Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Medical education








BACKGROUND: The field of medical education remains poorly delineated such that there is no broad consensus of articles or journals that comprise 'the field'. This lack of consensus indicates a missed opportunity for researchers to generate insights about the field that could facilitate conducting bibliometric studies and other research designs (e.g., systematic reviews) and also enable individuals to identify themselves as 'medical education researchers'. Other fields have utilised bibliometric field delineation, which is the assigning of articles or journals to a certain field in an effort to define that field.

PROCESS: In this Research Approach, three bibliometric field delineation approaches-information retrieval, core journals, and journal co-citation-are introduced. For each approach, the authors describe attempts to apply it in medical education and identify related strengths and weaknesses. Based on co-citation, the authors propose the Medical Education Journal List 24 (MEJ-24), as a starting point for delineating medical education and invite the community to collaborate on improving and potentially expanding this list.

PEARLS: As a research approach, field delineation is complicated, and there is no clear best way to delineate the field of medical education. However, recent advances in information science provide potentially fruitful approaches to deal with the field's complexity. When considering these approaches, researchers should consider collaborating with bibliometricians. Bibliometric approaches rely on available metadata for articles and journals, which necessitates that researchers examine the metadata prior to analysis to understand its strengths and weaknesses, and to assess how this might affect data interpretation. While using bibliometric approaches for field delineation is valuable, it is important to remember that these techniques are only as good as the research team's interpretation of the data, which suggests that an expanded approach is needed to better delineate medical education, an approach that includes active discussion within the medical education community.


© 2021 The Authors. Medical Education published by Association for the Study of Medical Education and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This article has been contributed to by US Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Peer Reviewed


Open Access


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