FIU medical students are required to complete a 9-credit course known as the Research Scholarship Course (RSC). This course is designed and conducted by the Division of Medical and Population Health Sciences Education and Research, Department of Translational Medicine. The purpose of the RSC is the development of the student’s competencies to do research (basic, community, clinical) as a lead or co-lead investigator (PI or Co-PI). Projects conducted to obtain credit for the course are also known as curricular research.
The bullets below provide more details about the RSC.
At the end of the RSC participants will be able to:
- Apply basic theoretical concepts of scientific health research.
- Describe the elements of a preliminary written plan to propose a research project (the pre-proposal).
- Perform a systematic and comprehensive scientific literature search related to the research question and the relevant background.
- Critique the scientific literature identified in the search using a systematic approach and summarize the literature in a structured review table and in a written document.
- Develop a structured scientific research protocol.
- Identify the requirements and elements of an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application and apply them to their project.
- Apply the essential elements to conduct an unbiased data collection and/or data analysis activity.
- Identify and organize the most important and relevant results obtained from the analysis in tables, figures, graphs, and written text.
- Discuss the research results according to current knowledge in the research field to generate new information and knowledge.
- Summarize the project in a structured abstract.
- Create appropriate presentation tools to disseminate research findings (both an oral and a poster presentation are required)
- Write a manuscript draft for potential publication
- Structure of the RSC
Students can complete the RSC in three different “tracks”, depending upon start and completion of the project:
- Track 3 is the minimally required track: students start and end their curricular research projects within the mandatory Period IV RSC 2-month rotation. About 40% to 50% of students select this track.
- Track 2: students start their curricular projects early, at any time before period IV, and finish them within the mandatory Period IV RSC 2-month rotation. About 40% of students complete their projects as track 2.
- Track 1: students start their projects early, at any time before period IV, and end before Period IV. These students can then use the time assigned for the mandatory Period IV RSC 2-month rotation for other academic purposes. About 10% of students are able to complete their projects following this track.
Regardless the track selected all students must complete the same set of activities during the RSC.
The main difference then is the time available to accomplish them. Since students in Track 3 have just eight weeks to conduct their projects, most often they use databases containing data that can be used for answering a research question through secondary analyses. Students on Tracks 1 and 2, on the other hand, may be able to design projects aimed at answering their own questions, collecting (if needed) the information required.
- Instructional Methods
- Students are assisted in the establishment of teams of two to three students and two mentors (faculty) that remain as the functioning research unit from conceptualization through implementation and completion of the project.
- The two faculty mentors provide support in the areas of content and research methods. Mentors track all student work, assist and support team efforts, evaluate each of the requirements as completed, and file finalized assignments in the course database which accumulates all accomplished and approved work.
- The course covers both theory and practice of research. To cover the theoretical foundations, a selection of 13 relevant research topics and mandatory readings has been assembled. Practice is covered by the completion of the research products described in the eight steps (see below); resources such as readings, videos or tutorials are available to support students completing each step.
- Discussion and one-on-one sessions are held with faculty during each step. These sessions are scheduled as needed. For groups in Track 3 these sessions are held at specific days of the week along the mandatory Period IV RSC 2-month rotation.
- Each team may receive additional mandatory assignments as pertinent for their projects. Additional independent learning activities are recommended when necessary and they may vary by group and by research project.
- Teams present and discuss their progress, challenges and questions with their mentors at least twice within each of the eight steps. For those in Track 3, meetings are scheduled every Monday and Thursday. Theoretical review sessions also programmed along each week. Each team receives guidance and feedback on their goals and strategies at these meetings so that project assignments are completed by Friday of the same week.
- Steps of the RSC
The following table describes the eight RSC steps in more detail:
Main final deliverables
1. Research pre-proposal
Framing the research question
2. Literature review – Theoretical framework
Conducting the literature review
2-4-page expanded literature review – theoretical framework
3. Research protocol
Writing the research protocol
10-15-page research protocol (draft)
4. IRB clearance, human subjects research, HIPAA
Completing IRB / CITI training
Writing the research protocol
CITI training certificates; human subject research determination.
10-15-page research protocol (final)
5. Analysis of data
Analyzing the data
Output of statistical analyses and summary tables / figures
6. Results and interpretation of findings
Interpreting the study findings
2-4-page document with results / discussion
7. Presentation - Dissemination
Preparing and presenting the project (abstract, oral and poster)
Abstract, oral and poster presentations; presentation is delivered (as in a conference)
8. Scientific writing
Drafting a manuscript for publication
Draft of the manuscript
Students find in CanvasMed documents describing the objectives, the activities, the resources, the deliverables and the rubrics for assessing the products of each step.
Students on Track 3 are expected to complete all these steps along their 8-week rotation during Period IV (about one step per week). During their rotation students have formal meetings with their mentors every Monday, in which the goals for the week are discussed, and every Thursday, to review the progress towards reaching the goals (which are to be attained before the start of the following week), as well as the stage of the deliverable expected for each week. Tutors are available daily to discuss with the students any issues concerning the activities for the week.
Students working on Tracks 1 and 2 complete the same eight steps but during a longer period, meeting with their mentors as frequently as needed to set goals, receive support, review progress and obtain approval for each one of the deliverables expected.
CanvasMed contains documents describing the objectives, the activities, the resources, the deliverables and the rubrics used for assessing the products for each step.
- The “Summer Research Course”
Every year the Department offers the “Summer Research Course” (not to be confused with the Summer Research Fellowship Program, described elsewhere). It starts the first Monday after the initiation of the summer break and runs through five consecutive weeks. The course is full time / exclusive dedication (students cannot book it along with other course makeups, rotations, shadowing, projects, trips, etc.). The summer course is voluntary and is NOT automatically the RSC; however, because it follows the same structure, students that adequately complete the summer course receive credit for the RSC. Students must commit to 5 weeks (4 weeks for those that need to collect data prospectively) and successfully complete the first 4 or 5 steps of the RSC structured program and theoretical reviews.