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Textual analysis of internal medicine residency personal statements: themes and gender differences

Osman, Nora Y., Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl, Walling, Jessica L., Katz, Joel T. and Alexander, Erik K. (2015) Textual analysis of internal medicine residency personal statements: themes and gender differences. Medical Education, 49 (1). pp. 93-102. ISSN 0308-0110

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Identification Number: 10.1111/medu.12487


Context Applicants to US residency training programmes are required to submit a personal statement, the content of which is flexible but often requires them to describe their career goals and aspirations. Despite their importance, no systematic research has explored common themes and gender differences inherent to these statements. Objectives This study was conducted to analyse US applicants’ Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) personal statements using two automated textual analysis programs, and to assess for common themes and gender-associated differences. Methods A retrospective cohort study of 2138 personal statements (containing 1 485 255 words) from candidates from 377 national and international medical schools applying to US internal medicine (IM) residency programmes through ERAS was conducted. A mathematical analysis of text segments using a recursive algorithm was performed; two different specifications of the text segments were used to conduct an internal validation. Results Five statistically significant thematic classes were identified through independent review by the researchers. These were best defined as referring to: the appeal of the residency programme; memorable patients; health care as public policy; research and academia, and family inspiration. Some themes were common to all applications. However, important gender-specific differences were identified. Notably, men were more likely to describe personal attributes and to self-promote, whereas women more frequently expressed the communicative and team-based aspects of doctoring. The results were externally validated using a second software program. Although these data comprise part of the national pool, they represent applicants to a single specialty at a single institution. Conclusions By applying textual analysis to material derived from a national cohort, we identified common narrative themes in the personal statements of future US physicians, noting differences between men and women. Together, these data provide novel insight into the dominant discourse of doctoring in this generation of students applying for further training in US IM residency programmes, and depict a diverse group of applicants with multiple motivations, desires and goals. Furthermore, differences seen between men and women add to the growing understanding of bias in medical education. Training programmes may benefit by adapting curricula to foster such diverse interests.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Divisions: Government
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2015 15:57
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2024 17:51

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