Supporting Resident Research Learning in the Workplace: A Rapid Realist Review

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Residents are increasingly expected to engage in practice-based research; however, engagement in research whilst also fulfilling clinical duties is often challenging. Evidence suggests that residents require specific developmental experiences, along with clinical practice, to become effective researchers. The authors therefore conducted a rapid realist review to explore strategies and key mechanisms supporting effective resident research activities in clinical settings. They examined relationships amongst different clinical contexts, learning mechanisms, and research engagement outcomes to provide evidence-based, theory-informed recommendations for improving resident research engagement and extending understandings of workplace learning in health care settings.


In 2015–2016, the authors used a rapid realist methodology informed by workplace learning theory to review international literature published between January 2005 and December 2015. The review drew upon sources from OVID Medline, ERIC, Embase, and AustHealth. The authors screened articles for eligibility using inclusion criteria and appraised articles using realist review quality criteria.


The authors included 51 articles in the review. The review process identified three key mechanisms for effective integration and support of resident research engagement, as informed by workplace learning theory: (1) opportunities to engage in practice-informed research supported by longitudinal curricula, (2) guidance by clinician–researchers, and (3) assessing residents’ research readiness and promoting their intentionality for engagement.


This review extends existing literature and informs workplace-based research engagement strategies for residents whilst demonstrating the applicability of workplace learning theory to improving residents’ research engagement. The authors propose a learning model to support effective resident research engagement through clinical practice.

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