Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences


ISSN 1681-715X





Volume 25

 April - June 2009 (Part-II)

Number 3


PDF of this Article

Problems encountered by postgraduate
trainee during dissertation writing

Jahanzaib Haider

Dr. Jahanzaib Haider
Senior Registrar
Dow University of Health Sciences and
Civil Hospital, Karachi.

* Received for Publication: April 7, 2009
* Revision Received: May 5, 2009
* Revision Accepted: May 7, 2009

Dissertation is the capstone event for both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education.1 This is the most challenging and time consuming element during training period but despite this, it is now regarded as a scientific work which deserve attention from the national and international scientific community.2,3

The sad state of affair in most of the medical colleges and universities of Pakistan is inadequate teaching of graduates about medical research concept. After completion of their doctorate, majority of them come across fellowship diploma by College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan (CPSP). In addition to developing patient care (including clinical reasoning), medical knowledge, practice-based learning, interpersonal and communication skills, and professionalism; they tangle into norms of medical writing and research as desired by CPSP. This creates a lot of difficulties encountered by trainees following initiation of their training programme, and they search literatures for selection of their research topic. After passing through numerous complexities of medical writing, they finally submit their synopses. A large number of submitted synopses are either rejected or returned with objections by CPSP, making trainees more frustrated which eventually discourages them to undertake any research work. The main reason of rejection is most often choosing common topics. In addition, the following important points have been noted regarding objections:

1. Incorrect/incomplete rationale of study.

2. Current study protocols not published in last 5 years.

3. Objectives not well-defined.

4. Inappropriate operational definition.

5. More than two variables employed.

6. Insufficient sample size.

7. Incongruous study design.

8. Improper data collection procedure including minimization of bias.

9. Inaccurate statistical analysis.

Medical research and writing in Pakistan is not yet fully developed. Although majority of the reasons mentioned above are the steps in right direction but the main purpose of dissertation writing should be to emphasized on the art of conducting proper research and furnishing its presentation in the form of writing rather than making the trainees afraid of this. Teaching students to write effectively has been a major concern in education for many years.4 Problems affecting such scientific writing have included variety in terms of scientific level and requirement of the research projects as well as inadequate supervision.5 As the process of dissertation is time bound phenomenon and infrastructure of medical training institutes of our country is not well-developed in terms of record keeping facilities and follow-up of patients, some of these objections, particularly sample size should be reconsidered by CPSP authorities to encourage postgraduates and promote research culture. However the CPSP Council needs to be commended for having given an option to the postgraduates to publish two scientific papers after getting their synopsis approved in the CPSP recognized medical journals instead of writing a Dissertation. To facilitate further, the CPSP has now approved some more journals.6 The CPSP approved journals are as under:-

1. Journal of College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan.

2. Journal of Pakistan Medical Association (JPMA)

3. Journal of Ayub Medical Colelge, Abbottabad.

4. Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

5. Pakistan Armed Forces Medical Journal.

6. Infectious Diseases Journal.

7. Pakistan Journal of Medical Research.

8. Journal of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

9. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences.


1. Niemeyer H. Undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the biological sciences in Chile (1985). Arch Biol Med Exp (Santiago) 1986;19:7-28.

2. Zwolski S. A contribution to the history of MD theses without dissertation. Tauberís case. Arch Hist Filoz Med 2003;66:45-9.

3. Potts JR 3rd. Core training in surgery:what does it need to include? Semin Vasc Surg 2006;19:210-3.

4. Marusic A, Marusic M. Teaching Students how to read and write science: a mandatory course on scientific research and communication in medicine. Acad Med 2003;78:1235-9.

5. Nieminen P, Sipila K, Takkinen HM, Renko M, Risteli L. Medical theses as part of the scientific training in basic medical and dental education: experiences from Finland. BMC Med Educ 2007;7:51.

6. CPSP Notification No.Sec/Notif-1/CPS/09/270 dated March 13, 2009.


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