I've been perusing a number of the residency forums and have found a considerable amount of discussion on doing research during medical school to improve ones chances of getting into some residences, notably the competitive ones such as derm, radiology, orthopedics, etc. My question is, what exactly are program directors looking for with respect to ones research experiences/achievements? What one gets from research experience can range from nothing (doing a small part in a big project that you are given little to no context for but you go through the motions in order to "do research") to truly moving the field (properly designing a study that really tests and challenges the field and its experts). Is it as simple as showing a time-commitment to a subspecialty? Is it the fact that it exercises a different side of the brain from medical school (applying the rote memorization/theories learned to make something meaningful out of it). Critical thinking abilities? Ability to analyze data? Is it as simple as observing their ability to be academic clinicians? Has anyone ever discussed this with program directors candidly? I'd be interesting in hearing what exactly they're looking for.