There aren’t any hard rules about how to run your Journal Club and you need to find something that works for you. The suggestions here are based on the structure of Journal Clubs in a medical setting and have been tried and tested in a number of different education groups. Feel free to chop and change (but don’t forget the biscuits).


What you’ll need

Each Journal Club needs a designated leader or facilitator to provide:

  • Reminders
  • Fix the space and time (no interruptions and probably best to avoid Friday after school)
  • Provide access to paper
  • Summarise paper
  • Keep discussion on track
  • Motivation in the face of disgruntled, end-of-day-tired colleagues

You will need to provide access to the paper you are going to discuss about a week or two in advance so that everyone gets the chance to have a read through it. If you have decided on a particular focus for your meeting then this it the time to remind people of this too. Information about access to research is available here. Try going for something that’s not too long and will have the broadest appeal to your group.

The beginning of every meeting starts with a summary of the article that is being discussed so you will need to nominate someone (normally the facilitator) to provide this. If you are looking at a traditional journal paper then some of this is done for you in the abstract at the beginning. A few extra details from the paper are usually all that’s needed and maybe a little simplifying if the language is too impenetrable.

You may find as your group becomes more familiar with the process that you take turns to lead the meetings, but sticking with the same person is good too.

Finally, the most important thing you will need is BISCUITS. Availablility of food is one of the features of the most successful Journal Clubs in medicine. This is pretty much used to bribe people to come and keep them happy – if it ain’t broke… Crucial biscuit information is here (other forms of bribary are acceptable but if you’re reading something on motivation and ‘token economies’ come up, biscuits don’t count).


How often should you hold a meeting?

This one’s up to you. Try once a half-term and see how it goes. You may decide that departmental meetings are best or that you want to explore a theme in more detail as a one-off.  If you only manage a couple in a year, it’s better than none!


Structure of Meeting

A Journal Club meeting will probably take about an hour. The structure of a meeting is fairly straight forward and goes as follows:

  • Biscuits
  • Facilitator reads out summary of paper
  • Discuss and analyse paper – use guide questions to keep on track
  • Pick next paper
  • Disseminate notes

It is important to note that a Journal Club meeting is not a policy meeting. Letting the conversation get too drawn into how you will implememnt what you have read will result in a less critical discussion and the acceptance of what you are reading as golden. By all means, if there is something brilliant that comes up take the opportunity to read around the subject and book a follow-up meeting.

Before ending the meeting you might want to offer a choice of two or three papers for discussion at the next meeting. This encourages people to suggest new topics and to have something secired for next time – encouraging everying to come again.

There are many ways you can disseminate the results of your discussion. This will serve as a reminder of your different responses, a summary of the research, and hopfully as encouragement for other members of staff to take part. Different ways you can try this include:

  • Typed up notes on a shared drive
  • Write up in a staff bulletin
  • Blogging


Things that might go wrong

However hard you plan and however much enthusiasm you throw at it, there’s always the chance that something won’t go to plan.

Before you even start it’s common to come across the people who think it’s too hard. It can be daunting to delve into academic language straight away but remember you don’t have to go for this. You can pick a blog, a magazine article, a news story – anything to prompt a critical discussion. Work up to the hardcore stuff if you need to.

No one turning up or reading the paper is also entirely possible. If they don’t turn up then eat the biscuits and rearrange the meeting. If they turn up but haven’t read the article then plough on with your summary and the discussion will soon start flowing.

An equally posisble situation is that no one wants to go home. This is a good thing as you’ve either got a cracking discussion going on or there’s some serious school gossip to exchange. Either way it’s a winner.

Finally. if the unthinkable happens – YOU FORGET THE BISCUITS – remember, the Co-Op will be there.


Alguire, P. C. (1998). A Review of Journal Clubs in Postgraduate Medical Education. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 13(5), 347–353.

Deenadayalan, Y., Grimmer-Somers, K., Prior, M. and Kumar, S. (2008), How to run an effective journal club: a systematic review. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 14: 898–911

Denehy, J (2004) Starting a Journal Club. The Journal of School Nursing 20(4) 187 – 188

Sidorov J (1995) How are internal medicine residency journal clubs organized, and what makes them successful?. Arch Intern Med., 155: 1193-97

Swift, G. (2004) How to make journal clubs interesting. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 10:67–72