Rating medical journals by importance to clinicians

As doctors' time is precious it is imperative that they don't waste hours reading articles of little clinical importance. A study published today in BMC Medicine, rates 170 medical titles according to the number of clinically useful articles that they publish.

Ann McKibbon, Nancy Wilczynski and Brian Haynes from McMaster University found that "the majority of important articles for each discipline were sequestered in a small subset of journals." General broad interest titles such as Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, The Lancet and the BMJ featured in the list of the top five most useful titles.

"All lists of important journals included both North American and European titles," said McKibbon. She stresses that, "reading choices for clinicians cannot be based on national or discipline boundaries."

The researchers assessed over 60,000 articles from 170 journals for their clinical relevance and importance, to decide which articles should be highlighted in four healthcare review publications on internal medicine, general/family practice, nursing and mental health.

To be included the articles had to be about the healthcare of humans, have at least one clinically important outcome and contain appropriate statistical analyses. In addition to other selection criteria, the article had to be approved by an editorial group of practicing clinicians who confirmed that the findings were not already known or applied, and that the condition discussed was not a rare one.

3,059 original research articles and 1,073 review articles met the inclusion criteria in eight categories.

For the internal medicine review title, ACP Journal Club, four journals provided 56.5% of the content. 53.2% of the content in the mental health title, Evidence-Based Mental Health, was taken from a selection of only nine different journals.

The researchers hope that their findings will help clinicians to focus their full text reading. As journals

Contact: Gemma Bradley
BioMed Central

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