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Textual analysis of general surgery residency personal statements: topics and gender differences

Ostapenko, Laura, Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl, Walling Sublette, Jessica, Smink, Douglas S. and Osman, Nora Y. (2018) Textual analysis of general surgery residency personal statements: topics and gender differences. Journal of Surgical Education, 75 (5). pp. 573-581. ISSN 1931-7204

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2017.09.021


Applicants to US general surgery residency training programs submit standardized applications. Applicants use the personal statement to express their individual rationale for a career in surgery. Our research explores common topics and gender differences within the personal statements of general surgery applicants. Methods: We analyzed the ERAS personal statements of 578 applicants (containing 382405 words) from LCME-accredited medical schools to a single ACGME-accredited general surgery program using an automated textual analysis program to identify common topics and gender differences. Using a recursive algorithm, the program identified common words and clusters, grouping them into topic classes which are internally validated. Results: We identified and labeled eight statistically significant topic classes through independent review: “my story,” “the art of surgery,” “clinical vignettes,” “why I love surgery,” “residency program characteristics,” “working as a team,” “academics and research,” and “global health and policy.” Although some classes were common to all applications, we also identified genderspecific differences. Notably, women were significantly more likely than men to be represented within the class of “working as a team.” (p<0.01) Furthermore, men were significantly more likely than women to be represented within the class of “clinical vignettes.” (p<0.01) Conclusions: Applying textual analysis to a national cohort, we identified common narrative topics in the personal statements of aspiring general surgeons, noting differences between the statements of men and women. Women were more likely to discuss surgery as a team endeavor while men were more likely to focus on the details of their surgical experiences. Our work mirrors what has been found in social psychology research on gender-based differences in how men and women communicate their career goals and aspirations in other competitive professional situations.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 Association of Program Directors in Surgery
Divisions: Government
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RD Surgery
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2017 08:45
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 23:11

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