Why must I take English courses in college?

 In Uncategorized, Voices of Diversity

I can still now remember being a rising 4th year college student at the University of Virginia, looking at the list of pre-medical requirements and seeing “English” listed as requirement or recommendation for most programs. I wondered “Why must I take an English course?” “How will this help me become a better doctor?” “Is this an effort by programs to make it harder and harder for students to apply to medical school?”

Looking back on my time in medical school, I can say that English courses are not particularly helpful in terms of patient interaction (unless English is not your first language) but it does help tremendously in two areas in particular: the verbal reasoning part of the MCAT; and doing literature reviews for research and evidence based medicine. I am going to talk specifically about the second part, since that it what you will be doing as a doctor.

Without a doubt, regardless of what specialty you go into, you will be reading and researching as a doctor. If you decide to do basic science or clinical research, you will need to read journal articles to understand what the current knowledge is on that topic in medicine. For this task you will have to read.. a lot… and critically analyze journal articles. As more and more research is conducted, standards of care in medicine may change. As a clinician it is important that you stay on top of the current knowledge, based on evidence and trials, that show what the appropriate treatments for your patients are. This is called “evidence-based medicine”. Given that will get in the habit of critically reading journal articles, those English pre-requisite classes in college do lay a foundation to build from. Below is a list of tips for critically reading journal articles, courtest of ehow.com


  1. Get an overview of the topic. The author of the article will expect the reader to have a good understanding of the research topic. Use textbooks, lecture notes or the Internet to obtain some background knowledge before you start reading.
  2. Analyze the title. According to King’s College, Pennsylvania, the title of the article will often contain a clear and concise overview of the study. Look out for any key concepts or theories related to the research and make a note of them.
  3. Study the abstract. The majority of research articles use an abstract to summarize the key points and findings of the study. An abstract will give you information on how the study was carried out, the findings, any limitations and a conclusion.
  4. Skim over the article. Start with the introduction; this will explain the rationale of the study, anything unusual and important about the topic area and what niche this research might fill. If the writer has mentioned other scholars and studies, consider their treatment. See if you can you detect any bias or find examples where opinions has been presented as fact. Next, skim over the section headings and look over any tables or figures to get an overview of the data and results.
  5. Read the rest of the article. Carefully look over each section and make notes of the article’s outline and the author’s key points. This will prevent you from getting lost in the details. Pay special attention to the author’s methodology and think about possible limitations to his study.
  6. Evaluate the article. You should now be familiar with the article’s key points and findings and be able to critically evaluate each of the individual sections. You will need to consider how successful the research was and how well it answered the aims of the study. Also consider the author’s use of evidence when making claims or assumptions and whether or not the author used valid reasoning when making conclusions.
  7. Reread the article, if necessary. Critical reading requires understanding, and a second reading may help you to fully absorb the information. It will also ensure you haven’t missed anything important. Link this research to the wider academic field by considering its impact on and contribution to existing knowledge and understanding.

Read more: How to Critically Read a Journal Research Article | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_7720419_critically-read-journal-research-article.html#ixzz2IXGasJOr

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