“Measure twice. Cut once!” goes the old carpenter adage. Why? Because measuring accurately means you’ll get the outcomes you want!
Same in research. A consistent and accurate measurement will get you the outcomes you want to know. Whether an instrument measures something consistently is called reliability. Whether it measures accurately is called validity. So, before you use a tool, check for its reported reliability and validity.
Psychological researchers do not simply assume that their measures work. Instead, they conduct research to show that they work. If they cannot show that they work, they stop using them.
There are two distinct criteria by which researchers evaluate their measures: reliability and validity. Reliability is consistency across time (test-retest reliability), across items (internal consistency), and across researchers (interrater reliability). Validity is the extent to which the scores actually represent the variable they are intended to.
Validity is a judgment based on various types of evidence. The relevant evidence includes the measure’s reliability, whether it covers the construct of interest, and whether the scores it produces are correlated with other variables they are expected to be correlated with and not correlated with variables that are conceptually distinct.
The reliability and validity of a measure is not established by any single study but by the pattern of results across multiple studies. The assessment of reliability and validity is an ongoing process.
TITLES!! That’s what you get when you search for research online!
But, whether your search turns up 3 or 32,003 article titles….remember that a title tells you a LOT. In fact, if well-written it is a mini-abstractof the study.
For example take this research article title “What patients with abdominal pain expect about pain relief in the Emergency Department” by Yee et al. in 2006 in JEN. • Variable (key factor that varies)? Answer = Expectations about pain relief • Population studied? Answer = ED patients with abdominal pain • Setting? Answer = Maybe the ED (because they could’ve been surveyed after they got home or were admitted) • Design?Answer = not included, but you might guess that it is a descriptive study because it likely describes the patients’ expectations without any intervention.
Musings: For me the most difficult to write sections of a research report are the Intro/Background and Discussion. And yet, those are apparently the easiest to read for many. My students at least tend to read only those sections and skip the rest.
Why? For the author, Intro/Background and Discussion require hard, critical thinking about what is already known about the topic (Intro/Background) and then what one’s findings mean in light of that (Discussion). For research consumers, the language used in these sections is more familiar, ordinary sounding words. On the other hand, writing the technical nature of other sections (Methods, Instruments, Results) is pretty straightforward with scientifically standardized vocabulary and structure. But, for readers, those same sections contain potentially unfamiliar research terminology that is not part of everyday conversation– i.e., scientific vocabulary. Quantitative studies often create more reader difficulty.
My solution for myself as a writer? To spend time making sure that the first sentence of every paragraph in Intro/Background and Discussion makes a step-by-step argument supported by the rest of the paragraph. Follow standardized structure for the rest. Keep language precise yet simple as possible.
Solution for research readers? Read the whole article understanding what you can and keep a research glossary handy (e.g., https://sites.google.com/site/nursingresearchaid/week-1. Even if practice doesn’t make you perfect, it works in learning a new language–whether it is a ‘foreign’ language or a scientific one.
Yes.It is easier to do things the way we’ve always done them (and been seemingly successful).
Yet, most of us want to work more efficiently or improve our own or patients’ health.
So, there you have the problem: a tension between status quo and change. Perhaps taking the easy status quo is why ‘everyday nurses’ don’t read research.
Ralph (2017) writes encountering 3 common mindsets that keep nurses stuck in the rut of refusing to examine new research:
I’m not a researcher.
I don’t value research.
I don’t have time to read research.
But, he argues, you have a choice: you can go with the status quo or challenge it (Ralph). And (admit it), haven’t we all found that the status quo sometimes doesn’t work well so that we end up
choosing a “work around,” or
ignoring/avoiding the problem or
leaving the problem for someone else or
….[well….,you pick an action.]
How to begin solving the problem of not reading research? Think of a super-interesting topic to you and make a quick trip to PubMed.com. Check out a few relevant abstracts and ask your librarian to get the articles for you. Read them in the nurses’ lounge so others can, too.
Let me know how your challenge to the status quo works out.
Bibliography: Fulltext available for download through https://www.researchgate.net/ of Ralph, N. (2017 April). Editorial: Engaging with research & evidence is a nursing priority so why are ‘everyday’ nurses not reading the literature, ACORN 30(3):3-5. doi: 10.26550/303/3.5
Actually when it comes to quantitative data, there are 4 levels, but who’s counting? (Besides Goldilocks.)
Nominal (categorical) data are names or categories: (gender, religious affiliation, days of the week, yes or no, and so on)
Ordinal data are like the pain scale. Each number is higher (or lower) than the next but the distances between numbers are not equal. In others words 4 is not necessarily twice as much as 2; and 5 is not half of 10.
Interval data are like degrees on a thermometer. Equal distance between them, but no actual “0”. 0 degrees is just really, really cold.
Ratio data are those with real 0 and equal intervals (e.g., weight, annual salary, mg.)
(Of course if you want to collect QUALitative word data, that’s closest to categorical/nominal, but you don’t count ANYTHING. More on that another time.)
Want to know how to write an introduction/background section of a paper? Pay attention to STRUCTURE & evidence-based ARGUMENT in order to DIY (do-it-yourself) your own intro/background for a school paper or research report!
Focus only on the INTRO/BACKGROUND section for now. Check out the STRUCTURE then the EVIDENCE-BASED ARGUMENT of the Intro/Background. This is how you should write your own.
STRUCTURE of INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):
Where is the Intro/Background section located in the article?
What heading is used for the section?
Where are the research questionslocated in the Intro/Background? (HINT: this is the standard place in all papers & in this case the authors call them “aims.)
ARGUMENTS in INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):
Look at the first (topic) sentence of each paragraph in INTRO/BACKGROUND & listen to the systematic argument the researchers are making for WHY their study is important.
“Breast feeding has long been acknowledged as the optimal infant nutrition conferring beneficial short-term and long-term health effects for both infants and mothers.1–5 …
Abuse of women is common worldwide, as one in three women during lifetime suffer partner or non-partner abuse.10…Adverse effects [of abuse]… are barriers to breast feeding.*…
Given the overwhelming evidence of the positive effects of breast feeding, knowledge about factors influencing breastfeeding behaviour is essential….
We explored the impact of abuse of women on breastfeeding behaviour in a large prospective population in Norway where the expectations to breast feed are high, and breast feeding is facilitated in the work regulations….” (pp. 1-2)
Now look at the research & other evidence written down AFTER each of above key sentences that SUPPORT each idea.
Notice that the INTRO/BACKGROUND is NOT a series of abstracts of different studies!! Instead evidence is grouped into key arguments for the study: Breast feeding is best, Abuse is common, Abuse creates barriers to breastfeeding, & Therefore, knowing about factors affecting breastfeeding is important). [Note: Of course, if your particular professor or editor asks you to do a series of abstracts, then you must, but do group them in arguments like the topic sentences.]
All this leads naturally, logically to …(drum roll please!)…the research questions/hypotheses, which are the gaps in our knowledge that the research will fill. This sets up the rest of the research article!
Critical Thinking: Your turn! Write your own Intro/Background using
Structure:Placement in article, heading, placement of research question/hypothesis
Argument:Key idea topic sentences (make a list 1st) with supporting research & other evidence (your literature review).