Tag Archives: reading research

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/ )

Self-Report Data: “To use or not to use. That is the question.”

[Note: The following was inspired by and benefited from Rob Hoskin’s post at http://www.sciencebrainwaves.com/the-dangers-of-self-report/]Penguins

If you want to know what someone thinks or feels, you ask them, right?

The same is true in research, but it is good to know the pros and cons of using the “self-report method” of collecting data in order to answer a research question.  Most often self-report is done in ‘paper & pencil’ or SurveyMonkey form, but it can be done by interview.

Generally self-report is easy and inexpensive, and sometimes facilitates research that might otherwise be impossible.  To answer well, respondents must be honest, have insight into themselves, and understand the questions.  Self-report is an important tool in much behavioral research.

But, using self-report to answer a research question does have its limits. People may tend to answer in ways that make themselves look good (social desirability bias), agree with whatever is presented (social acquiescence bias), or answer in either extreme terms (extreme response set bias) or always pick the non-commital middle Hypothesisnumbers.  Another problem will occur if the reliability  and validity of the self-report questionnaire is not established.  (Reliability is consistency in measurement and validity is the accuracy of measuring what it purports to measure.) Additionally, self-reports typically provide only a)ordinal level data, such as on a 1-to-5 scale, b) nominal data, such as on a yes/no scale, or c) qualitative descriptions in words without categories or numbers.  (Ordinal data=scores are in order with some numbers higher than others, and nominal data = categories. Statistical calculations are limited for both and not possible for qualitative data unless the researcher counts themes or words that recur.)

Gold_BarsAn example of a self-report measure that we regard as a gold standard for clinical and research data = 0-10 pain scale score.   An example of a self-report measure that might be useful but less preferred is a self-assessment of knowledge (e.g., How strong on a 1-5 scale is your knowledge of arterial blood gas interpretation?)  The use of it for knowledge can be okay as long as everyone understands that it is perceived level of knowledge.

Critical Thinking: What was the research question in this study? Malaria et al. (2016) Pain assessment in elderly with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease as posted on PubMed.gov questionat http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26757042 with link to full text.  How did the authors use self-report to answer their research question?  Do you see any of the above strengths & weaknesses in their use?

For more information: Be sure to check out Rob Hoskins blog: http://www.sciencebrainwaves.com/the-dangers-of-self-report/



Telling the Future: The Research Hypothesis

What is a research hypothesis?   A research hypothesis is a predicted answer; an educated guess.  It is a statement of the outcome that a researcher expects to find in an experimental study.Hypothesis

Why care?  Because it tells you precisely the problem that the research study is about!  Either the researcher’s prediction turns out to be true (supported by data) or not!
A hypothesis includes 3 key elements: 1) the population of interest, 2) the experimental treatment, & 3) the outcome expected.  It is a statement of cause and effect. The experimental treatment that the researcher manipulates is called the independent or cause variable.  The result of the study is an outcome that is called the dependent variable because it depends on the independent/cause variable.

For example, let’s take the hypothesis “Heart failure patients who receive exmeds2perimental drug X will have better cardiac function than will heart failure patients who receive standard drug Y.”  You can see that the researcher is manipulating the drug (independent variable) that patients will receive.  And patient cardiac outcomes are expected to vary—in fact cardiac function is expected to be better—for patients who receive the experimental drug X.

Ideally that researcher will randomly assign subjects to an experimental group that receives drug X and a control group that receives standard therapy drug Y.   Outcome cardiac function data will be collected and analyzed to see if the researcher’s predicted answer (AKA hypothesis) is true.

In a research article, the hypothesis is usually stated right at the end of the introduction or background section.

If you see a hypothesis, how can you tell what is the independent/cause variable and the dependent/effect/outcome variable?question   1st – Identify the population in the hypothesis—the population does not vary (& so, it is not a variable).   2nd – Identify the independent variable–This will be the one that is the cause & it will vary.  3rd – Identify the dependent variable–This will be the one that is the outcome & its variation depends on changes/variation in the independent variable.

PRACTICE:  What are the population, independent variable(s) & dependent variable(s) in these actual research study titles that reflect the research hypotheses:

FOR MORE INFORMATION:  See SlideShare by Domocmat (n.d.) Formulating hypothesis at http://www.slideshare.net/kharr/formulating-hypothesis-cld-handout


Is a Picture Worth 1,000 words?

Sometimes the best way to answer a research question is to have the participants draw pictures & explain them.  In fact, some have identified art as a powerful communication tool between children and researchers.   The pictures are then analyzed for themes that show up in the drawings.  No numbers or statistics are used.

Methods: When Brady (2009) wondered how children defined a “good nurse,” she asked 22 ethnically diverse, hospitalized girls and boys aged 7-12 years to draw a picture of a good nurse and a bad nurse.  After the children drew their pictures she asked them to tell her what the nurse was wearing and doing.

Results & discussion: What did the pictures say? Drawings and comments suggested that the children focused on these 5 thematic characteristics for a good nurse:  “communication; professional competence; safety; professional appearance; and virtues,” (p.543) such as honesty, listening, kindness, trustworthiness, & being reassuring & fun. 11-year-old Jason communicated some of it in GoodNurse_BadNurse2Figure 4 on page 552.   12-year-old Luke also showed a sharp contrast in Figure 7 on page 556 that is at the top of this blog.  Children valued a reciprocal relationship with their nurses, caring, and safe/professional behavior. Play was one of many things important to them.

Commentary: While the sample is not representative of a larger group and I would question the authors claim to use grounded theory, the study forms the basis for further research.  Additionally these ideas can help us listen more closely to our own pediatric patients.   It would be particularly interesting to compare these 5 themes to how adult patients of various ages describe a good nurse and a bad nurse.

Critical thinking:  How do you think these children’s perspectives compare with the perspectives of your own pediatric patient population?QUESTION

For more information: See Brady, M. (2009). Hospitalized children’s views of the good nurse, Nursing Ethics, 16(5). doi: 10.1177/0969733009106648

Stand & Deliver: Evidence for Empathy in Action

Patient Pain Satisfaction.  It’s a key outcome of RN empathy in action.CARE

Imagine that you are hospitalized and hurting.   During hourly rounds the RN reassures you with these words:We are going to do everything that we can to help keep your pain under control. Your pain management is our number 1 priority. Given your [condition, history, diagnosis, status], we may not be able to keep your pain level at zero. However, we will work very hard with you to keep you as comfortable as possible.” (Alaloul et al, 2015, p. 323).

Study? In 2015 a set of researchers tested effectiveness of the above pain script using 2 similar medical-surgical units in an academic medical center—1 unit was an experimental unit & 1 was a control unit.  RNs rounded hourly on both units.  handsOn the experimental unit RNs stated the script to patients exactly as written and on room whiteboards posted the script, last pain med & pain scores.  Posters of the script were also posted on the unit.   In contrast, on the control unit RN communication and use of whiteboard were dependent on individual preferences.  Researchers measured effectiveness of the script by collecting HCAHPS scores 2 times before RNs began using the script (a baseline pretest) and then 5 times during and after RNs began using it (a posttest) on both units.

Results? On the experimental units significantly more patients reported that the team was doing everything they could to control pain and that the pain was well-controlled (p≤.05). And while experimental unit scores were trending up, control unit scores trended down. Other findings were that the RNs were satisfied with the script, and that RNs having a BSN or MSN had no effect.

Conclusions/Implications?When nurses used clear and consistent communication with patients in pain, a positive effect was seen in patient satisfaction with pain management over time. This intervention was simple and effective. It could be replicated in a variety of health care organizations.” (p.321) [underline added]

Commentary: While an experiment would have created greater confidence that the script caused the improvements in patient satisfaction, an experiment would have been difficult or impossible.  Researchers could not randomly assign patients to experimental & control units.  Still, quasi-experimental research is relatively strong evidence, but it leaves the door open that something besides the script caused the improvements in HCAHPS scores.

questionCritical thinking? What would prevent you from adopting or adapting this script in your own personal practice tomorrow?  What are the barriers and facilitators to getting other RNs on your unit to adopt this script, including using whiteboards?  Are there any risks to using the script?  What are the risks to NOT using the script?

Want more info? See original reference – Alaloul, F., Williams, K., Myers, J., Jones, K.D., & Logsdon, M.C. (2015).Impact of a script-based communication intervention on patient satisfaction with pain management. Pain Management Nursing, 16(3), 321-327. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pmn.2014.08.008

“Oh Baby!” Evidence-based Naming Prevents Events

EBP Preventive Action:  Evidence-based, distinct infant naming can avoid sentinel events related to misidentification of newborns (TJC, 2015).

Problem:  Misidentification errors of NICU babies are common newborn3(Gray et al., 2006).   About 12% of the 4 million born in U.S. hospitals were admitted to NICU’s.  At birth every infant requires quick application of an armband, and when parents have not yet decided on a name the assigned name is often quite nondistinct (e.g., BabySmith).

A pretest/posttest of a new, more infant-specific naming system was “conducted in order to examine the effect of a distinct naming convention that incorporates the mother’s first name into the newborn’s first name (e.g., Wendysgirl) on the incidence of wrong-patient errors. We used the Retract-and-Reorder (RAR) tool, an established, automated tool for detecting the outcome of wrong-patient electronic orders. The RAR tool identifies orders placed on a patient that are retracted within 10 minutes and then placed by the same clinician on a different patient within the next 10 minutes” (Adelman et al., 2013). newborn2Their results? RAR events were reduced by 36.3%.   Their recommendations? Switch to a distinct naming system.

Using something like Judysgirl Smith is infant specific. “In the case of multiple births, the hospital adds a number in front of the mother’s first name (ex: 1Judysgirl and 2Judysgirl)” (TJC).

TJC recommends:

  • “Stop using Babyboy or Babygirl as part of the temporary name.
  • Change to a more distinct naming convention.
  • Train staff on the distinct naming convention.
  • Follow the recommendation in National Patient Safety Goal 01.01.01 and implement use of two patient identifiers at all times.
  • As soon as parents decide on their baby’s name, enter that name into the medical record instead of the temporary name.”

Commentary: While this is just one study, RNs should evaluate whether it is riskier to continue any current practice of non-distinct naming or to switch practices to distinct naming. No risks were identified to the distinct naming system & it likely requires only the resource investment of educating staff.  Adelman et al.’s (2013) study is current, moderately strong, quasi-experimental evidence that showed a significant decrease in errors that could have sentinel event outcomes. Any who make the switch should monitor outcomes. All who don’t make the switch should, too!

Critical Thinking: Examine the risks, resources, & readiness of staff in your facility to make the switch to a distinct NICU infant naming system?  question Should the naming system be extended to all infants?

Want more information?  See

“I wonder as I wander…. ” DNP or PhD? What’s the diff?

Ever wonder what the difference is between the new Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) and the Doctorate of Philosophy in nursing (PhD)?      examine baby

In short the focus of PhD education is to prepare the RN to create original research.  In contrast, DNP education is to prepare the RN to apply existing research to nursing practice.

Being a nurse practitioner (NP) is NOT the difference.  Also while some PhDs become skilled in applying research to practice & some DNPs do research,…their doctoral course preparation & final projects are quite different!

For more information:  Here’s a great comparison chart from one doctoral program:  https://nursingandhealth.asu.edu/degree-programs/doctoral-vs-phd-degrees-at-asu

Critical reflection: Based on your own personal career goals….questionIf you were to return for a doctorate, which would you find most useful?

METHODS in the Research Madness

[This is a re-post from 2014.  If you weren’t a reader then….read on…..]

fisheye booksResearch article sections are: Title, Abstract, Introduction/background,Methods, Results, Discussion, & Implications/Conclusions

METHODS =  Design, Sample, Setting, & Data collection instrument

Sometimes these above elements of METHODS are subheadings.

Sometimes not.

  • Key point #1: Design= overall plan for answering the question or proving the hypothesis.  KEYThe 2 basic types of design are 1) experimental & 2) non-experimental.   In experimental, the researcher does something to the subjects and measures the effects of that something.  In non-experimental, the research merely observes and describes what is happening without doing anything to change it.
  •  KEYKey point #2: Setting=where the study is conducted: home, hospital, office, classroom, on KEYan ocean cruise, or other.
  • Key point #3: Sample includes who/what subjects were in & excluded from the study; how many subjects were in the study; & whether subjects were selected using random methods or non-random methods.   In random selection every eligible subject has the same chance of being selected. That’s called probability sampling.  An example is drawing names from a hat.  In non-random selection only the most nearby subjects are asked to be in the study. That’s called non-probability or convenience sampling.  An example, using a clipboard to survey people who walk into a mall one day. [Note: Subjects can be people, animals, charts, hospitals, or nations.]

(Whew!….Enough for now.)

Critical Thinking Exercise:  Find the Design, Setting, & Sample in this excerpt of Methods from Mohammedkarimi et al, (2014): question

“A double-blind, randomized clinical trial (RCT) was performed among 90 adult patients with acute headache in Shahid Rahnemoon Emergency Center of Yazd city of Iran (45 patients in lidocaine group and 45 patients in placebo group). Patients with history of epilepsy, allergy to lidocaine, signs of skull base fracture, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) < 15, patients younger than 14 years and patients who had received any medication in previous 2 h were excluded.”

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


A 33,000 foot view: The Abstract

 Abstracts are great; abstracts are not enough!
An abstract will not give you enough information to accurately apply the study findings to practice.   An abstract typically summarizes all the other sections of the article, such as  the question the researcher wanted to answer, how the researcher collected data to answer it, and what that data showed.  This is great when you are trying to get the general picture, but you should Never assume that the abstract tells you what you need to know.
Abstracts can mislead you IF you do not read the rest of the article.  They are only a short 100-200 words and so the authors have to leave out key information.   You may misunderstand study results if you read only the abstract.   An abstract’s 33,000 foot level FootprintsInSand
description of a study, cannot reveal the same things that you can learn from an up-close look at details.  You want to know exactly who was in the study, exactly what the researcher did, & exactly how outcomes were measured!  You want to follow the researcher’s footprints up close, not just do a fly-over.
So…what is the takeaway?  Definitely read the abstract to get the general idea.  Then read the article beginning to end.  Don’t give up reading the full article just because some parts of the study may be hard to understand.  Just read and get what you can. Then try a re-read or get some help understanding any difficult sections.   This is an important step toward EBP.   [revised from my former blogsite]
Critical thinking:  What info is missing from this abstract at this link that you would want to know before using the findings of this pain study to practice?