Tag Archives: Literature review

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

  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.)

ARGUMENTS in INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):Why2

  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 therefore 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!

Image result for starCritical Thinking:  Your turn! Write your own Intro/Background usingSTructure

  • Structure: Placement in article, heading, placement of research question/hypothesisWhy2
  • 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.

?Trustworthy? Protect Your Reputation!

If you are writing something for publication, watch this 2 minute video before selecting a journal!   You’ll thank yourself for doing it.

  1. Thinkthinker
  2. Check
  3. Submit

< 2 minute video that tells you how to think, check, submit:  


Don’t be fooled.   It’s a lot of work to prepare something to publish, and you want your work to appear in a credible source and be accessible.   It’s YOUR reputation!

If you are a student search for literature, it is important to know this also!!  You want to use the highest quality evidence you can find for your projects.

“Here Comes Santa Claus?” What IS the Evidence?

How strong is the evidence regarding our holiday Santa Claus (SC) practices? And what are the opportunities on this SC topic for new descriptive, correlation, or experimental research?  Although existing evidence generally supports SC, in the end we may conclude, “the most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see” (Church, as cited in Newseum, n.d.).santa3

If you want to know the answers, check out: Highfield, M.E.F. (2011).  Here comes Santa Claus: What’s the evidence? Advanced Emergency Nursing Journal, 33(4), 354-6. doi: http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.csun.edu/10.1097/TME.0b013e318234ead3   Using bona fide published work, the article shows you how to evaluate the strength of evidence and how to apply it to practice.   You can request a full-text for your personal use from your library or from the author via www.researchgate.net/home .  

Critical thinking: Check out this related research study with fulltext available through PubMed: Black Pete through the eyes of Dutch children
(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27322583 ).   Write a follow-up research question based on the findings of this study & post in comments below.

For more info: For those unfamiliar with ResearchGate, it is a site where you can track authors who publish in your area of interest, and you can set up your own profile so that people can track your work.  Take a look.   

Zika Virus: What we know and do not know (O’Malley, 2016)

The public and lots of nurses have lots of questions.   Our evidence-based knowledge is evolving.  Here’s some of the latest (Aug/July 2016).

You can set up a free account with Lippincott to access this 3 page article that translates current research into practice for you.

O’Malley – Zika virus: What we know and do not know: 16743-close-up-of-a-mosquito-feeding-on-blood-pvhttp://www.nursingcenter.com/pdfjournal?AID=3570052&an=00002800-201607000-00005&Journal_ID=54033&Issue_ID=3569996

Google’s Beauty is Only Skin Deep: Go for the Database!

maxresdefaultGoogle–not to mention yahoo, bing & other web search engines–are mere popularity contests of literature.   Google Scholar is a step up, but it is still a search engine.  It can miss important articles entirely.

If you want to be sure that you are getting the BEST, you gotta look in the right place if you want to find the right articles on the right topic at the right time!Beauty contest winner

You need a Database!

Don’t believe me?  Watch “What are databases and why you need them?”(youtube 2:34)

Reputable publishers give away very few articles for free, so when you want the best literature out there you need a Database that will systematically help you to find quality articles that fit your topic.

PubMed.gov is a tax funded database that is highly comprehensive.  CINAHL is strong on nursing literature.  If you are enrolled in a university, you have access to lots of full-text articles at no added cost.  Check with your librarian if your database search is not turning up what you need–with a few hints, you could get the best.

Needle in haystackFor more info:  Look for that needle in the haystack.

True or False: Experiment or Not

Experiments are the way that we confirm that one thing causes another.   If the study is not an experiment (or combined experiments in a meta-analysis), then the research does not show cause and effect. imagesCALQ0QK9

Experiments are one of the strongest types of research.

So…how can you tell a true experiment from other studies?   Hazel B can tell you in 4:04 and simple language at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2i-MrwdTqI&index=1&list=PL7A7F67C6B94EB97E

Go for it!

[After watching video:  Note that the variable that is controlled by the researcher is call the Independent variable or Cause variable because it creates a change in something else. That something else that changes is the Dependent variable or Outcome variable.]Learning


  1. Based on the video, can you explain why true experiments are often called randomized controlled trial (RCT)?
  2. Take a look at The Effect of the Physical and Mental Exercises During Hemodialysis on Fatigue: A Controlled Clinical Trial, that is free in full-text via PubMed. How does it meet the criteria of a true experiment as described by Hazel B in the video?

FOR MORE INFORMATION:   Go to “What’s an RCT Anyway?” (https://discoveringyourinnerscientist.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/whats-a-randomized-controlled-trial/ )

Introduction to Introductions!

I have a lot of new readers, so let’s revisit the standard sections of a research article.  They are:

  • Introduction (or Background)
  • Review of literature
  • Methods
  • Results (or findings)
  • Discussion & Implications
  • Conclusion

If we begin at the beginning, then we should ask: “What’s in an Introduction?”  Here’s the answer:

“[a] …Background of the problem or issue being examined,

[b] …Existing literature on the subject, and

[c] …Research questions, objectives, and possibly hypothesis” (p. 6, Davies & Logan, 2012)

This is the very 1st section of the body of the research article.  In it you will find a description of the problem that the researcher is studying, why the problem is a priority, and sometimes what is already known about the problem.  The description of what is already known may or may not be labelled separately as a Review of Literature.

KEYKey point #1: Articles & research that are reviewed in the Intro/Background should be mostly within the past 5-7 years.  Sometimes included are classic works that may be much older OR sometimes no recent research exists.   If recent articles aren’t used, this should raise some questions in your mind.   You know well that healthcare changes all the time!!  If there are no recent studies the author should explain.

Key point #2The last sentence or two in the Intro/Background is the research question or hypothesis.  If you need to know the research question/hypothesis right away, you can skip straight to the end of the Intro/background—and there it should be!

Happy research reading!

Critical Thinking: Do the sections of the abstract AND the sections of the research article match above headings?  Does it match the description of Introduction? Take a look at the free article by Kennedy et al. (2014). Is there a relationship between personality and choice of nursing specialty: An integrative literature, BMC Nursing, 13(40). Retrieved from the link http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4267136/.  question