Personal beliefs about what knowledge is and how we understand, integrate and apply knowledge (known as personal epistemologies) are entrenched in the process of decision-making. Evidence-based medicine in all its forms brings with it the need for an ever more sophisticated appreciation of individual patients' perspectives and 'scientific' perspectives within the clinical encounter. However, current theoretical perspectives on personal epistemology focus more on scientific ways of knowing where knowledge is abstracted and logical. We conducted semi-structured interviews to investigate medical students' personal epistemological thinking towards the end of their second year of training at a new medical school in the South West of England. Whilst responses were varied, students appeared to express predominantly simplistic levels of epistemological thinking according to current developmental models of personal epistemology. However, the process of professional identity formation together with epistemological thinking brought together both scientific and experiential ways of knowing in a way that has largely been ignored by current theorists in the domain of personal epistemology. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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