Professional Responsibilities and Personal Impacts: Residents’ Experiences as Participants in Education Research

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Although the field of medical education research is growing and residents are increasingly recruited to participate as subjects in research studies, little is known about their experiences. The goal of this study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of residents who are study participants in medical education research.


A phenomenographic approach was chosen to examine the range of residents’ experiences as research participants. A maximum variation sampling strategy was used to identify residents with diverse experiences. Semi-structured interviews that explored experiences as research participants were conducted with nineteen residents in internal medicine, general surgery, and pediatrics at the University of Toronto in 2015–2016.


The perceptions and experiences of participants fell into two categories. First, participation was seen as a professional responsibility to advance the profession, including a desire to improve future educational practices and a sense of responsibility to contribute to the academic cause. Second, the experience was noted for its personal impact, including benefits (e.g., receiving monetary incentives or novel educational experiences) and risks (e.g., coercion and breaches of confidentiality). The time required to participate in a study was identified as one of the most important factors affecting willingness to participate and the impact of participation.


Being a participant in medical education research can be perceived in different ways. Understanding the view of resident participants is important to optimize potential benefits and minimize risks and negative consequences for them, thus fostering ready participation and high-quality research.

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