Category Archives: Research student

Easy to read. Hard to write.

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.

Critical Thinking:  Test out your reading skills with this article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6503597/   .  Do the authors make systematic arguments in Intro/Background & Discussion? What makes this article hard or easy to read?

Happy Summer! -Dr.H

2019: It is…….

I’m not a New Year’s resolution person.  I used to be and then I realized that I wanted to hit the restart button more often than every 365 days.  So…my aim for this blog remains pretty much unchanged:   Make research processes and ideas understandable for every RN.

DifficultToBeSimpleAlthough “to be simple is difficult,” that’s my goalLjourneyet me know what’s difficult for you in research, because it probably is for others as well.  Let’s work on the difficult together so that you can use the BEST Evidence in your practice.

The 2019 journey begins today, and tomorrow, and the tomorrows after that!

FOR MORE: Go to PubMed. Search for a topic of interest. Send me the article & we’ll critique together.

DIY your own Intro/Background: Structure & Argument

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!

Let’s use this 2015 free full-text article by Marie Flem Sørbø et al. as a model!  Past and recent abuse is associated with early cessation of breast feeding: results from a large prospective cohort in Norway .   (Hint: Clicking on the article’s pdf tab may make it easier to read.)

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

STRUCTURE of INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):

  1. Where is the Intro/Background section located in the article?
  2. What heading is used for the section?
  3. Where are the research questions located in the Intro/Background?  (HINT: this is the standard place in all papers & in this case the authors call them “aims.)
Why2

ARGUMENTS in INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):

  1. 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)
      evidence2
  2. Now look at the research & other evidence written down AFTER each of above key sentences that SUPPORT each idea.
  3. 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!

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Critical Thinking:  Your turn! Write your own Intro/Background using
STructure

  • Structure: Placement in article, heading, placement of research question/hypothesis
    Why2
  • Argument: Key idea topic sentences (make a list 1st) with supporting research & other evidence (your literature review).

For more info on Intro/Background:  Review my blogpost Intro to Intro’s

*ok, yeh. I cheated and included one additional sentence to capture the authors’ flow of argument.