Obtaining research information from publications and an introduction to basic critiquing skills.
As well as the appropriate presentation of your work for academic assignments, it is important that your statements are supported by research based evidence.
In this last part of MIDIRS study skills series, you are taken through a brief introduction to how the evidence-base for practice has developed and how this has resulted in resources being made available to you which contain information that is reasonably reliable and current. The use of systematic reviews and meta-analysis originated with the Cochrane Collaboration and these are now regularly used in the development of clinical guidelines, which are then part of the standards expected for care in the UK.
Another part of the information provided in this section relates to access to and management of databases that can lead you to the reference details of research or other information that you will need to support your text. You can use a wide range of published material to explain, explore and discuss key ideas and theories which might relate to your topic. However, as a general rule of thumb, anything you present as information requires a verifiable source, and it is only when you are drawing these key thoughts together that you can express your own views about what you have found or what you think it all means.
If you are looking at the MIDIRS Reference Database there is already quite a lot of help on the website to get you started in your search for information. An article in MIDIRS Midwifery Digest also sets out the basic principles of using the database (Brumby 2010) and any of MIDIRS information team will be pleased to help you if needed.
As well as being able to find sources of information, you also need to be able to assess whether the information contained in them is accurate and whether the results presented are reliable. Where a publication arises from a research study, then you need to undertake some form of critique to ensure that the information is correct, appropriate and relevant to your text. A basic outline is given to help you understand the standard expected of most research undertaken with the context of health and health services. It is important to access the whole article reporting a research study as this will give you the information you need to decide on how well, or otherwise, the research has been conducted in order to meet the aims of the study as intended. Even when a study has been published in a reputable journal, there still might be aspects of the research that lead you to ask questions about it. The parts that are missing are often just as, if not even more, important than the parts that have been included. You may be using information that is not based on research; this might be comments on care or government policies for example. Where the information is to be used to support an argument, there is still a need to ensure its relevance with regard to the topic under discussion.
The skills needed to undertake reviews or critiques of research studies are part of a much wider scope of understanding research in all its various formats. This is beyond the field of this guide which can only be an introduction to the process. There is however, a comprehensive resource list for you to delve into when the time is right.
- Brumby M (2010) MIDIRS unveils new look Reference Database. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest 20(4):421-2.
- The Cochrane Collaboration (this includes access to Cochrane Reviews and the Cochrane Library) www.cochrane.org
- National Centre for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) www.nice.org.uk
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