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8 Tips for a Journal Club

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All researchers are familiar with the concept of a journal club. Attending journal clubs helps researchers stay up to date with  scientific knowledge, improve their presentation skills, get ideas for experiments/techniques to apply to one’s own research and discuss concepts with colleagues.

Here, I want to give you 8 tips to help you make the most out of your presentation:

  1. Select a paper demonstrating new concepts related to your field. This will make you capture the attention of most of the audience. The attendees may not work in the same field as you but it is part of your job to pick a relevant paper for a broad group of researchers.
  2. Start with an introduction giving background elements. It’s important to remember what is already known in the field, what the authors did before or if there is a controversy in this subject.
  3. Base the core of the presentation on the scientific questions presented in the paper. You have to point out why is this paper important for your community? What did the authors intend to demonstrate?
  4. Select only relevant data. There is no need to present every experiments/figures shown in the paper. For example, redundant experiments can be excluded. The idea is to simplify the article and to go straight to the point. In the same way, it’s better to avoid writing too much text which can confuse your audience.
  5. Explain material and methods associated with a figure. You should never assume that colleagues know all techniques, abbreviations or jargon written in the paper.  You should explain all details associated with an experiment which are necessary to understand the results. This is critical to guide your audience at the best.
  6. Conclude with a take home message. It should answer the main scientific questions asked at the beginning of the presentation (tip 3).
  7. Include some discussion elements in the conclusion. This will engage exchange with colleagues. You can for example highlight weakness and strengths of the paper or ethical considerations.
  8. Be critical towards the research present in the paper but stay fair. The idea is not to destroy for free a paper. If you have doubts concerning an experiment you have to argue the reasons why.

We hope that these tips will be helpful and don’t hesitate to share in comments your own tips.

If you are about to lead a journal club for the first time we recommend you to not take personally the critical comments of your peers. They are not here to judge you or your work! They came to discuss the findings of the paper that you selected and an active discussion means that you did great.  

Written by Isabelle Arnoux; Edited by Radhika Menon. Featured Image by NGC/Design.

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