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How do you decide which type of review to use? a guide to beat the literature reviewing blues…

Recently, I have been in search of the perfect methodology for reviewing the literature. So many options…benefits, limitations and choices…I found it really hard to choose the right one.. Which reviewing methodology would Goldilocks choose? which one is just right for you?.. After all of my searching, I thought it my be useful to make a listed guide to what I have found…
So… first of all, what is a literature review?…as always, the academic community will debate around this subject… but feel free to browse my  ‘Guide to Literature Reviewing for Student Midwives & Student Nurses’ here

Perceived strengths.  The literature review method seeks to identify what has been accomplished previously, allowing for consolidation, for building on previous work, for summation, for avoiding duplication and for identifying omissions or gaps.

Perceived weaknesses.  Literature reviews lack an explicit intent to maximise scope or analyse data collected. Any conclusions they may reach are therefore open to bias from the potential to omit, perhaps inadvertently, significant sections of the literature or by not questioning the validity of statements made. Additionally, authors may only select literature that supports their world view, lending undue credence to a preferred hypothesis.

Grant, Maria J., and Andrew Booth. “A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies.” Health Information & Libraries Journal 26.2 (2009): 91-108.

But there are many types of literature review that can do much more than simply review the literature…so how do you know which one to choose?

discovery

In order to decide which type of review to use, you will need to decide what you are trying to do, find out, or achieve.

Trying to develop a new concept? theory? or model?

Then you may want to explore the use of a critical literature review methodology. This methodology allows you to demonstrate how you have not only extensively researched a topic, but that you can critically evaluate the literature and take new conclusions and interpretations from it. You can then present these new interpretations as a new hypothesis or model… sounds good right?

Search

Not systematic – You are searching to find the most relevant stuff.

Appraisal

No need to evaluate quality -You are looking for literature which is fit for purpose.

Synthesis

Usually narrative, but you can be creative with this.

Analysis

Needs to arrive at a new conceptual theory or hypothesis of some kind.

Cautions

Every conclusion you draw will be subjective – Others may not be able to repeat your process

Looking to identify gaps in research?

Then you may want to conduct a mapping review of the literature. This methodology allows you to map out and categorise the existing literature on a topic. From this you can identify what other kinds of reviews or research need doing, as you identify gaps in the literature.

Search

Can be systematic, but searching is usually bound by time constraints, so this can be determined in line with your scope.

Appraisal

No need to evaluate quality

Synthesis

Use tables and graphics

Analysis

Quantify the research found and outline study types – suggest areas of future research.

Cautions

Can be overly descriptive, try to characterise studies on more than the basis of study design

Want to combine statistical data to provide more precise results?

In this case you may consider doing a the meta-analysis (A type of analysis done within a literature review – so really, this is one component of or add on to a systematic review).

Search

Thorough, comprehensive, systematic – Can use funnel plot

Appraisal

Use quality appraisal to guide inclusion/exclusion and/or sensitivity analyses

Synthesis

Use tables, graphics and narrative

Analysis

Analyses measures of effect numerically

Cautions

Your review can only be as good as the included studies allow..also, there is little value in comparing very diverse study types.

Want to combine quantitative with qualitative?

If you want to explore a complex problem using both qualitative and quantitative literature, then a mixed-methods review is for you…

Search

Your strategy must capture both quantitative and qualitative research

Appraisal

Need to use an appraisal tool appropriate for both qualitative, quantitative and/or mixed-methods research

Synthesis

Use tables, graphics and narrative – Present qualitative and quantitative results separately

Analysis

Look for correlations, gaps in the literature and draw conclusions based on combined findings.

Cautions

Theoretical and methodological challenges in bringing together qualitative and quantitative studies

Need to assess what is already known about a topic?

A rapid review is for you.

Search

Determined by time constraints

Appraisal

Formal quality appraisal required

Synthesis

Use tables and narrative

Analysis

Look for directions of effect, and quality and quantity of the literature

Cautions

Doing things quickly…you always run the risk of bias and mistakes are more easily made

Want to know the size and scope of available research?

A Scoping review is for you..

Search

You may want to perform your search as a research in progress

Appraisal

No formal quality appraisal is required

Synthesis

Use tables and narrative.. you can also use commentary

Analysis

Look for directions for future research – Use this to form new research questions.

Cautions

This is not usually a final output…rather a means to an end

Want to address really current matters?

When you want to offer new perspectives on a current issue or point out a new area for further research, you may consider conducting a state-of-the-art review.

Search

Comprehensive and current

Appraisal

No formal quality appraisal is required

Synthesis

Use tables and narrative

Analysis

Present a current state of knowledge and list priorities for future research

Cautions

Beware of subject experts’ particularly idiosyncratic and personal perspectives on current and future priorities.

Want to systematically search for, appraise and synthesis research evidence?

If you are looking to do more than a just review or systematize the literature, then a systematic literature review is for you.

Search

Comprehensive exhaustive and systematic

Appraisal

Formal quality appraisal is required – This can be used to exclude research of poor quality

Synthesis

Use tables and narrative

Analysis

Present recommendations for future research based on what is known, what remains unknown, and what we are still unsure about…The review should answer a broad research question.

Cautions

Adhere to reporting guidelines for a strong output.

Want to create an accessible and usable document in relation to a broad issue?

If you would like to highlight reviews that address interventions and their results in relation to a broad issue, then an umbrella review is for you.

Search

Only searches for component reviews

Appraisal

Formal quality appraisal  for reviews is required

Synthesis

Use tables, graphics and narrative

Analysis

Present recommendations for future research based on what is known, what remains unknown, and what we are still unsure about…The review should consolidate all that is known about one broad issue.

Cautions

Requires the pre-existence of the narrower component reviews

Want to know what works, for whom, in what circumstances . . . and why?

If you want to unpack the mechanism(s) of how and why complex interventions thrive or fail, in particular setting(s), then the realist review methodology is for you!

Search

Highly detailed and systematic

Appraisal

Justify how judgments were made

Synthesis

Use tables, graphics and narrative – include information on the constructs analysed and describe the analytic process.

Analysis

Present the key findings with a specific focus on theory building and testing

Cautions

Ensure that the RAMESES (Realist And MEta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards) guidelines and standards are adhered to for a strong output.

workings

So…have we made a decision, are we sitting comfortably? are we ready to begin?…Let me know how you get on, and please share any additionally methodologies I may have missed.
Until next times, take care of yourselves…and each other 🌟🎓🌟
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The 5 stages of academic rejection grief

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An academic career has been described as a journey filled with brutal, unrelenting rejection. I frequently find myself having to pick myself up from rejection. It is hard.

In academia..your peers will be some of the most intelligent, creative and driven people in the world. – I have found this to be very true. I am in awe of them all.

Additionally, from the inside, all you ever see is tweets and Facebook posts about how everyone else is winning awards, being featured by the press, or getting cited a thousand times.….Yes. I am constantly celebrating the achievements of my peers…. this is wonderful!…but yes… this does make my own rejections even harder.

Whether it is a paper in a journal, a grant application, your viva or an idea that you have lovingly nurtured and come to love and cherish, there are 5 stages of rejection grief that are more or less inevitable (for me anyway).

Having your work rejected can feel like you have just spent a lifetime nurturing and rearing a beloved child, only to find out that it has grown into an evil and murderous human being in need of ‘Major revisions’!

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1. Denial and isolation

This is wrong. It cannot be. I was so certain that my work was beautiful!…I don’t want to talk about it 😦

2. Anger

How dare the reviewer pull apart my work in this way…do they know nothing???!!

3. Bargaining

OK, I will take a look at the revisions. I will accept comment 4 and 5, but I’m not doing what reviewer 3 wants!

4. Depression

Gah!….these revisions are so laborious and depressing.

5. Acceptance

Oh…OK…phew… it is done. I am happy with it. I am at peace and ready to resubmit!

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Feedback is golden…but it can be challenging to accept…it feels like rejection….but we are all actually moving forward ..all of the time. See here about the importance of feedback. I don’t believe that managers, reviewers or examiners are out to get us (not all of them anyway)….and so we must remember that none of this is personal. It is not a rejection of you as an entity, it is a very subjective point of view which may actually improve the work you do.

Try to portray humility and gratitude…Rather than any knee jerk feelings…

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“I’m sorry… you’ve got major revisions to do”

Work that needs major revisions? How will people judge that? How will I be judged? is everything I thought I knew a lie?..what would another reviewer have said? (Most of the time the reviewers all want different things in any case)!

Self doubt, career doubt, black and white thinking and a feeling of doom sets in. ‘I am not good enough’…I begin to catastrophise. But then I reflect…what is really behind success?

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I think that my approach to revisions needs major revisions. I continue to work on these revisions daily….

Every piece of work that I have ever revised following feedback or rejection has improved. Yet every time…I have to put all of my toys back into my pram before I begin the process of making any changes. I go back and forward around the 5 stages of academic grief..round and around…but it always ends up fine in the end….mostly it ends up better.

I live in constant fear of rejection, failure and disappointing those who I respect most… But we must try to get over our fear of failure and rejection, or we loose the opportunities we have to learn and grow.

Remember…things always feel better in the morning…you will not always feel this way. The cure for academic rejection grief is not always instant success…it is compassion for both yourself and others.

Until next time, take care of yourselves and eachother ⭐🎓⭐

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Why we should welcome feedback and listen to those who raise concerns in both healthcare and research

Criticism and feedback can feel uncomfortable to both give and receive. It can be an awkward exchange, where both parties may be reluctant to let their guard down, concede to oversights, reveal any flaws and relinquish any feelings of responsibility. It can also be incredibly frustrating on both sides.

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But lets look at both sides of the coin rationally. Firstly, Why would someone offer feedback?

  • They want to make something better
  • They see an opportunity to improve something
  • They want to help you
  • They want something corrected
  • You, or someone else have asked them for feedback
  • They want to offer you their unique outsider/fresh eyes view of something that you may not be privy to.

These are all gifts, learning opportunities and avenues toward creating our best outputs. Here, we theorise that everyone who offers feedback has good intentions, which some may argue is unrealistic and naive. However, I am personally unwilling to lose out on the potentially invaluable gold dust of feedback for the sake of those who wish to meddle in mischief. The vast majority of those who enter both the healthcare and academic professions do so in order to contribute positively.

In order to feel valued and perform to the best of their abilities, healthcare staff must feel heard. This is the same for those in research. As such, whether we agree with the feedback we are given, it must be heard, examined, considered and then either acted upon or rebutted respectfully.

If you are doing your best, feel passionately about what you are trying to achieve and have worked hard to achieve something amazing, it can be hard to hear that there may be cracks in your work, despite all of your well intended efforts. You are also in the job to give your best and contribute positively. But you cannot know everything…so keep listening to those who have the ‘fresh eyes’ to see what you may not.

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Denial only denies you an opportunity to do better.

Lets look outside the box:

What is going on here?

Restaurant owner:

  • Wants her food to be good
  • Believes she has done her best
  • Defensive and protective about her achievements

Customer & Gordon Ramsey:

  • Wants good food
  • Wants mistakes corrected
  • Wants things to be better
  • Wants to be helpful and constructive
  • Has a new ‘Fresh eyes’ perspective from outside the organisation

The negative response to this feedback could mean:

  • The customer probably won’t return to the restaurant
  • The customer will avoid offering any further feedback
  • A missed opportunity to make things better
  • The expert will at some point back away from offering further assistance
  • The restaurant may fail to reach its full potential

FYI – These restaurant owners always achieve great things for their restaurants once they listen and act upon feedback

Reflection: Can we apply these roles to some of the roles active healthcare and research? (Including our own)!

Don’t despair!… If you get everything right, all of the time, you miss new opportunities to learn

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Some of my early academic papers were really very terrible. Some of the work I do now is muddled at first. I make mistakes, everyone does. I am in no way perfect, nor do I alone have all of the skills to change the world. I need help. I welcome help and input from those who can fill in for the skills I do not have and the knowledge I cannot yet see. This is why I welcome feedback and listen to those who raise concerns. In fact I grab every opportunity to do so.

In exchange for this, my work improves, I see new opportunities to thrive, new ideas are generated and collective collaborations make our outputs much stronger. Success.

If I had been steadfast in feeling that because I was so passionate about the work I was doing, nothing could possibly be wrong with it, then I would have missed the chance to create something better. Yes, it used to be frustrating to hear criticism. But this frustration can be turned around.

Once you see that a criticism is not a personal attack, it becomes a welcome guest.

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More recently, I had a paper accepted ‘No revisions required’. I was worried. I wanted feedback, I wanted changes made, I wanted other people to weigh in on my work and check for anything I may have missed. This is because I knew it would be a stronger paper having been ripped apart and then put back together again….made better.

Everything I have ever done has always been made better when others have offered their ‘fresh eyed’ feedback. Here are my top tips for making the most out of feedback.

  • Welcome and invite it
  • Listen to it, consider it and evaluate it
  • Let down your defenses (It is not an attack – people want to help)
  • Feedback on your feedback – Tell them how it was used
  • Actively search for those who can offer a ‘fresh eyed’ perspective on your project
  • Never attack those who offer you valuable feedback (They will avoid doing it again!)
  • Know that it is OK not to be perfect, you cannot do everything all of the time
  • Avoid blinkered approaches like ‘I know what is best’ & ‘Nothing can be wrong because I worked so hard for it not to be’.
  • Offer your own feedback to others – It will not only help them, but it will make you feel good and contribute toward the collective goal!

We all want to be the best we can be. We need to role-model and make things better for everyone. We need to lift each other up with support and praise.

Let go of your defenses and welcome new opportunities for success.

Free stock photo of typography, school, training, board

Until next time, look after yourselves and each other 💙💜💚

 

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Why Midwifery and Nursing Students Should Publish their Work and How

Both midwifery and nursing students do wonderful work. Here, I am referring to ‘the student’ as any nurse or midwife who is currently enrolled in a postgraduate course, as well as those aspiring to be and working towards becoming nurses and/or midwives.

Students have a unique perspective on things, which those in academia or teaching may not be privy to. As such, any contribution from the student groups is a valuable one.

I generally hold the belief that if you are doing something worthwhile, you should share it. Throughout your student journey, you are learning things which generally, other people know about. However, when you are doing your literature review/thesis or dissertation, you are (or should be) contributing to new knowledge.

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Students often say to me “I have never published before, and I am ‘only’ a student”…. Never think that your contributions hold no value. No doubt they will be valuable to the whole midwifery community, because your insights invariably are.

Also….we need more midwives and nurses to join the academic community!

Nobody can know everything, and nobody can conduct all of the literature reviews that need to be done (and these are always of great value to the nursing and midwifery communities as a whole)! As such, your new and original contributions are highly valuable. You also worked really hard on them!

So…Why not share your work through publication?…How will your new knowledge ever be widely shared among those looking to discover new knowledge and learn if you don’t?

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So how can I publish my work?

Firstly, what do academic journals publish?

  • Opinion pieces
  • Literature reviews
  • Summary papers
  • Original research projects

These are the most common things that journals publish, and also the most likely things you will be working on. So think about how your work stands out, how is it original? If it is similar to another paper…are you building on what has previously been found? Try to look on Google Scholar initially to see what has already been published in your area of interest.

You should be referencing widely as a student (Not Heat Magazine, but high quality papers!)…Look at your reference lists – what have these authors published? in which journals? This activity may guide you to the kind of thing you might want to publish and where.

COLLABORATE – Ask one of your tutors or another academic midwife in a similar field to co-author a paper with you. This may mean that you can gain some valuable mentorship from another nurse/midwife, and also strengthen your paper with new ideas and a ‘fresh eyes’ approach. They may also have published papers before, and so can guide you in the right direction.

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Where should I publish my work?

As you may be fairly early on in your quest to journey down the publishing path… you may want to begin with some widely read and frequently published journals such as:

  • The British Journal of Midwifery
  • The Nursing Times
  • Midirs
  • The British Journal of Nursing
  • The practicing midwife
  • The Nursing Standard

However, you may also want to aim for more international journals, and publish elsewhere. This website is very good at helping you to find the right journal for your paper.

The journal Impact Factor is the average number of times articles from the journal published in the past two years have been cited in the JCR year. The Impact Factor is calculated by dividing the number of citations in the JCR year by the total number of articles published in the two previous years.

Journal Rank (SJR indicator) is a measure of scientific influence of scholarly journals that accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals where such citations come from.

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Once you find the journal you would like to publish in…read their own explanation of what they want to publish – they will often say what they are looking for, or have a call for a specific research topic they have coming up. This may mean that you could contribute towards a special journal issue on a shared topic/theme.

Check out what they have published over the last few months… does it resemble the kind of paper you are trying to publish? Could you model your own paper to emulate the kind of things that are already being published..makes sense right?

Then…. When we have read our paper many times over with ‘fresh eyes’, we make our final edits in partnership with our co-authors….and submit!..

But what’s the process for doing this?

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In my experience, the journey from submission to publication usually takes around 3-4 months (Make sure to submit any revisions ASAP)!

I’m Published….what now?

Let the world know! – Share share share! This was the whole reason you published your work… so that others could read and learn about what you found. Your paper is important!…People will want to read it. Blog about it, share it via social media and email it to your professional colleagues. See my advice on using social media here.

You are looking for impact. Once you are published, you may want to track your Altmetrics score. Remember to add the paper to Linkedin, Research gate and academia.edu where people can find your work more easily…

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The publishing journey is certainly an emotional and professional roller coaster where rejections can wound and successes can be truly empowering! Try to enjoy the peer review process as a positive thing. Any criticism and reflection will only make your paper better in the long run – don’t despair…it is rare to get papers accepted for publication without any revisions at all!

 It will all be worth it in the end I promise!…and if its not worth it…then its not the end..Good Luck!

Until next time…Look after yourselves, and each other! 💛💙💜💚

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Feeling a Little Tense? A guide for Student Midwives and Student Nurses on Grammatical Writing Styles – Essay Tips

 

There are a few questions I get asked by students on ‘The Grammatical Person…’

  • Which tense should I write in?
  • Should I write in the first person?
  • How do I get an A grade in my student essay?

So I thought I would write a short blog on this topic – I hope it may be of help to some people. However, I do not claim to be a grammatical ninja…so please do consult with your own tutors and refer to your own university guidelines and learning outcomes for a more personalised approach.

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The Basics

Who is speaking in your essay? If it is an informal reflection, a diary or a blog, it will generally be your voice that we want to hear (first person). Speaking in the second person voice usually works well for advertising or promotional materials, however, it rarely becomes a feature in academia. Writing in the third person is usually the most scientific way of writing things… and so

  • the person speaking (first person)
  • the person listening or being spoken to (second person)
  • the person being spoken about (third person)
First Person

 

Subjective Case Objective Case Possessive Case
I, we Me, us My/mine/our/ours
Second Person you you You/yours
Third person (Singular) he (masculine)

she (feminine)

it (neuter)

him (masculine)

her (feminine)

it (neuter)

his/his (masculine)

her/hers (feminine)

its/its (neuter)

Third person (plural) They Them Their/theirs/his/hers

There are four present tense forms in English:

Tense Form
Present simple: I work
Present continuous: I am working
Present perfect: I have worked
Present perfect continuous: I have been working

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So what about the student midwife’s or student nurse’s essay?

Well..Think of your essay/thesis/dissertation/research as a person/thing.

What is it going to do? What has it done? What is it doing?

Examples:

Introduction – “This essay will describe and explore the various factors relating to the experience of women during the postnatal period”

Background – “The literature suggests that new mothers find it hard to bond with their babies where they experience a lack of compassion from those around them (references)”

Methodology – “This research firstly looked to explore the literature in relation to wound healing in diabetics. It did this by ….”

Results – “The research data collected within this research via a series of qualitative interviews highlights that midwives feel better able to communicate with doctors if the doctors are nice to them. These midwives also became better practitioners as they communicated with each other more effectively”

Discussion – “It is interesting to note that the results presented within this research suggest that home birth is a less safe option for childbearing women, as many of these studies fail to look at home birth in the wider context and only focus upon…”

Conclusion – “This dissertation has outlined 32 interventions which assist medication adherence in patient groups who are reported to experience symptoms of poor mental health.”

Reflection – “Throughout the process of writing this essay, I found it refreshing to discover how I could enhance my critical thinking by synthesizing the results of my research in line with the findings presented. As a nurse, I have previously only tried to interpret the literature thematically, and so in taking this new approach, I have now been able to develop my skills.”

Do you see?… as the essay progresses…so does the past and present tense. Additionally, the research/essay/dissertation remains to be a separate entity from the writer. This is how most scientific papers are written. Only within the reflective section has the writer referred to themselves (this may be required for some essays, but generally not in scientific papers).

 

Lastly:

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I hope this will help some students to clarify how they would like to present their work.

See my 15 Top Essay Writing Tips for Midwifery and Nursing Students here

Also…

See my guide to literature reviewing here

Until next time – Look after yourselves and each other 💛💙💜💚

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Masterclass: 10 Top Tips for Winning a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) fellowship award

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This week, I have been engaging with National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funders, in a ‘bid’ to learn more about the fellowships currently available to researchers. This masterclass was held at @unibirmingham, and it really was a great opportunity to speak to the funders and get some sound advice on how and what to apply for. In this blog I will share 10 top tips which have been formulated as a result of attending this masterclass. I hope this may help other applicants (like myself) to maximise their chance of success.

  1. Firstly, know which type of award is best for you and your future plans and ideas. I will be applying for a post-doctoral fellowship as an early career researcher.

 

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2. Contact the Research Design Service early…talk through your ideas, take advice and learn all you can. This service can point you towards other team members, experts to talk to and new ways of thinking. They can be involved at every stage of your application and they really do give great feedback.

3. Once you have the basics of your project together, think about designing the right team. If you are planning at RCT for instance, who is on your team who can help you with that? Do they have the right expertise? Seek out the right mentors, collaborate outside of your institution, start building relationships with people who you can work with throughout your fellowship (and hopefully throughout your career)! The NIHR want to see that you will be well supported to succeed.

 

What are the chances of success?

Competition is fierce! – Make sure you stand out!

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4. Make your application logical, clear and really show that you can demonstrate the impact and trajectory of your research. How will you disseminate your research (other than papers and social media) – Could you make a film? Hold a dissemination event? Additionally, make sure you answer every section in detail and check your application against the current guidance materials.

See full and official NIHR guidance here

5. Set out your own personal career goals and create a comprehensive training plan. This is where most applications fail. This is not just a list of courses you will take. This is about who will mentor you, where you will learn, can you arrange a secondment? Work experience? International conferences? – How will you grow and develop into an independent researcher? – Why should they invest in you as a person?

 

 

6. How will you involve patients, end users and the public in your research? Patient and public involvement (PPI) will form a key component within your application, and should feature throughout your research plans. Involve is a great place to start. You can apply for a small £500 grant to carry out PPI activities before submitting your fellowship application, ask your regional RDS service for more details, and be sure to include the results of these activities within your application!

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7.What if you get called for an interview? Make sure you know your application inside out (it may be a long time since you submitted your application – and you may be asked some really complex questions by people who are not experts in your field!)

 

 

8. Be sure to have mock interviews with your peers (they will be much harder on you than the interview panel). Challenge yourself, be willing to change your ideas in response to feedback. Embrace every opportunity to improve!

9. Be yourself. Yes you will be nervous, but the panel wants to see who they are investing in. Its OK to show personality and be ambitious. They want to invest in new talent, the research stars of the future. Show them your potential. Don’t be afraid to take criticism – engage in constructive dialogue throughout, yet leave the panel with a punchy take away message where they can see your potential and future trajectories.

10. Be on time – don’t miss deadlines, arrive early to the interview and be ready to showcase yourself and your ideas. The NIHR want to fund you…they want to spend tax payers money wisely. Leave them in no doubt that both you, and your project are worth it. You are the future the world needs to see!

 

See full and official NIHR guidance here

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Until next time, look after yourselves & each other..💜

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A Guide to Literature Reviewing for Student Midwives & Student Nurses

Recently, I have had some midwifery (and nursing) students ask me about how to write their dissertation (Usually a literature review)…

Frequent questions included:

  • How to write a midwifery dissertation
  • How to write a nursing dissertation
  • How to structure a literature review
  • How to do research in midwifery
  • How to do research in nursing
  • How to bring the evidence together
  • How to make a well structured argument

This fairly long blog post may answer some of these questions for nursing and midwifery students…

See also my 15 Top Essay Writing Tips for Midwifery and Nursing Students here

Part of my work involves being a facilitator for problem based learning. Through this role, I enjoy supporting undergraduate health care students to study and develop their skills in evidence based practice. I do not claim to be an academic genius, and many of the rules in academia seem to be subjective in any case. However, in response to students asking for some suggestions and guidance, I hope that this simple and loose guide to literature reviewing may act as reference material for some student nurses and midwives working towards their dissertations or indeed any other essays and beyond.

Literature reviewing for dummies

(except you are not a dummy!)

Below I have written a very simplified example of a literature review. This is based upon a fictional subject which holds no relation to either midwifery or nursing practice. However, these methods may be applied to any subject in either nursing or midwifery practice.. you just need to replace my words with nursing or midwifery words as required.

Note: Although this may be a starting point to get you thinking about structuring an essay, literature review or dissertation please be mindful that one size may not fit all situations. Also, please do not take this example as a literal quick fix that will magically translate your work into A* material… always speak to your own tutors throughout the process of your writing in order to make sure that you are staying right on track.

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Title: Make sure it states clearly what your essay will be about, what it will do and explore, and how you went about doing what you have done:

How do 20 to 30 year old’s experience vintage tea parties? A narrative literature review.

With this title I am clearly setting up the parameters of what I am going to be looking at. I am also presenting a clear and answerable question which chooses a population of 20 to 30 year old’s to look at, and an ‘intervention’ or ‘interaction’ with a vintage tea party to explore. I am also telling my reader straight away that I will be exploring this topic and trying to answer my question by reviewing the relevant literature (a literature review).

Introduction: Make sure that you tell the reader exactly what this essay is going to do and produce. You will also want to set out a little bit about why you have chosen to look at your particular topic.

Introduction

Vintage tea parties are becoming increasingly popular among 20 to 30 year old’s (Vintage quarterly, 2016). This may suggest that populations within this age group enjoy hosting and attending tea parties, yet it is not yet known how this particular population experience vintage tea parties around the world. As 20 to 30 year old’s look to enjoy more social activities and enhance their social well-being, it will be important to understand how and why they may experience vintage tea parties as either a negative or positive social venture. This review aims to unite the evidence in relation to how 20 to 30 year old’s experience tea parties around the world. It will do this by reviewing the relevant literature and presenting it’s findings narratively in order to produce a global overview of current understanding.

Background: Give the reader a little bit of history to the topic in focus. Set the scene and entice your reader to learn more.

Background

Humans have enjoyed socialising with other humans for approximately 200,000 years (Human socialisation journal, 2014). Many of these social activities have often involved food and drink (Food and drink journal, 2013). They have also been used as a means to unify various groups of people, and allow new generations of humans to meet new tribes of people (Tribal weekly, 2015). Along with food and drink, social events in history have often involved music making, artworks and entertainments (Entertainment journal, 2013). More recently, these social events have introduced the concept of ‘themed’ social events where participants often enjoy a changed reality for a short period of time (Party time monthly, 2014). However, it is not yet known which particular components in combination enhance the experience of event participants.

Tea parties are one way that humans often come together in a bid to enjoy social interaction with food, drink and merriment (International Tea Party Journal 2015). The concept of a vintage themed tea party is a relatively new one, and is an activity currently most popular within social groups aged between 20 to 30 years old (Vintage parties quarterly, 2016). This age group is typically one which looks to enjoy a healthy work/life balance and frolic with similar social groups (Frolicking International, 2016). Vintage tea parties may be one way in which this group may enjoy a fruitful social life, yet it is not known which particular elements of a vintage tea party are most efficacious when brought together in unison. Therefore, it will be important to explore the literature in relation to how this particular age group experiences vintage tea parties, and which particular elements of a vintage tea party may come together to optimise this experience for future social occasions of this type.

Methodology: How did you search for your answers? Give as much detail as you can. What did you do? How? Where did your results and answers come from? How did you extract what you wanted from what you found? How are you going to share this and make your argument? Why?

Methodology

The literature in relation to how 20 to 30 year old’s experience vintage tea parties was reviewed narratively in order to gain a current overview of global understanding. The overriding question for this review was:

How do 20 to 30 year old’s experience vintage tea parties as a social activity?

You may want to use the SPIDER tool to formulate your own question: The SPIDER tool was developed by adapting the PICO tool, I will apply this hypothetical research question to this tool as follows:

  • (S) Sample: Populations aged between 20 and 30 year’s old.
  • (PI) Phenomenon of Interest: The experience of either attending or hosting a vintage tea party as a social activity.
  • (D) Design: Any study type (surveys/focus groups/cohort studies/interviews etc).
  • (E) Evaluation: The views, attitudes and opinions of 20 to 30 year old’s who either attend or host vintage tea parties as a social activity.
  • (R) Research type: qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research will be searched for.

Search strategy

Initially, the CINHAL, Medline and PsycINFO electronic databases were used to retrieve relevant papers in relation to the subject matter. Several key terms which were considered to be of relevance were entered into these databases simultaneously. These terms were entered together, and united using either the word ‘and’ or ‘or’. The search terms were used in the following format:

Vintage tea parties ‘and’ social occasions ‘or’ parties ‘and’ young people and’ tea ‘and’ cake ‘or’ lace doilies ‘or’ old fashioned ‘and’ antiques ‘or’ social gatherings ‘or’ cupcakes.

Inclusion criteria:

Papers were included if they specifically focused on the experiences of people aged between 20 and 30. Papers had to have a particular focus upon the experience of vintage tea parties in order to be included within this literature review. As the ‘vintage’ era was considered to be between the 1930’s and 1940’s, only papers published from 1960 onward were considered for this review. It was considered that from this period, the traditional tea party would indeed be classified as ‘vintage’ in retrospect.

(Please note that this is an extremely crude search strategy. These can be made much more efficient and systematic in more advanced papers – See an example here.)

This search strategy resulted in 27 separate searches and retrieved 1720 papers. Duplicate articles were then removed to reveal 808 papers. The abstracts of these remaining papers were then scanned reviewed and against the inclusion criteria, leaving 235 papers for further review. These remaining papers were read in their entirety and assessed for their suitability for inclusion. Following these assessments, 88 papers were removed as they did not focus upon the experience of tea parties, only the process of hosting them. Additionally, 92 papers were removed as they referred to the experiences of populations either over the age of 30 or under the age of 20. Lastly, 52 papers were removed as although they did refer to the experience of attending and hosting tea parties, these parties were not considered to be vintage in nature. This left 3 papers for inclusion. The reference lists of these papers were scanned for any further papers suitable for inclusion. Through this scanning, 1 further paper was included, resulting in a total of 4 papers to be included within this review. The paper selection process is represented within figure 1.

Figure 1: Paper selection process – This should leave the reader with no doubt about what you did, how you selected your papers for inclusion or exclusion and why. It also allows you to reflect upon your process.

Note (n=) Just means ‘number of’ ..e.g. (n=1).

Figure 1: Paper selection process

Records identified through database searching
(n =1720)

                                    ∇

Additional records identified through other sources
(n = 1)

                                    ∇

Records after duplicates removed
(n =912)

                                    ∇

Records screened
(n = 235)

                                    ∇

Records excluded
(n = 231)

                                    ∇

Studies included
(n = 4)

                                    ∇

Full-text articles excluded:

Paper does not focus upon the experience of tea parties (n =88)

Out of age range criteria (n=92)

Tea party not vintage in nature∇ (n=52)

Papers included: This should be some sort of table where you present which papers you are including within your review. You can go into further detail of each one as appropriate… But for this example it might look something like this:

Table 2: Study overview and characteristics

Paper  Sample number  Sample Type Study Design Findings
 

The mad Hatters tea party (Carroll, 2015)

4 Alice in wonderland (aged 21), The Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse  

Participants self reported their experiences to an interviewer.

 

Tea, iced cakes and singing are ‘enjoyable’. Can be enjoyed during either a birthday or an ‘un-birthday’.

 

Tea for two, and two for tea (Sinatra, 2012). 2 Doris Day (aged 25) and Frank Sinatra (aged 29). Focus group discussion Tea parties in solitude (2 people) with sugar cake make them ‘happy’. Also knee sitting is enjoyable in this context.
A tea party on the ceiling (Poppins, 1964) 2 adults aged 29. A nanny and a chimney sweep  

Questionnaire survey.

Laughing is key to a successful vintage tea party.
The queens tea party (Buckingham palace, 2010). 2500/8000 attendees aged between 20 and 30. A cross-section of honoured British society Online survey Cupcakes, doilies and finger sandwiches served with a variety of tea made the tea party ‘special’. Especially in the presence of queens and princesses.

 

At this point you may want to comment on the quality of the studies or papers you have selected. You can either do this by adding an extra column within the table above, or comment on the quality of studies within another subsection. If the quality of studies is poor, don’t worry…just acknowledge that the study is poor, and recognise that any results or recommendations you draw from those studies should probably be given less authority than the more rigorous studies.  

A basic guide as to which studies are considered to be academically superior is outlined within the pyramid below….

Image result for hierarchy of research studies

There are many published academic tools for assessing and appraising the quality of each particular study, and also for assessing any risk of bias that might be apparent. I have included a very basic quality assessment tool for assessing qualitative studies below. Feel free to use this or any more advanced ones you may find.

Image result for quality checklist for research studies systematic review

You may also want to report whether the studies that you have chosen to include are either qualitative or quantitative (or a mixture of both)

(sometimes called mixed method)!

Image result for qualitative and quantitative research

Image result for qualitative and quantitative research

(Images from: https://uxdesign.cc & http://www.slideshare.net/engelby/media-quantitative-and-qualitative-research-2012)

Data Extraction: Now that you have chosen the studies/papers with which you will address your own research questions, you will need to describe exactly how you have drawn out the knowledge or ‘data’ from those papers. This can be simple, or again, it can be a very detailed process with the use of complex data extraction tools.

Something like this tool below may help you to draw out knowledge from a paper…

Image result for research data extraction tools

(Tool from http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnthamer.asp?ArticleID=1523)

But equally, you may want to describe a simpler approach to your own data extraction method as follows…

Data Extraction

Each paper was read and re-read, whilst themes relating to the experience of either being a host or a guest at a vintage tea party were annotated throughout. Any numerical or ‘quantitative’ data was noted and will be reported narratively in order to build a broad picture of how 20 to 30 year old’s experience vintage tea parties.

Limitations: You may want to state what the limitations of your chosen studies were. Samples too small? only partial results available? not widely representative? – Bare in mind that some different types of essays will want the limitations section presented towards the end of the essay rather than just before the results section..

Limitations

This review has retrieved a small amount of papers, therefore the findings of this review may not be representative of a wider population. Also, due to the small amount of papers retrieved, it will not be possible to perform a meta-analysis of results (A meta-analysis is basically where you compare lots of similar data from a number of similar studies in order to see if the findings match closely or not. This will tell you if you can be really sure that what the evidence is telling you is really reliable and true… or not).

None of the studies selected used any verified tools to measure either a participants negative or positive experience of interacting with a vintage tea party. Therefore, these findings rely upon participant ratings, words and observations. Additionally, the studies retrieved can only be related to experiences of vintage tea parties within the western world, therefore we cannot be sure that this review is representative of other experiences around the world.

See here for a more detailed power point presentation on how to critique studies

You may also want to touch upon the limitations within your review….Did you really do everything you could have done to find all papers? What limited or prohibited you from creating the very best review of all time?

Results: Here you need to state what you actually found, what you interpreted from these findings and how these findings may related to each other.

Results

This literature review has retrieved 4 papers which illuminate how 20 to 30 year old’s within the western world experience both hosting and attending vintage tea parties as a social activity. These studies used a variety of data collection methods such as interviews (Carroll, 2015), focus groups (Sinatra, 2012), Questionnaires (Poppins, 1964), and online surveys (Buckingham palace, 2010). All studies reported that the experiences of 20 to 30 year old’s either attending or hosting vintage tea parties were positive overall. None of these studies reported any negative effects for any of their participants. Ultimately, vintage tea parties were found to be a jolly social activity for all attendees and hosts.

Synthesis of findings

(This is where you bring your results together and make sense of them, there are many different ways to synthesize your results: These methodologies can include meta-narrative, critical interpretive synthesis, meta-study, meta-ethnography, grounded formal theory, thematic synthesis, textual narrative synthesis, content analysis, qualitative metasummaries, framework synthesis and ecological triangulation) – Read more about this stuff here.

But let’s not over complicate things here. We will start by  examining all aspects of, and the context of each paper, whilst comparing and contrasting the results of each paper with the others. In doing so, we may use a mixture of the methodologies described above.

In terms of finding a suitable location for a vintage tea party, both Carroll and Buckingham palace chose to locate their vintage tea parties within a garden setting (Carroll, 2015 and Buckingham Palace, 2010). Although the setting of Carroll’s tea party was in a wooded clearing, it was set behind the mad hatters house, and therefore considered to be a back garden, in the same way that the queens garden party is hosted behind the queens properties. Conversely, Poppins (1964) explores the experiences of those present at a tea party hosted in a living room, and more specifically, upon a ceiling. Both of these settings were reported to be enjoyable for guests, as those interviewed following the Mad hatters tea party reported experiences of ‘merriment’, ‘joy’ and ‘enjoyment’ in response to being in these locations (Carroll, 2015). Equally, those who completed the surveys and questionnaires posed by Buckingham Palace (2010) rated their experiences of ‘merriment’, ‘joy’ and ‘enjoyment’ as “9 out of 10” on a positive rating scale when the tea party was held outdoors, with access to the garden rooms indoors. Sinatra (2012) did not specify a location for their tea party.

Opinions and experiences surrounding the display of appropriate etiquette appears to form some conflict within the studies. Sinatra (2012) encourages two guests to sit on one another’s knees, whilst serving tea. Whilst one guest at the tea party on the ceiling expressed some distaste at the ‘excessive laughter’ and the location of the tea party being hosted upon the ceiling (Poppins, 1964). The guests and hosts of the Mad Hatter’s tea party felt that it was very important to be officially invited to the tea party, rather than simply turn up unannounced (Carroll, 2015). Equally, the queen’s tea party hosted by Buckingham Palace (2010) requires all guests to present an official invitation before entry is permitted to the garden tea party. This tea party also requires its guests to wear a particular and suitable attire. Burping, belching, trumping and swearing is never permitted, and it is expected that one holds one pinky finger out whilst drinking tea (Buckingham Palace , 2010).

Food and other beverages form an important part of each of the tea parties referred to within this review. For the Mad Hatter’s tea party, it was a focus on tea and iced cake that contributed towards both the guests and hosts having a ‘jolly’ time (Carroll, 2015). Indeed, tea and cake feature heavily within each of the studies presented, and are often commented upon as a the source of an enjoyable experience (Sinatra, 2012, Poppins, 1964, Buckingham palace, 2010, Carroll, 2015). However, a variety of finger sandwiches, petit fours and other pastries were also rated highly (10 out of 10) as the ‘delight’ of the vintage tea party, making it more ‘special’ (Buckingham Palace, 2010, Poppins, 1964). Participants within each of these studies also reported that the presentation of this food is important, as the use of doilies, tea pots, cake tiers and napkins can enhance the experience of a vintage tea party (Sinatra, 2012, Poppins, 1964, Buckingham palace, 2010, Carroll, 2015).

The timing of hosting a vintage tea party was preferred in the afternoon as ‘afternoon tea’ by all studies (Sinatra, 2012, Poppins, 1964, Buckingham palace, 2010, Carroll, 2015). Additionally, the hosts and guests at the Mad Hatters tea party suggested that the vintage tea party could be enjoyed during either a birthday or an ‘un-birthday’ (Carroll, 2010). Those who completed the surveys and questionnaires posed by Buckingham Palace (2010) and Poppins (1964) rated their experiences more highly “9 out of 10” if a tea party hosted at any time included laughter, pleasant conversation and singing. These components were also apparent within the findings of  both the ‘Tea for Two’ tea party, and the Mad Hatters tea party (Sinatra, 2012, Carroll, 2015).

Discussion: This is an opportunity to interpret these results, and share what they might mean in a wider context.

  • What was interesting?
  • What was surprising?
  • Did you find what you expected to find?
  • How will this new knowledge change things in the future?
  • What are the implications of finding this new knowledge?
  • How will it affect your, and others practice?

Let’s shine a new light on things!…

SHINE A TORCH

Discussion 

(Start with a summary of your results)

Overall, participants aged between 20 and 30 reported positive experiences in relation to both hosting and attending vintage tea parties. Experiences were reported via a number of sentiments including ‘Joy’, ‘Merriment, ‘enjoyment’ and were described as being ‘special’. Questionnaires and surveys also highlighted that vintage tea parties were enjoyed both outdoors and indoors, mainly during the afternoon. Tea served from teapots with fine china, cake, sandwiches and pastries placed upon doilies and tiered plate displays can enhance ones experience of a vintage tea party, as can singing, laughing and pleasant conversation. As such, vintage tea parties can be considered a positive social activity for those aged between 20 and 30.

It was interesting to note that conversation and laughter in particular played a key factor in how this population enjoyed vintage tea parties. This would suggest that the success of such tea parties rely upon more than just the location of the event or the practicalities of hosting them. As such, part planners may wish to consider the implementation of conversation catalysts or ‘ice breakers’ to create the atmosphere required for success.

Etiquette is also an important factor to consider when creating an enjoyable vintage tea party, as gatecrashers can cause distaste among both hosts and guests. It is clear that invitations provide confidence and a certain formality to events as apposed to a spontaneous vintage tea party, which may become more informal as a result.

As many 20 to 30 year old’s already attend vintage tea parties, it was anticipated that they would indeed find these experiences to be enjoyable. The results of this review provide new and united evidence to strengthen this notion, and illuminate the particular reasons why these experiences may be enjoyable. This new evidence will be important to new hosts and party planners wishing to organise enjoyable vintage tea parties as social activity.

Implications for future practice

(What are you going to do or recommend in light of what you have found??)

Future tea parties would be enhanced by the application of these findings, as party hosts look to create enjoyable activities for those aged between 20 and 30. Party planners may wish to consider ‘vintage’ as a theme, and encourage guests to fully embrace this theme, concept and event as an alternative to the modern tea party. Future research may wish to explore these vintage tea parties in more detail with progression towards a large and adequately powered randomised controlled trial (RCT), as this would enable party planners and party goers to create the ultimate vintage tea party, as guided by a more rigorous evidence base.

“What is an RCT?” I hear you cry…

(See simplified info-graphic below)

Image result for what is a randomised controlled trial?

 

Conclusions: This is where you recap what you have done and found. It should match closely with the introduction in which stated what you were going to do. You should leave the reader with a final impact statement and your own final reflections.

In every day party creation, it is important to create an enjoyable social activity. As 20 to 30 year old’s seek to attend such activities, it is important to explore which social activities are experienced positively by this population group. This paper has reviewed the evidence in relation to how 20 to 30 year old’s experience vintage tea parties. Following a review of 4 academic papers, the evidence presented here suggest that vintage tea parties are indeed a jolly event for 20 to 30 year old’s.

As well as discovering that this population enjoy vintage tea parties as a social activity, this review has also unearthed which components may be most contributory to the success of such an event. As such, the hosts of future vintage tea parties should plan to include tea served from teapots with fine china, cake, sandwiches and pastries placed upon doilies and tiered plate displays, singing, laughing and pleasant conversation.

You may also want to include a subsection here that specifically outlines how you have met the learning outcomes set out by whichever module or dissertation/thesis it is that you are completing.

 

happy book

And there we are, a guide to writing a literature review. This guide is supposed to be a reference tool for you all to create your own masterpiece essays and dissertations. The review I present here may be much shorter than what you are required to produce, however, I hope it will serve as reference material as you progress in your academic writing. Although the subject matter here is vintage tea parties, I do hope that many nurses and midwives will easily be able to apply nursing and midwifery topics in place of the tea party.

The principles of writing a literature review are virtually the same within any subject matter. Here for instance, you just replace the vintage tea parties with diabetes, and boom…you have a literature review on how a certain population experiences diabetes or diabetic care. Whatever your academic question is, a literature review is a great way to help you find answers, improve your clinical practice and discover new evidence based practices to apply in the real world. Many clinical guidelines are constructed by reviewing the available literature. As you complete your literature reviews, you will also be able to make recommendations, based upon what you have found.

Although I have presented a loose structure for a literature review here, please be aware that there are many other structures, methodologies and reporting styles available. Yet I hope that this example will fit loosely around any essay topic if applied appropriately.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add these to the comments section below. I really hope that this makes academia a little less scary for student midwives and nurses. For further hints and tips for essay writing, see my other article here.

Until next time…take care of yourselves, and each other ❤💚💜