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This study aimed to characterise the doctors who wrote comments at the end of a postal questionnaire about their careers, to quantify the frequency of negative comments, and to study relationships between the questionnaire content and the topics of comment. Graduates of all UK medical schools in 1999 were surveyed at the end of their pre-registration year. Structured questions about career intentions, current jobs and attitudes were accompanied by an invitation to write comments about any aspect of training, career choices or work. Comments were transcribed and coded according to theme and whether they were positive, negative or neutral. Numbers of comments on each theme, and of positive and negative comments, were counted. Bivariate analyses based on respondents' answers to structured questions were used to characterise those who wrote comments on each theme. The survey response rate was 65%, and 40% of respondents wrote comments. Sixteen themes were identified. Ninety-four percent of those who commented said something negative or critical. Respondents who wrote comments differed in some characteristics from the whole cohort. The structured content of the questionnaire, particularly certain attitude statements, prompted the writing of comments on related themes, although not all attitudinal items acted in this way. © Springer 2005.

Original publication




Journal article


Quality and Quantity

Publication Date





217 - 239