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Keywords:

  • dental education;
  • degree project;
  • preparing for professional practice;
  • preparing for postgraduate studies

Abstract

Objectives

The undergraduate degree project is a requisite part of higher education in Sweden, designed to prepare students for professional work and postgraduate studies. This article examines the extent to which the degree project in Swedish dental education helps students achieve these purposes. The focus was on the students' choice of topics and research methods as well as their ability to reflect on the implications of their results for dental practice.

Methods

Degree projects from three of the four Swedish dental schools were analysed using content analysis.

Results

The students' topics concerned clinical dentistry, biomedicine, educational issues and public oral health. Quantitative research methods were used more often than qualitative ones. Some of the degree projects were based on literature reviews. Students demonstrated shortcomings in their reflections on the implications of their results for dental practice. The level of reflection was particularly low in one of the schools; this may be because the students in this school were not expected to reflect on the results.

Conclusions

The degree project gives the students an opportunity to develop their knowledge on a topic relevant to dentistry, to be trained in conducting research and to reflect on scientific knowledge in relation to dentistry. However, this study shows the need of assessment criteria that urge the students to reflect on the link between science and clinical work and motivate them to learn to reflect so they become critical thinkers. It is also suggested that dental students should learn more about qualitative research methods.