Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Clarity and strength of implications for practice in medical journal articles: an exploratory analysis
  1. Joanne Lynn1,
  2. Allessia P Owens2,
  3. Jean M Bartunek3
  1. 1Colorado Foundation for Medical Care, Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Howard University School of Social Work, Washington, DC, USA
  3. 3Department of Organization Studies, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Joanne Lynn, Colorado Foundation for Medical Care, 2318 Ashboro Drive, Chevy Chase, MD 20815, USA; drjoannelynn{at}


Objective To examine how leading clinical journals report research findings, aiming to assess how they frame their implications for medical practice and to compare that literature's patterns with those of the management literature.

Data Source Clinically relevant research articles from three leading clinical journals (N Engl J Med, JAMA, and Ann Intern Med).

Methods Review of wording of a sequential sample from 2010, with categorisation, comparison among journals, and comparison with management literature.

Results Clinical journals usually state that one approach did or did not differ from another approach (35 of 51 articles, 68.6%), but they recommended a specific course of action (‘therefore, x should be done’) in just 25.5%. One article gave instruction on how to implement the changes. Two-thirds of the reports called for further research. Half used tentative language. Management research articles nearly always specified who should use the information and drew from over 60 types of potential users, whereas the clinical literature named the audience in only 23.5% of clinicians.

Conclusions Authors and editors of the clinical literature could test being more clear and direct in presenting implications of research findings for practice, including stating when the findings do not justify changes in practice.

  • Implications for practice
  • policy making
  • research quality
  • medical literature
  • quality improvement
  • continuous quality improvement
  • health policy
  • healthcare quality improvement
  • research

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.