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22-10-2020 | Review Article | Uitgave 2/2021 Open Access

Perspectives on Medical Education 2/2021

Knowledge syntheses in medical education: A bibliometric analysis

Perspectives on Medical Education > Uitgave 2/2021
Lauren A. Maggio, Joseph A. Costello, Candace Norton, Erik W. Driessen, Anthony R. Artino Jr
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s40037-020-00626-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense, or the U. S. Government.
Erik Driessen was not involved in the review of or the decision to publish this article.



This bibliometric analysis maps the landscape of knowledge syntheses in medical education. It provides scholars with a roadmap for understanding where the field has been and where it might go in the future, thereby informing research and educational practice. In particular, this analysis details the venues in which knowledge syntheses are published, the types of syntheses conducted, citation rates they produce, and altmetric attention they garner.


In 2020, the authors conducted a bibliometric analysis of knowledge syntheses published in 14 core medical education journals from 1999 to 2019. To characterize the studies, metadata were extracted from PubMed, Web of Science, Altmetrics Explorer, and Unpaywall.


The authors analyzed 963 knowledge syntheses representing 3.1% of the total articles published (n = 30,597). On average, 45.9 knowledge syntheses were published annually (SD = 35.85, median = 33), and there was an overall 2620% increase in the number of knowledge syntheses published from 1999 to 2019. The journals each published, on average, a total of 68.8 knowledge syntheses (SD = 67.2, median = 41) with Medical Education publishing the most (n = 189; 19%). Twenty-one types of knowledge synthesis were identified, the most prevalent being systematic reviews (n = 341; 35.4%) and scoping reviews (n = 88; 9.1%). Knowledge syntheses were cited an average of 53.80 times (SD = 107.12, median = 19) and received a mean Altmetric Attention Score of 14.12 (SD = 37.59, median = 6).


There has been considerable growth in knowledge syntheses in medical education over the past 20 years, contributing to medical education’s evidence base. Beyond this increase in volume, researchers have introduced methodological diversity in these publications, and the community has taken to social media to share knowledge syntheses. Implications for the field, including the impact of synthesis types and their relationship to knowledge translation, are discussed.
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