Scholarly Project

The Scholarly Project (SP) is a required four-year longitudinal course designed to stimulate critical thinking, enhance intellectual acuity and inquisitiveness, and foster excellence in the development of research scholars, clinical scholars and educator scholars. The SP allows medical students to conduct research with a faculty mentor on a topic of interest in the fields of health and health care.


The overarching goal of the course is to provide all medical students with the necessary educational and practical tools to pursue a highly successful and productive career in clinical and/or academic medicine. The goals of the SP program are as follows:

  1. Through completing a research project, students will generate new knowledge using scholarly approaches
  2. Through participation in learning sessions, students will gain a foundation in the scientific method, critical thinking and the responsible conduct of research
  3. The SP will help students refine and differentiate their own career and specialty orientation prior to application for residency

To achieve these goals, the SP program has three components:

  1. A didactic component consisting of lectures, small-group sessions, team learning, workshops and completion of training through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI)
  2. Assistance from faculty in developing skills necessary to formulate and describe a research question, an associated hypothesis and the methodology to conduct the research
  3. The student Scholarly Project (SP)

The didactic component of the SP will provide all students with an understanding of scholarship in the research, clinical and educational arenas. This will include but not be limited to the responsible conduct of research. These sessions are also part of Pathways to Health in Medicine, the Evidence-Based Medicine thread, and sessions newly created as part of the SP curriculum.

Students will have access to and training in the use of library resources, as well as to learning experts who can help formulate questions and provide guidance on preparation of abstracts, oral presentations, posters and other media used to deliver scientific content.

Conducting and completing the SP will provide all students, regardless of their ultimate career path, an enhanced appreciation and understanding of the linkage between research scholarship and health and health care.

Learning Objectives

During this course, students will:

  1. Explain the different forms of scholarship in medical research
  2. Describe the basic approach to medical student research, including mentor and topic selection, proposal preparation, progress summaries and presentations
  3. Explain how feedback from mentors and other evaluators is used to improve research methodology and facilitate research progress
  4. Demonstrate understanding of the ethical and responsible conduct of research, including institutional review boards, conflict of interest, bias, research misconduct, risk assessment, informed consent, privacy and security, and data reproducibility and management, by successfully completing CITI training modules and attending didactic sessions
  5. Describe how research findings are (or are not) incorporated and translated into improving human health, through the clinical practice of medicine
  6. Demonstrate how rigorous principles and practices of literature searching are used to create reference lists for their SP
  7. Describe the principles that both mentors and mentees must understand and adopt for effective mentoring

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. In conjunction with a mentor, design a research project, based on formulating a research question
  2. Design a research project that meets the requirements for the ethical and responsible conduct of research, including conflict of interest, bias, research misconduct, risk assessment, informed consent, privacy and security, and data reproducibility and management
  3. Incorporate appropriate statistical, analytical and evaluative methods appropriate to the research question and data collected
  4. Successfully create a project proposal that meets the requirements established for the Scholarly Project
  5. Track research progress and make appropriate changes in methodology, scale, scope and timing to complete the project in the allotted time
  6. Create a thorough, current and targeted bibliography for their SP
  7. Present the findings of their research in presentations (oral, poster, written) for diverse audiences
  8. Place their research in the context of scientific advancement and, where appropriate, clinical practice
  9. Demonstrate effective engagement as a mentee in a longitudinal mentoring relationship

The Scholarly Project is an eight-semester course (MED820A-820H). Students will receive a grade of Pass or Incomplete for each semester. All students are required to complete the course with a passing grade in each semester to graduate. A grade of Incomplete for a semester will be referred to the Student Progress Committee.

The SP has core requirements, identical for all students, and a flexible structure, that will vary by student:

Core Requirements:

  • Complete SP coursework and independent learning requirements
  • Meet with SP leadership to discuss SP topic and mentor
  • Integrate the SP with a distinction track, where appropriate
  • Identify an SP topic and mentor
  • Write an SP proposal in conjunction with a mentor
  • Submit interim progress reports
  • Complete reference searching module
  • Submit draft and final deliverable
  • Participate in SP Conference during MS4

Flexible Structure:

The timeline for identifying an SP topic and mentor will be flexible and will depend on the student’s choice of activities during the SP summer.

  1. Some students will develop a proposal and identify a mentor during Spring MS1. They will conduct research beginning in the Scholarly Project Summer. This applies to students in the Medical Student Research Program (MSRP) and the SAVAHCS Summer Research Program (VA-SERP).
  2. Some students will develop a proposal and identify a mentor during the Scholarly Project Summer as a consequence of their summer experience. This applies to some students doing an Rural Health Rotation or Global Health Rotation, as well as  those participating in other summer activities, such as the MSTAR program. They will begin their research partway through the SP summer.

Students will have the option of conducting their SP under the umbrella of a specific distinction track or independent of a specific distinction track.

  • In the former case, each distinction track will define how the SP integrates with the distinction track requirements
  • In the latter case, students will complete the SP independent of distinction track requirements

This structure permits substantial flexibility in how students allocate their efforts respectively to the SP and individual distinction track.

Conceptually, distinction tracks serve as a platform for students to distinguish their interests along thematic lines that characterize the education offered by the college. Practically, this provides a framework to guide students in selecting a mentor and a scholarly project, as well as determining the timing of and deliverables for the SP.

The curriculum for the scholarly project has three components.

  1. Existing coursework
  2. Independent learning
  3. Proposed new elements

If you have additional questions, contact

Alisa Petersen

Coordinator, Scholarly Projects