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Developing your literature search strategy in 5 easy steps

OK, so you have a research problem that you want to solve or answer using evidence based in the literature. You need to find the right literature and capture it by spreading your net wide, and in the right places. You need a strategy for searching the literature….a search strategy if you will. I hope that these 5 steps will get you to where you want to be.

search strategy

What is a search strategy?

1.A structured organisation of terms used to search a database

2.A document that shows how terms combine to retrieve the best results

3.Something that must be adapted for each database you use

4.Something which is tailored to the question you are trying to answer

5.A good search strategy is something that takes time to refine

Different ways to search the literature

1.Electronically

2.Manually

3.Snowballing of the literature (going from reference list to reference list to find what you  need.

4.We can do a rapid review of the literature or an exhaustive one

5.We can see what other published literature reviews have done and how they have found their literature for ideas.

6.Ask! (Librarians, authors etc.)… authors of great papers often know of other papers you may be looking for…why not ask them?

Step one: Define your research question or ‘problem’.

First…we will use this as an example: Does hand washing among midwives reduce postnatal infections? 

  Example:
P (Problem or Patient or Population) postnatal infections
I (intervention/indicator) hand washing
C (comparison) no hand washing; other solution; masks
O (outcome of interest) reduced infection

 

Whilst PICO can sometimes be seen as the go to tool for formulating your question..don’t be limited by it. Here are a few other tools to help your formulate your perfect research question…

Methodology  e.g. questionnaires

Issues e.g. ethical decision-making

Participants e.g. midwives or patients

—————————————————

Setting – Where? What is the context?

Perspective – For who?

Intervention (Subject of Interest)– What?

Comparison – What else?

Evaluation – What results?

————————————————————

Sample

P I Phenomenon of Interest

Design

Evaluation

Research type

————————————————————

Client – who is the service aimed at?

Location – where?

Improvement – what do you want to find out?

Professional – who is involved in providing/improving the service?

——————————————–

Context

Intervention

Mechanism

Outcome

———————————————-

Expectation—What do you want the information for?

Client Group.

Location.

Impact— What change are you looking for? How is this being measured?

Professionals.

Service—For example, community services, birth centres or accident and emergency.

Step two: choose which databases you will search

Different search databases should be searched separately as they each have their own dictionaries of terms and keywords. Each database is tailored toward a particular topic of interest. The following set of databases relate to healthcare topics.

1.Web of Science (strong coverage which goes back to 1990 and most of its journals written in English)

2.Scopus (Covers a superior number of journals but with lower impact and limited to recent articles)

3.CINHAL (Prime source of nursing and allied health literature)

4.Pubmed & MEDLINE (Great starting point for any health or medical literature search.)

5.Cochrane (The source of systematic reviews)

6.NHS Evidence & The TRIP database (Search a limited number of high quality sources)

7.PsychINFO (Prime source for psychology and psychiatry literature.)

8.AMED (Allied and Complementary Medicine Database)

9.HMIC (Health Information Management Consortium – great information from DoH and Kings Fund)

There are no strict rules as to how many databases you should search. That would depend on how thorough you are trying to be. Also, many databases will pick up duplicates for you…which you will later need to delete.

Step three: Identify and map your key concepts

A concept map is a visual representation of concepts within your research question or ‘problem’ and their relationships to each other.

To create a concept map:

  • Write down the main concepts which relate to your research question and circle them on a blank page.
  • Write down other words/concepts and ideas which relate to each of your concepts in groups. Draw lines between concepts to show how they are related.

concept map

Step four: Identify your key words

Some of these you may already have found in your concept mapping work, however, you really need to grab every keyword you can to get the best results…sometimes your databases will already have predefined keywords for you to use….helpful 🙂

To identify your own keywords, you will need to break down your own research question. I will go back to using our example.

Does Hand washing among midwives reduce Postnatal infections
‘OR’ ‘AND’ ‘OR’ ‘AND’ ‘OR’
Hand hygiene Midwifery staff Postpartum infections
‘OR’ Clean hands ‘OR’ Midwif* ‘OR’ After birth
‘OR’ Washed hands

 

 

Step five: Build your concepts and keywords into a search strategy

Sounds easy right? Well let me show you how to do this using an example from one of my published systematic literature reviews.

The questions relating to this review were…

1) What interventions have been developed to support midwives and/or student midwives in work-related psychological distress? and 2) What are the outcomes and experiences associated with the use of these interventions?

Key concepts have been underlined.

Below is a search strategy I built to answer these research questions. This was used to search one database only.

search strategy

As you can see, the search starts right from the bottom with the first concept ‘midwives’… the ‘population’. Each concept moving forward is grouped together with keywords combined with the boolean operator ‘OR’. When I need to combine concepts nearer the top, I combine them using the boolean operator ‘AND’. See below…

Image result for boolean operators

This search strategy also uses truncations, where I have entered the root of the word and then a (*) at the end. When you do this, the database will then return any ending of the root word. Another example of this would be ….child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood.

If a word you want to find is spelled in different ways, wildcards can also be used to substitute a symbol for one letter of a word. Examples of how you might use this may be

wom!n = woman, women
colo?r = color, colour

(Credits to https://libraries.mit.edu/experts/)

Click this link for a great example paper, where the authors have mapped their key concepts and search terms to their research questions and databases.

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I hope you find this ‘How to’ guide useful. I now look forward to you all going forth to develop and share your own search strategies with me. I can’t wait to see what problems you will solve 🙂

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

 

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Top tips for #FreshersWeek #freshers2017 #Uni #StudentLife from an academic midwife

Tis that time of year again when students from all over the world descend upon university campuses to embark upon a fun filled journey of learning, adventure and growth.

Having been in education now for a number of years, I think this must be close to my tenth freshers week! Every year I get the same buzzy feeling of excitement as the freshers week commences…

(Unless that is the same feeling of excitement you get when Santa is coming…oh come on…Autumn…I am already thinking about the festive season!)

The streets are full of vibrant things to do and get involved in…people are making friends and connections and everyone is ready to take on a new challenge in life!

The sad thing is…whether I wear my student ID badge, or my staff ID badge..I am seemingly passed by when the invites for the foam parties and other nights out are being dished out…(grump)!…hmm…I wonder why? 🤔🎓 Maybe it will be different this year…and if you do see me on campus…I would love to hear about your plans!

I will be involved in the #CovHLSFreshers Twitter takeover this year..Ooh..snazzy!

 

As well as other survival guides out there, I wanted to share some of my own hints and tips for freshers.

Tip One:

No matter how scared or excited you are during freshers week….I think there are a few quotes that you should memorize and repeat to yourself in times of need….

Image result for a little nonsense now and then quote

Image result for everything will be alright in the end

 

Image result for be who you are and say what you feel

Related image

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Tip Two:

Remember that there is no need to justify your course choice to anyone but yourself. This is your journey, your life now….trust yourself to make your own life choices. You got this!

Tip Three:

Find your tribe….Not necessarily those who look and talk like you…but those who will hear your voice, sing with you and lift you up. This could be your relevant student society or Twitter community..it could even be those you meet through doing what you love….hold on tight to these people for the ride…and make sure to lift each other up!

Tip Four:

Document your journey and take time to reflect. This experience will be over all too quickly and it’s going to be amazing! reflecting will help you to be mindful about your own situation and recognize your own achievements as your hard work pays off. Be grateful for 1 thing every day…however big or small…and celebrate the achievements of yourself and others every chance you get.

Tip Five:

Look after yourself. Self care can make your university experience a million times better. Take breaks, help yourself before you help others…and as for romance……

Image result for put your own oxygen mask on first quote

See->

10 Tips for Success & Self-Care for Academics

Category Archives: Student Tips 🎓

❤Welcome all!❤

See you on campus!

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

 

 

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How to conduct research: A dummy’s guide to conducting research

Image result for quote "I do research because"

Seminars held by the worlds top universities generally present the most up to date and respected ideas in relation to conducting research. Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a conference where several seminars were held over a one week period…How very convenient!…These seminars in combination were able to map out a broad blue print of how to conduct research for their audiences (myself and other chums).

As a result of attending these wonderful seminars, I am now able to translate what was shared into this dummy’s guide to conducting research. I write here not only to refresh my own knowledge in this area, but also in the hope that it may be of use to the readers of this post. Wish me luck!…

research

So why do we do research?…Because we have an idea?, a problem to solve?, or an area where a lack of knowledge resides?..(See ) …These are all valid reasons to conduct research within reason, but…What is research?…

Image result for quote on research is formalised curiosity

OK, so we need to define a research question…What question, need or idea are we trying to answer?..What itch do we have to scratch? We need to formulate a research question….and also formulate a research problem.

How to formulate a research problem

  • Explore the nature of the problem. Why is it a problem?..who does it affect?
  • Explore the context of the research problem. Where does it ‘sit’ among other things?
  • Define your variables. What would vary?…what can’t you control?…what would be the impact of that?
  • Think about what would happen if you didn’t address this problem. What would be the consequences of doing something else?
  • Define your objectives? What are you trying to achieve by doing this research?

How to formulate a research question

Think first…is your research question:

  • Interesting
  • Relevant
  • Focused
  • Answerable

Then…narrow your ideas down to develop a great research question.

Broad topic  Narrowed topic      Focused topic   Research Question
Children’s
health →
 Children and diabetes → School meals and sugar content→ Is there an association between sugar content in school meals and diabetes risk?
Walking → Walking related injury → Walking related injury and
adults→
How does Walking related injury affect
adults?
Bullying → Teenagers and
bullying →
Teen peer
pressure and aggressive behavior→
What role, if any, does
peer pressure play in the development of aggressive behavior
among teens?

                                          Image result for hypothesis

Image result for hypothesis

  1. Non directional hypothesis = Pregnant women will experience some change in their pattern of urination.
  2. Directional hypothesis = Pregnant women will urinate less frequently.
  3. Null hypothesis = A statistical assumption. e.g: There will be no difference in the frequency of urination for pregnant women who swim compared with those who do not swim.

And to test this theory…..(quasi-experimental or experimental study design)..we must ascertain the relationship between variables.

Components

Experimental group = Pregnant women swimming

Expected result = e.g Pregnant women will urinate less frequently

Comparison group = Pregnant women who do not swim

Image result for which research design

 

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Quantitative and qualitative research characteristics….

Characteristic Quantitative research Qualitative research
Philosophical origin Logical positivism Naturalistic/Interpretive
Focus

Reasoning

Concise and objective Broad and objective
Reasoning Logistic and deductive Dialectic and inductive
Basis of knowing Cause and effect relationships Meaning, discovery and understanding
Theoretical focus Tests theory Develops theory
Researcher involvement Control Shared interpretations
Methods of measurement Structured interviews, questionnaires, observations, scales or measurements Unstructured interviews and observations
Data Numbers Words
Analysis Statistical analysis Individual interpretations
Findings Generalisation, accept or reject theoretical propositions Uniqueness, understanding of new phenomena and/or theory

Image source and further reading = Crowe, Michael, and Lorraine Sheppard. “Qualitative and quantitative research designs are more similar than different.” Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice 8.4 (2010): 5.

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Quantitative data analysis methods Qualitative data analysis methods
Involve statistics/number analysis Text analysis
Seek deductive interences Seek inductive inferences
Focus on quantifiable phenomena (comparisons, differences, trends and relationships) Focus on meanings (themes)
Involve data clustering analysis for relationships in non-hypothesis testing Involve data structuring and coding into themes and groups.
Involve systematic predetermined analysis Involve in-depth fluid analysis
Value-free enquiry Considers the impact a researcher may have on others’ values
Objective Subjective
Narrow and specific General and broad

Image result for variables

Variable = Anything that varies

Independent variable = does not depend on that of another. Can be introduced or withdrawn by the researcher

Dependent variable = Depends on the independent variables and it’s out come variable e.g: Trauma, bleeding, symptom changes.

Extraneous variable = Unwanted influence that may interfere with either the dependent and/or independent variables.

Demographic variable = Age, gender, race etc.

Top tips:

  • We can ask..’What is the relationship between two or more variables?’ However, we cannot infer ’cause and effect’.
  • Experimental study designed (hypothesis testing) is considered to be the ‘Gold standard’ for evidence. However, you can gather a multitude of this type of evidence via systematic review and/or meta analysis (See more information on these here or in the image below).
  • Ethical considerations should be revisited throughout the study, as well as before commencement.
  • Take control of any extraneous variables by random sampling (from a larger sample base), random assignment (into either a control or experimental group), selecting a homogeneous (similar on an important variable) sample and by matching the control to the experimental group on important variables.

In conducting a systematic review, you can also arrive at new research problems and questions…meaning that the possibilities of conducting research are endless!..

 

But why do all of this hard work if you are not going to share what you have found, analysed, discussed and then concluded?

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It is important to publish and share your work at both a high and low level, so that new knowledge is available to everyone!…Students and professors alike should publish. It is never too soon or early in your career to get started on this. If you are not confident about writing or publishing your work, contact me and I will be happy to partner with you throughout the process.

Image result for methods of research data analysis

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

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How to Structure a Research Paper

OK, there are many ways to structure a research paper, and I would urge everyone to follow the guidelines of which ever journal, school or university they are writing for. However, have you ever wondered how to structure a research paper? (A typical one anyway)!…Well I have put together one structure which you may find useful in your writing and planning (I certainly have).

Image result for writing

Introduction:

  • State what this paper going to do, say or explore
  • State why your topic or ‘problem’ is important – why should we care about it?
  • State what we already know about this issue, and what is yet to learn
  • What are you aiming to do with this work? If you are answering a problem, what are your research question(s)?

Background:

  • If the word count allows, give the reader a broader picture of your topic and what you are trying to highlight with the problem you have identified
  • What is the prevalence of your problem? – Give us some stats
  • What could be changed for the better? – Tell us what has already been tried

Methods:

  • Tell us exactly what you have done in order to get the results and findings of this study
  • Tell us where your study took place and in what context
  • State the type of study you chose to use, and why that particular design was appropriate in your case
  • Who did you include in your study? – Tell us about them
  • State how you recruited this sample of participants for your study in detail – How many? where? why?
  • Describe in detail the process you went through to gather your data
  • If you use an intervention, describe it in detail
  • Tell us whether or not there were any variables in this study, is there anything we should know about?
  • How did you collect or ‘extract’ data for this study? – Tell us, and be sure to mention any instruments or tools that were used in this data collection, and why they were chosen
  • State in detail how you analysed the data you collected

Results:

  • How did it all go? Tell us who responded, what your drop out rates where and how many participants took part overall
  • Describe those who did take part – were they men? women? old? young?… where were they from and what conditions did they have?
  • Go back to your research question – Tell us what key findings relate back to answering these questions and how
  • What else did you find out – Tell us the interesting bits, the correlations, the secondary findings which came out of your work

Discussion:

  • Give the reader a quick recap summary of your overall results/findings
  • Discuss what you found in relation to previous research – How do your findings differ from or confirm previous conclusions?
  • Discuss the implications of what you have found – what might change? and who might benefit from knowing?
  • Make sure you do not overstate your findings or exaggerate (I am guilty of this too)! – List the limitations and strengths of your study
  • Offer some thoughts on what research may come next

Conclusions:

If you have covered all of the points above, all you should need to do here is describe what your paper has done, and what is has added to the literature. Leave the reader with some closing thoughts and remarks, before declaring any conflicts of interest and/or funding sources.

Image result for you don't have to be great to start but you have to start to be great

Top academic writing tips:

  • Consider whether your work may be improved by applying a theory to underpin it
  • Think about which other frameworks and/or evidence may underpin your work
  • Consider using a reporting framework or guideline to strengthen the standard of reporting in your work (also….ensure that the framework is suited to the type of research you are doing) – See list here. 
  • How else might you ensure rigor in your research? – Use peer review, risk of bias and quality appraisal tools to check your work
  • Be proud of what you have achieved… always. You are always ahead of those who have yet to begin 💜🎓💜

Further reading:

Huth EJ. How to Write and Publish Papers in the Medical Sciences, 2nd edition. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins,1990.
Browner WS. Publishing and Presenting Clinical Research. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 1999.
Devers KJ , Frankel RM. Getting qualitative research published. Educ Health 2001; 14: 109–117.
Docherty M, Smith R. The case for structuring the discussion of scientific papers. Br Med J 1999; 318: 1224–1225.
Perneger, T V, Hudelson P M; Writing a research article: advice to beginners. Int J Qual Health Care 2004; 16 (3): 191-192. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzh053
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If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaro; The Academic Midwife; This blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤