A way to keep up with the latest research in palliative care

Being part of a regular journal club can help you and others to keep up to date and to take on some of the key skills needed to use evidence to improve practice.

A journal club is a way in which people interested in a common topic can come together to discuss and evaluate research articles published in peer reviewed journals.

Why you might want to get involved with journal clubs:

  • You are finding it hard to keep up with the volume of new research in your field
  • Your organisation is being asked to implement evidence-based care
  • You are responsible for developing or implementing evidence based policy for your organisation
  • You have an interest in evidence-based care but aren’t sure where or how to begin.

Often journal clubs will include discussion of if and how the evidence may impact practice. It is one way of keeping up with an increasing volume of palliative care evidence, highlighting new findings, and developing skills in appraising articles. Having these skills can help you to evaluate new findings and what they might mean in terms of the care you and your organisation provide.

There is evidence for the positive impact of journal clubs on Evidence Based Practice (EBP) knowledge and skills. [1,2]

Holding a journal club

The journal club will be shaped by your audience and the articles chosen.

Some steps for holding a journal club are summarised in Box 1. The University of Alabama at Birmingham library (US) also has steps on running the event.

Box 1: Ten steps for journal clubs

  1. Identify a leader to take responsibility for the club
  2. Identify goals
  3. Identify your target audience
  4. Set a time and place
  5. Select articles
  6. Develop appraisal forms
  7. Invite participants and share the articles and any other materials
  8. Hold the journal club
  9. Evaluate the journal club
  10. Adapt, Alter or Change

Identify goals:

Remember when identifying goals that this will depend on your audience:

  • If they are new to journal clubs concentrate on how to critique an article and do this as a group. Consider asking a librarian to join the journal club.
  • If the audience is more experienced, you may want to select a topic and critique several relevant articles.

Searching for articles:

You can search for articles using bibliographic databases. Which one you use can depend on your area of interest, type of studies of interest, or whether you want to search across databases. For example:

The volume of research articles to choose from can be overwhelming so it may help to consider:

  • asking your librarian to help locate articles
  • searching curated collections such as the CareSearch systematic review collection for palliative care
  • using a search filter to save you time and optimise searches
  • making use of resources like Nursing Times Journal Club where new articles are regularly provided along with a brief commentary and discussion points for journal clubs.

Search filters are pre-written search strategies. There are many filters available including:

  • CareSearch for palliative care
  • Llt.search for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health literature.

Select your articles:

The articles reviewed will depend on your interests and goals. Some articles require payment for viewing. Others are available for free (free full text). For a journal club you may find it easier to target freely available articles but remember that in this way you may miss some key articles that are relevant to your topic.

Appraise & summarise:

Once you have selected the article(s) ideally you will summarise each and make this and the full text article available to your audience before the journal club.

For appraisal:

  • Consider the question being addressed in the article and suitability of the study design or methodology and note study strengths and any limitations.
  • If you are new to appraisal read the BMJ series on How to read a paper.
  • Use critical appraisal tools like CASP to appraise different study types. This helps to focus your attention and reduces bias.

A clear summary of the article can help to promote discussion around the findings and is useful for people who are interested but have limited time available. In your summary remember to:

  1. Say what the purpose of the study was, why it is important and briefly what is already known
  2. Summarise the important points in the article including the methods used.
  3. Briefly describe the main results.
  4. Highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the study and the article 
  5. Summarise the implications of the results; think whether it would influence practice, what are the potential benefits and harms?
  6. If appropriate suggest further research that might be carried out.

The article How to develop a successful journal club (2.22MB pdf) by Russell et al [3] includes a useful Research Report summary form.

Other support:

Virtual journal clubs

If your group finds it difficult to get together in the one place, consider holding an online journal club. This can be done using a mix of web platforms and social media as outlined in Box 2.

The advantage of a virtual journal club is that the number of participants is not restricted by the size or location of the room.

See also from Nursing times Tips for using WhatsApp for a virtual journal club (446kb pdf).

Box 2: Tips for online journal clubs

Ten steps for setting up an online journal club. [4]

  1. Create an online home page to launch the journal club from
  2. Develop and register a hashtag on Twitter
  3. Make use of other social media or collaborative platforms for discussions
  4. Time journal club for a convenient time
  5. Provide participants with aggregated relevant resources
  6. Invite the authors of the article or other experts
  7. Introduce participants to specific Twitter management applications
  8. Maximise use of links to photo URLs, video URLs, quotes, numbers or statistics, PubMed links and other hashtags
  9. Follow other relevant online communities.

  1. Lizarondo LM, Grimmer-Somers K, Kumar S, Crockett A. Does journal club membership improve research evidence uptake in different allied health disciplines: a pre-post study. BMC Res Notes. 2012 Oct 29;5:588. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-5-588.
  2. Wenke RJ, Thomas R, Hughes I, Mickan S. The effectiveness and feasibility of TREAT (tailoring research evidence and theory) journal clubs in allied health: a randomised controlled trial. BMC Med Educ. 2018 May 9;18(1):104. doi: 10.1186/s12909-018-1198-y.
  3. Russell CL, Bean KB, Berry D. How to develop a successful journal club (2.22MB pdf). Chicago: International Transplant Nurses Society; 2006.
  4. Aronson JK. Journal Clubs: 2. Why and how to run them and how to publish them. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. 2017 Dec;22(6):232-234. doi: 10.1136/ebmed-2017-110861. Epub 2017 Nov 17.
  5. Chan TM, Thoma B, Radecki R, Topf J, Woo HH, Kao LS et al. Ten steps for setting up an online journal club. J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2015 Spring;35(2):148-54. doi: 10.1002/chp.21275.

Last updated 03 September 2021