Hong Kong J Psychiatry. 2001;11(4):27


Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry 8th Edition, and Study Guide and Self-Examination Review, CD-ROM, 6th Edition

Editors: Kaplan HJ, Sadock BJ.
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, USA, 2000.
US$125.00; ISBN: 0-7817-2142-5.

pdf Full Paper in PDF

E-books have become more popular recently. Their compact size, the ease with which you can carry them anywhere, and their environmentally friendly nature are unbeatable features. Most importantly, you can search for a term or subject much more quickly than in traditional books. CD-ROM versions of major textbooks may be considered precursors of today’s e-books. If you are accustomed to work or study in front of a computer, they are more convenient than references on the shelf.

The Synopsis is an abridged version of a typical American psychiatric textbook, and its content and format are similar to many others, with too much emphasis on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, classif ication as the backbone of the text and a weakness in its coverage of psychopathology. Sections on foundation sciences in psychiatry such as psychosocial sciences and neurosciences are readable and concise. The text also contains a number of comprehensive tables that are helpful for quick revision.

The CD-ROM is not designed solely as a reference piece. Chapters can be manipulated to suit individual readers, as the programme has functions that allow readers to highlight text in multiple colours, add book marks, and type notes anywhere in the text. Readers can also copy and paste selected content to create revision notes in Word format. For teaching purposes, it is easy to copy the figures, tables, and images to your PowerPoint presentations, and this is permitted within the framework stated in the license agreement.

On first receiving this CD-ROM, however, I questioned the need for another digital book in this well-known psychiatric series, since the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry has already been published in CD-ROM version. This CD-ROM, however, includes another important resource, namely the Study Guide and Self-examination Review. It will be welcomed by trainees who have to sit for membership examination abroad — a notebook computer and a CD-ROM will be invaluable tools.

The Study Guide is the most interesting part of the entire CD-ROM. It contains 1615 questions formatted according to the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Questions cover 6 sections, including the foundations of psychiatry, clinical disorders, psychiatric treatment, child and adolescent psychiatry, special issues, and a continuing medical education test.

These questions are best used as a review tool rather than for primary study prior to the examination for Member of the Royal College of Psychiatry as they are relatively easy. Explanations of both right and wrong answers are provided for each question, with the cross-referenced chapters of the Synopsis just a mouse click away. The programme also features a scoring record to track your study. Although the questions are easy, they are distilled from the text to highlight the practical aspects of clinical psychiatry.

In summary, the CD-ROM versions of the Synopsis and Review may be more useful than the hard copy of these books if you plan to utilise the special features. However, if you are not a trainee with an examination ahead, you might consider buying a CD-ROM version of the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry instead. Finally, there are some bugs in the programme if you are using the Chinese version of the Windows 98 platform to run this CD-ROM.

Dr WS Chung
Consultant Psychiatrist
Department of Psychiatry Shatin Hospital
Hong Kong


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