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Scientific Inquiry

Course Directors

Course Description


This portion of the first-year curriculum is one of several coordinated and complementary curricular offerings designed to prepare Yale School of Medicine (YSM) students for careers in the rigorous consideration, execution, and application of research which results in the betterment of human health and wellbeing.

The YSM research requirement ensures that students learn and master research skills, such identifying knowledge gaps, formulating research questions, designing rigorous and reproducible investigative approaches using the highest standards of methodological rigor, analyzing data, summarizing results, and presenting one’s work to communities of interest including patients. An important feature of the research curriculum is the formal instruction students receive in the first year which is designed to successfully launch them on the path of acquiring and practicing these essential skills on their own.

The goal of the Scientific Inquiry curriculum is to initiate students on their four- to five-year journey of learning, observing, and practicing the skills required to conduct research related to health and medicine. Specifically, first-year students will receive instruction regarding the YSM thesis requirement as well as the preparation and support needed to develop methodologically rigorous research projects. Although the course is framed around the mentored research that many students will conduct during the summer between the first and second years of medical school, the same principles taught in the course will also apply to research conducted during the Advanced Training Period, in support of the MD thesis requirement, and beyond.

The curriculum is led by physician-scientists and clinician-investigators with successful research programs who also serve as role models and mentors to students as they begin to assume their professional identities. The first year involves seven sessions dedicated to the formal support of research project development, mentor selection, identification of knowledge gaps via literature review, and the creation of a written research proposal. It is expected that students will develop impactful research projects that are methodologically rigorous, significant, and innovative. The curriculum culminates in the required submission of a research proposal, completion of which serves as the course assessment. The proposal must contain the following components: background/scientific premise; the research question(s) being asked with hypotheses being tested (not relevant for qualitative research or history of medicine research); specific aims; methods, including a proposed statistical analysis plan; challenges and limitations; statement of scientific impact and relevance for communities of interest including patients. All MD students are required to submit a completed research proposal in order to successfully receive credit for this course.


The curriculum employs a variety of learning approaches, including large group didactics, small group discussion, the use of an “inverted classroom,” independent study and self-directed learning, as well as peer-to-peer, near-peer, and experiential learning. Prior to the first formal workgroup session (11/10/2022), first-year students will be assigned to a peer workgroup with a faculty facilitator. Much of the learning involved in the research support sessions will be done within these workgroups, which have been structured to attain the course objectives.



  • Provision and receipt of feedback on research plans in working group sessions


  • End-of-course submission of research proposal

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the curricular and non-curricular requirements for student research, including summer research, the advanced training period, and the graduation thesis requirement
  • Identify the different types of research opportunities available for students (basic science, translational, clinical, medical education, medical humanities)
  • Explain the relevance of responsible conduct of research to preserve the integrity of the research process and to protect the rights of research participants
  • Describe concepts of significance and innovation as they pertain to the development of an impactful research question
  • Describe strategies for establishing a shared understanding of learning objectives with one’s primary mentor
  • Develop plans for eliciting mentor feedback on research proposals
  • Develop plans for eliciting mentor feedback on manuscript drafts and dissemination plans
  • Develop plans for eliciting mentor feedback on presentation of data in tables and figures
  • Recognize the strengths of developing a mentorship team
  • Describe how to use a literature search to develop a strong scientific premise for a research question
  • Evaluate the credibility of existing research studies based on principles of rigor and reproducibility
  • Describe how to use a literature search to identify commonly used outcome measures
  • Evaluate features of research questions and hypotheses, including specificity and testability and other modes of evaluation
  • Evaluate the feasibility of potential research projects
  • Understand the goals of the summer mentored research process
  • Articulate the required components of a research proposal
  • Internalize the importance of following instructions and adhering to deadlines in the preparation and submission of research proposals
  • Apply the concept of scientific rigor to the development of a research proposal
  • Apply the concept of reproducibility to the development of a research proposal
  • Identify potential sources of systematic bias and error in experimental design and methodology
  • Identify potential sources of random error in experimental design and methodology
  • Apply principles of responsible conduct of research to preserve the integrity of the research process and to protect the privacy and rights of research subjects
  • Identify potential challenges and limitations in research studies and develop strategies to address them to preserve scientific rigor
  • Identify effective strategies for disseminating research findings to communities of interest
  • Identify and troubleshoot time-dependent steps to complete summer research (HIC proposals or exemptions, data requisitions, JDAT requests, etc.)
  • Convey scientific methodology in a written format in a clear and organized narrative manner.Convey scientific findings in tabular/figure format in a clear and organized manner.