Want to know the standardized format for writing up your research study, QI report, case study, systematic review, or clinical practice guideline? Check out these standardized reporting guidelines: http://www.equator-network.org/reporting-guidelines/
Of course you should always give priority to the author instructions for the particular journal in which you want to publish, but most adhere generally or fully to these standardized guides.
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 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 questions located 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).
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.
- The Purpose of evidence-based practice (EBP) = BEST PATIENT CARE, &
- The Definition of EBP = Best evidence + Clinical judgment + Patient/Family preferences & values
THEN…How do I get started with EBP to improve patient care?
One of the 1st steps is to identify clearly the clinical issue that needs solving. One way to do that is by using PICO.*
WHAT IS PICO? PICO is an acronym to help you clarify the clinical problem & to help you prepare to search the literature for evidence
- P = Patient population or problem
- I = Intervention or treatment that you want to try out & is based in best evidence
- C = Comparison intervention or treatment (This might be some standardized care on your unit; or un-standardized care given by individual nurses based on their individual expertise)
- O = Outcome you want to achieve.
EXAMPLE: Let’s say you work with post-op patients and want to speed up patients’ return of normal GI function. Right now on your unit, patients are NPO post-op progressing to ice chips and so on as their bowel sounds start returning. But you have 2 concerns: a) some patients’ GI function seems quite slow to return; & b) quicker return to a nutritious diet may speed healing. You read an article that gum chewing can reduce the time of postoperative ileus. With that information, here is how your PICO problem would look:
- P = Postoperative patients with ileus
- I = Gum chewing postop
- C = NPO with gradual diet progression when bowel sounds start returning
- O = Reduce time of postop ileus with sooner return to nutritious eating
CRITICAL THINKING: Now you try it. What is problem for patients (or nurses) on your unit? Try writing it out in a sentence or two and then put it into PICO format. You are now on your way with beginning an EBP project that will promote the very BEST PATIENT CARE.
Want to read more on PICO? Try out
*Note: Some use PICOT that includes “T”. The “T” stands for the time it will take to show an outcome. Because the timing does not seem to me relevant to all questions I typically omit it, but you may find it helpful. If so, use it!