As part of a multifaceted approach to gathering feedback from readers, AFP periodically conducts focus groups to get a close-up view of reader perceptions. Typically, a facilitator leads a group of 10 to 12 readers through a series of questions that help us get a feel for areas to probe in broad-scale reader research surveys. Although opinions in focus sessions vary according to the group's makeup and geographic location, we always encounter a few misperceptions about the journal.
From a reader's perspective, it's easy to understand how difficult it is to keep the facts straight about medical journals when there are so many journals around. Let's face it, remembering specifics about journals probably doesn't seem that important for physicians who run a busy practice and are faced with a mound of reading at the end of a harrying day. But those busy days are also the most compelling reason that physicians need to take such great care in prioritizing their journal reading—and the reason that, when we hear a misunderstanding about our journal, we want to set things straight. Here are a few “myths” about AFP:
Myth: “AFP is not peer reviewed.” Fact: Articles published in AFP go through a rigorous peer-review process that includes family physician reviewers and subspecialty reviewers (see the list of reviewers published in January 1, 2000, page 87). Articles are revised to meet high editorial standards, based on reviewers' comments and medical editors' recommendations. Moreover, strict editorial policies are in place to guard against pharmaceutically biased content.
Myth: “AFP's articles are broken up with advertising.” Fact: AFP places advertisements between articles rather than within them, making it easy to read and save articles.
Myth: “It's hard to find what I want in AFP without a table of contents.” Fact: It's surprising that a number of readers miss the table of contents, but, truth is, the journal has always had a table of contents listing (see page 1591 in this issue). Although articles and selected departments are highlighted on the cover, a complete listing of articles and features is included in the table of contents list. In recent years, we have reduced the length of the table of contents to two pages so that readers can see articles and departments at a glance.
Myth: “‘Tips from Other Journals’ would be easier to use if each ‘Tip’ were listed in the table of contents.” Fact: Although we removed the itemized list of “Tips” from the main table of contents at the front of the issue, we created a new “Tips” table of contents that lists items by category and is located on the opening page of the department (see page 1810 in this issue). Since readers may have found this page harder to locate, we've now added the page number of the “Tips” table of contents to the cover.
Myth: “The journal really needs an index.” Fact: An index appears at the end of every volume of AFP, once every six months. The index includes a subject/author index for articles and selected departments, and there's a separate index for patient information handouts.
Myth: “AFP would be more convenient if it were online.” Fact: AFP went online in 1996, starting with the May 1 issue (go to https://www.aafp.org/afp). Although we first included only abstracts of articles and selected complete articles, we began including complete issues with the October 1, 1997, issue. Many readers now take the “Clinical Quiz” online, avoiding the hassle and expense of mailing answer cards.