So much to read!! So little time!!
Here are some hints on how to get and put together literature on a problem that is “bugging” you!
- Use key words to search PubMed or CINAHL especially.
- Select article titles or abstracts that have been published in the last 3-5 years and seem most on target with your topic. (Don’t be distracted by interesting, but irrelevant articles. Also, sometimes there are ‘classic’ articles published earlier, and you may need to get some advice on whether something is classic.)
- Get copies of the articles most relevant to your topic
- Divide the articles into two stacks:
- Research studies – You can often identify these because they will say they are research or you will find sections in the articles with some of these titles: Introduction/Background, Methods/Procedures, Results/Findings, Discussion, Implications, and Conclusion
- NON-research articles – These may cite a lot of other authors in describing an issue
- Read the NON-research articles first. Determine whether the articles are citing experts or the author is just giving you their own opinion. Of course the ones citing experts are stronger.
- Highlight or underline the key ideas or issues that are raised in those articles. Pay attention to where the authors Agree or Disagree.
- Now read the research articles and highlight key ideas & issues.
- Place articles in order from stronger to weaker research:
- Stronger research articles are randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses
- Next strongest are experiments without randomization or a control group (sometimes called quasi-experimental or sometimes pre/posttest surveys)
- Next strongest are studies that show association or correlation between two variables.
- And finally last are those studies that just describe something. The authors didn’t do any intervention and they are not trying to relate one variable to another. These are called descriptive studies and the description may be a list of themes or it may be in numbers. Meta-synthesis articles fall into this category.
- You can create a table of evidence that can help you to sort out key ideas and strength of research studies. (A sample is at http://guides.lib.unc.edu/ebpt-home/ebpt-pointers-evidence
- If you are writing a summary of literature, you should now be able to have a paragraph on each of the main ideas raised in the literature and to cite the sources of those ideas. If various authors disagree, be sure to present both sides of the issue.
Critical thinking: What is something in nursing that has been “bugging” you. Missed care–e.g., inability to get all the tasks done on time? Or discharge med teaching? Or the
difficult colleague? Go to PubMed and find a research and a non-research article. Pick out the key ideas in each. What did you learn?
For more information check out: Finding the needles in the haystacks: Evidence hunting efficiently & effectively.