club. A useful and widely accepted approach to this analysis has been published in JAMA's series "User's guide to the medical literature." The Centre for Health Evidence in Canada has made the complete full-text set of these user's guides available online4. This site offers review guidelines for a menu of article types, and it is an excellent, comprehensive resource to focus your study critique. A practical, user-friendly approach to literature evaluation that includes a worksheet is also available on the ASH Web site for your use5.

While a comprehensive discussion of scientific literature appraisal is beyond the scope of this discussion, several helpful tips warrant mention here. In assessing the validity of the study, it is important to assess for potential sources of bias, including the funding sources and authors' affiliations. It is also helpful to look for accompanying editorial commentary, which can provide a unique perspective on the article and highlight controversial issues. You should plan to discuss the trade-offs between potential benefits of the study intervention versus potential risks and the cost. By utilizing the concept of number needed to treat (NNT), one can assess the true impact of the study intervention on clinical practice. Furthermore, by incorporating the incidence rates of clinically significant toxicities with the financial costs into the NNT, you can generate a rather sophisticated analysis of the study's impact on practice.


Restate the authors' take-home message followed by your own interpretation of the study. Provide a personal perspective, detailing why you find this paper interesting or important. Then, look forward and use this opportunity to "think outside the box." Do you envision these study results changing the landscape of clinical practice or redirecting research in this field? If so, how? In articles about therapy, future directions may include moving the therapy up to first-line setting, assessing the drug in combination regimens or other disease states, or developing same-class novel compounds in the pipeline. Searching for related clinical trials on the NIH Web site6 can prove helpful, as can consultation with an expert in this field.

Good journal club discussions are integral to the educational experience of hematology trainees. Following the above approach, while utilizing the resources available, will lay the groundwork for an outstanding presentation.







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