Clinical Reasoning Curricula in Preclinical Undergraduate Medical Education: A Scoping Review

Matthew K. Hawks*, Joseph M. MacIuba, Jerusalem Merkebu, Steven J. Durning, Renee Mallory, Michael J. Arnold, Dario Torre, Michael Soh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose Clinical reasoning is the process of observing, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting patient information to arrive at a diagnosis and management plan. Although clinical reasoning is foundational in undergraduate medical education (UME), the current literature lacks a clear picture of the clinical reasoning curriculum in preclinical phase of UME. This scoping review explores the mechanisms of clinical reasoning education in preclinical UME. Method A scoping review was performed in accordance with the Arksey and O'Malley framework methodology for scoping reviews and is reported using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis for Scoping Reviews. Results The initial database search identified 3,062 articles. Of these, 241 articles were selected for a full-text review. Twenty-one articles, each reporting a single clinical reasoning curriculum, were selected for inclusion. Six of the reports included a definition of clinical reasoning, and 7 explicitly reported the theory underlying the curriculum. Reports varied in the identification of clinical reasoning content domains and teaching strategies. Only 4 curricula reported assessment validity evidence. Conclusions Based on this scoping review, we recommend 5 key principles for educators to consider when reporting clinical reasoning curricula in preclinical UME: (1) explicitly define clinical reasoning within the report, (2) report clinical reasoning theory(ies) used in the development of the curriculum, (3) clearly identify which clinical reasoning domains are addressed in the curriculum, (4) report validity evidence for assessments when available, and (5) describe how the reported curriculum fits into the larger clinical reasoning education at the institution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958-965
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes


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