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Junqueira's Basic Histology: Review

In today’s day and age, it feels rather refreshing to see a medical or health-science textbook with the word “basic” in its title. ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology: Text and Atlas’ is exactly that - a breath of fresh air.

Pop into any medical school classroom and you will soon come across the obsession of faculty members and students alike regarding the perfect learning resources - especially for anatomy and histology. It almost feels like watching ‘QVC’, USA’s largest shopping channel. Everyone is pushing the hard sell for their favourite textbook because it is the most complete, or because it correlates knowledge (usually unnecessarily from a million different other subjects or areas), or because it is functional. The reality? These books are often huge, impractical, difficult to understand, and extremely boring to read.

Pros and cons of Junqueira's Basic Histology 
Pros Easy to understand, many types of labelled illustrations, 'medical application' boxes, summary tables and sections, MCQs and self-assessments
Cons Sometimes too basic, poor text layout in certain parts, lack of proper interactivity, no online resources, inefficient self-assessments and MCQs, big, thick, heavy, pricey

Fortunately, there are still some sane students and lecturers who use more practical, effective, and easy to digest resources like ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology’. In this article, we’ll take a close look at this textbook and weigh out its pros and cons. Has it truly managed to provide a basic study resource for the complex subject that is histology? Read on to find out.

Junqueira's Basic Histology 14th Edition

Format

A resource can be considered basic only if it simplifies your learning and is easy to understand. When it comes to ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology’, it definitely accomplishes both. Published by Mc-GrawHill Education in 2015, the fourteenth edition continues the 45 year legacy established by its author, Prof. Anthony Mescher, to teach ‘concise yet thorough’ histology.

Junqueira's Basic Histology - Cover

The secret ingredients? Eliminating the fluff, distilling the information, and laser-focusing in on the essential knowledge. Nowadays, many histology books drown you with so-called ‘complete’ knowledge - names of receptors, molecules, cell types, transcription factors, a cell's shoe size, birthday and favourite colour… you get the point. Basically, over half of the information they fill your brain with will be forgotten the day after the exam and will never be used in practice ever again. But in Junqueira’s Basic Histology,  the absence of military encrypted jargon makes reading a breeze. Who would have imagined that ‘histology’ and ‘breeze’ could fit in the same sentence? We certainly couldn’t until we saw this textbook.

The format is typical of any histology textbook:

  • Chapter 1 - Histology and microscopy techniques, together with stains and tissue preparations
  • Chapters 2 and 3 - Cell biology, describing the structure and function of the cell as an entity
  • Chapters 4 to 10 - Histology of basic tissue types and sub-types
  • Chapters 11 to 23 - Description and explanation of each major organ system

In turn, each chapter follows a standard layout, as follows:

  • Theory and explanations filled with Junqueira’s staples, such as a clear section layout, labelled histology images, diagrams, and ‘Medical application’ boxes.
  • A ‘Summary of key points’ section which provides you with fundamental knowledge in bullet-point format.
  • A section named ‘Assess your knowledge’ which allows you to test yourself using MCQ style questions and clinical scenarios.

Junqueira's Basic Histology - Contents

Versions

So far, so good; it looks like ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology 14th Edition’ has potential in simplifying histology and making it more bearable. Not only this, but the textbook also deserves extra brownie points for portability. The 14th edition comes both as a paperback ready to be plucked down from your library for some heavy-duty studying, but also as an eBook, which can be accessed extremely easily on the-go.

However, if you want to have this book at your fingertips, you’ll have to pay the price. While the paperback puts less strain on your wallet (although not on your back and vertebral column), getting your hands on the ‘PDF’, ‘EPUB’, or ‘MOBI’ versions will cost you up to $75 USD - a surefire hole in your student pocket!

Additional resources

While ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology 14th Edition’ definitely lives up to its ‘Basic’ description, the same cannot be said about novelty or generosity. Apart from an electronic format, this textbook offers you no real additional resources deemed of the 21st century technology era. There is no ‘Student consult’, no interactive atlas or images, nor any additional quizzes that so many of its competitors include as companions to their books.

There is only the online database with a compilation of all the histology images. However, the interactive aspect feels so rudimentary that it makes everything cumbersome rather than helpful. Some paperback copies do come with the online database installed on a CD-ROM, but let’s be honest - who uses CDs anymore…?

Pros

  • Easy to understand - The biggest selling point of ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology’ is that it really understands and adheres to the meaning of ‘basic’. The author has managed to successfully find a perfect balance between excruciating details and relevant knowledge for health-science students - and trust us, that balance is a very fine art. Each chapter and section has the right length and amount of explanations to help you understand the topic.
  • Multiple styles of labelled illustrations - Histology can be quite challenging to explain. Microscopy slides are essential, but they have limited capabilities when it comes to teaching, so you need to use sketches and purposefully drawn diagrams to explain many concepts and processes. Once again, ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology 14th Edition’ has aced this marriage. Offering you clearly drawn diagrams, HD displayed microscopy slides, proper labels and succinct figure legends, this textbook will ensure that you know your basement membrane from your stratified epithelium by the time your histology practical exam rolls around.

Junqueira's Basic Histology - Sample Illustrations

  • ‘Medical application’ boxes and tables - Histology can be quite bland, so anything that can add a bit of taste to it is a welcome improvement. This textbook tackles this aspect by having boxes containing clinical information and small summary lists of various sections dotted throughout its pages. The clinically filled boxes apply the knowledge, while the tables provide you with an instant snapshot of certain sections or crucial histological information such as landmarks or comparisons. They’re a godsend for studying (and maintaining your sanity!).
  • Summary sections - These are the bread and butter of any academic textbook, especially for subjects like anatomy and histology, and ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology 14th Edition’ cuts no corners. Full of key-points and bullet-points, those gems of knowledge will make your learning a whole lot more enjoyable and effective. They provide you with the fundamental knowledge of an entire chapter, and even allow you to create fill-in-the-blanks review sheets that you can use to test yourself (by the way, here’s a little tip, the bolded terms and concepts from those sections are the ones your professor will likely test you on in your exam, so don’t ignore them).

Junqueira's Basic Histology - Summary Sample

  • MCQs and self-assessments - After you have mastered the material, it is time to see how much you know - and there’s no better way to do that than exploiting the MCQs and clinical scenarios at the end of each chapter. You don’t want to discover gaps in your knowledge during your actual exam, right? Therefore, take some time and work through those tests. The correct answers are in the corner of the page as well, albeit upside down, so you can instantly check if your understanding is fact or fiction.

Cons

  • Too basic at times - Basic and fundamental knowledge is definitely excellent, but when you see that ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology’ explains the same knowledge in half the amount of pages compared to its competitors, you may start to question the quality. For some topics and concepts, you are definitely left with slight confusions or incomplete explanations - especially if you are the introspective, straight A’s medical student who wants to have the complete picture. Also, some histology professors feel that this textbook lacks sufficient details for their course. As you can see, the unique feature of this learning resource is also the chink in its armor.
  • Poor text layout - Although the actual content and writing-style is easy to understand, the layout of text and paragraphs is at times far from perfect. The bolding is inefficient in many sections since the highlight is restricted to one term or the subject of the paragraph only. In addition, many pages have barely any formatting or bullet points, meaning that you get hit by a wall full of text. It’s definitely not a pretty sight with a subject such as histology…

Junqueira's Basic Histology - Sample Page

  • Lack of interactivity and online resources - With so many academic textbooks offering you additional online resources, interactive atlases, and test questions, ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology 14th Edition' still lives in the Ice Age or the dinosaur era. It’s true, there is a website containing all the microscopy slides in a virtual format, but the most you can do with them is zoom in and out, and pan around. As if this was not already rudimentary enough, even moving the camera around causes lags, making the virtual slides rather ineffective. Not to mention the lack of interactive labels or highlights.
  • Inefficient self-assessments - Having MCQs and clinical scenarios at the end of each chapter is definitely a plus, but having them written down is an entirely different matter. Essentially, after you answer them once and check the solutions, you will remember the correct choice in some shape or form in future. As such, the self-assessments in ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology’ are somewhat of a one stop shop.
  • Textbook - The simple nature of this learning resource is perhaps the biggest hurdle you need to overcome if you’re thinking of buying this textbook. In spite of its basic nature and having ‘only’ 525 pages, when it comes to histology, every additional page read feels like climbing mount Everest. Not to mention all the neck-craning that comes with reading textbooks, the boredom, the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ feeling when carrying it around, and the associated hefty price-tag. You definitely don’t want to experience those for the one year duration of your histology course.

Junqueira's Basic Histology vs. Kenhub

As you can see, ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology 14th Edition’ has both its good and bad points. On one hand it definitely succeeds in explaining one of the most dreaded subjects in medical schools as thoroughly yet basically as possible. However, on the other side it can lack sufficient details for certain topics, it doesn’t have the clearest layout, and the lack of adequate online resources doesn’t help its cause either.

In this day and age, and with a subject like histology, you definitely need to learn ‘differently’ and as efficiently as possible. A great place to start would be Kenhub, an online learning platform that definitely keeps the pace with the 21st century and can spice up your learning in no-time. Here’s how it compares with ‘Junqueira's Basic Histology 14th Edition’:

Junqueira's Basic Histology vs. Kenhub

Videos, reading, quizzes, atlases - it does sound quite appealing to have complete freedom over the way you absorb knowledge, right? With Kenhub, this is easier than you think. After a long day of staring at powerpoint slides in your lectures, reading even more would feel like putting a nail in your coffin. For those moments, you can simply chose a video about the topic that you were planning to read about and watch one of our experts explaining it to you instead. Don’t worry, this won’t involve even more boring powerpoint slides, and our anatomy geeks are actually a friendly bunch!

What about if you want to refresh your memory on a certain tissue that you learned about ages ago? You can start doing one of our quizzes - they’re far more effective for long-term retention compared to simply reading. They’re also powered by spaced repetition and active recall, the scientifically proven magic bullets of learning. By the way, all of these features are fully portable and seamlessly adapt to your device of choice - so no heavy books needed!. What are you waiting for? Go try them out and bring your learning into the 21st century.

Ultimately, however, the choice boils down to you and your preferred ways of studying. You can purchase the so-called best learning resource on the planet, but if it simply doesn’t suit you, you will never take full advantage of it and nor will you ever enjoy using it.

Instead, we recommend trying out a few resources that appear to be compatible with what you’re looking for from a study resource, weighing up their pros and cons, and making your own subjective decision on which is ultimately the best for you. We hope this article helped to make your decision that little bit easier. Good luck!

Highlights

Strengths of 'Junqueira's Basic Histology':

  • Easy to understand and digest
  • It contains multiple styles of labelled illustrations ranging from microscopy slides to diagrams
  • 'Medical application' boxes add a touch of clinical relevance to the subject matter
  • Tables and summary sections provide you with the essential knowledge that you need to remember
  • You can test yourself using MCQ questions and self-assessments

Weaknesses of 'Junqueira's Basic Histology':

  • It can feel too basic at times
  • Certain pages have an extremely poor layout
  • The online atlas lacks proper interactivity and it has virtually no additional, online resources
  • The self-assessments are inefficient because they are not customizable or reproducible
  • Big, thick, heavy, and pricey textbook
Show references

References:

  • Review date: 29/08/2018
  • Reviewed edition: 14th
  • Indiana University School of Medicine: ‘Slides for Junquiera’s Basic Histology’, http://medsci.indiana.edu/junqueira/virtual/junqueira.htm, 2006

Author, review, layout:

  • Adrian Rad
  • Molly Smith
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