An understanding of research methodology and design including the appropriate use of statistics is considered by the Royal College of Psychiatrists to be an essential part of the education of psychiatrists. The report of the working party for the review of the MRCPsych examination emphasises this by mentioning statistics and research methods as one of the major areas that will be examined as part of the sciences basic to psychiatry (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1985). They point out that over recent years there has been an increase in the number of questions devoted to this subject, and state that this trend should continue. Pre-membership psychiatric trainees are often encouraged to undertake or participate in research (Sims, 1988), but many commence projects which never come to fruition (Hollyman & Abou-Saleh, 1985); lack of adequate supervision seems to be the cause (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1991). The Royal College of Psychiatrists is unique among the Royal Colleges in that it enables candidates for the membership examination to be exempted from the essay paper by submitting a dissertation in advance based on a piece of original research. This is known as the research option.
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