Critiquing Nursing Research Essay
Through the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) code of professional conduct (NMC, 2004) nurses supply high standards of care to patients and clients. One code nurses adhere to is clause 6 which pronounces nurses must maintain professional knowledge and competence, have a responsibility to deliver care based on current evidence, best practice and validated research (NMC, 2004). Validated research involves critiquing and acquiring the skills of synthesis and critical analysis, this enables nurses to distinguish the relationship between theory and practice in nursing (Hendry & Farley 1998).
This assignment will critique the research paper "Patients' case - notes: look but don't touch" written by Bebbington, Parkin, James, Chichester and Kubiak (2003) (Appendix 1) using Benton and Comack's (2000) framework (Appendix 2). This was selected because of the publicity that surrounds hospital acquired infection (Barrett, 2005).
TitleThe framework suggests the title should be concise, informative, clearly specify the content and indicate the research approach. The title of the paper is concise; however it gives no information of content or research subject. Moreover the research approach is unidentified consequently the reader is unsure what kind of research has been performed, perhaps an alternate title could have been "Case notes, do they pass infection: A quantitative study". This may indicate that the authors have not used a standard format which Benton (2000) states reports should follow; nevertheless the title captured the imagination of the reader and warrants further reading.
AuthorsAccording to the framework, the author(s) should possess appropriate academic and professional qualifications and experience; this according to Carter & Porter (2000) establishes integrity. The qualifications and experiences of the authors are not documented. This could indicate the authors have no relevant qualifications or experiences in this field. However further reading identifies where the authors work which could be relevant to their subject, although there is no indication of their occupation. However the reader performed an online search and found the authors have had previous papers published suggesting research experience, which gives confidence in their abilities.
AbstractThe framework states an abstract should be included, should identify the research problem, state the hypotheses, outline the methodology, give details of the sample subjects and report major findings. The abstract is included and is outlined which makes it distinctive and captures the attention. Burns and Grove (2003) states this helps to influence the reader to read the remainder of the report. Additionally a distinctive abstract is beneficial for a rapid summary (Parahoo, 1997). The search...
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Evaluating research papers is straightforward when you know how to critique. Karen Baker explains more.
Midwives magazine: Issue 2 :: 2014
Part of the midwife’s job is to find and evaluate evidence about the effectiveness of their practice and healthcare interventions (NMC, 2008).
To do that, a midwife needs to be able to work out whether or not a piece of research is robust. This is where the ability to critique is invaluable.
Critiquing enables you to assess the quality of a piece of literature and identify its strengths and weaknesses.
When evaluating a research paper, critiquing helps you to make a judgement on whether the results of the study have been influenced, perhaps by the characteristics of the study design or how it was carried out (Aveyard, 2010).
This is essential as faults in the design or conduct of a study can result in bias and influence the findings. Therefore, assessing the quality of a study, by critiquing it, helps measure whether a study is robust enough to affect decisions regarding practice (Steen and Roberts, 2011). Critiquing is also an essential part of the systematic review process (Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, 2009).
Prior to conducting a critique of the literature, you will have decided on an area of investigation and carried out a detailed search of it, identifying relevant sources of information.
Finding the right literature
When thinking about an area of investigation, bear in mind that some categories of literature are better suited to providing answers than others. Different categories answer different research questions. Furthermore, different categories of literature are arranged in a hierarchy of evidence to assess their quality in answering the research question (see Figure 1).
For example, if you are investigating whether an intervention is effective, then quantitative research studies consisting of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) should be at the top of your hierarchy of evidence.
However, if you are investigating people’s experiences or views regarding an issue, then qualitative research studies consisting of phenomenological studies are more appropriate.
Once you have amassed your evidence, group together the different categories of literature (see Figure 2). For example, all the qualitative research papers should be together, the quantitative pieces grouped with each other and, likewise, all the practice papers together.
You then need to read and reread your literature until you are familiar with it and can summarise it. Consider what it is about, identify its aims and think about what the author did and what the results show.
Once you are familiar with your literature, you can then conduct a detailed critical appraisal. The best way to do this is to use a specific critical appraisal tool to ensure a consistent systematic approach. It also allows you to assess whether the literature is of high enough quality to answer your research question or contribute to your area of investigation (Aveyard, 2010).
Tools for critique
When critiquing a piece of literature, you need to familiarise yourself with it so you can assess its relevance, strengths and limitations to your research question or area under investigation.
Having a framework by which to examine a research article can be helpful. When reviewing a research paper, adopting a critical appraisal framework provides general and more specific questions to ask.
This helps the reviewer to identify whether the research has been well designed and conducted, whether it has any limitations and whether it has any benefit to the wider population (Steen and Roberts, 2011).
In quantitative research, the terms of validity and reliability are used (Bryman, 2008). And, in qualitative research, the terms credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability are used to assess trustworthiness (Aveyard, 2010).
Different frameworks are used, depending on whether the research is qualitative or quantitative. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) (2010) has developed critical appraisal tools, which have been validated, to ensure that studies are assessed and critically appraised in a standardised way.
When critiquing RCTs, in conjunction with CASP, refer to the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) statement (2010) (Greenhalgh, 2010; Schulz et al, 2010). Rochon et al’s guide to critical appraisal (2005) can also be used in conjunction with CASP when critiquing cohort studies. The AGREE collaboration has also developed a website (agreetrust.org) that offers advice and tools for appraising the quality of clinical guidelines.
Also, Walsh and Down (2006) have developed a framework to assess qualitative research after finding the ones that already exist are needlessly detailed and lengthy. There are also critical appraisal tools for all types of research, such as Polit and Beck (2009).
For non-research papers, there are generic critical appraisal tools, such as Woolliams et al (2009) and Cottrell (2005). The ideal, though, is to find an appraisal tool that is specific to the type of literature you are critiquing (Aveyard, 2010). However, regardless of your choice, a critical appraisal tool will not help you if you do not understand the study’s research design (Greenhalgh, 2010).
Once you have critiqued your pieces of literature, bring it all together to address your research question or area under investigation.
Using your completed critical tool(s), write a short paragraph summarising the aim of each piece of literature, the method and the main findings, the strengths and the weaknesses of each paper and the conclusions.
Decide whether the conclusions of the piece of literature are convincing from the results of the main study or discussion.
A chart can help you make this decision. Plotting or laying out the findings on a chart can help summarise your findings and work out whether the literature you have identified is robust enough to affect decisions regarding practice (Aveyard, 2010).
Taking a methodical approach in which the relevant available tools are employed means that a critique of literature is straightforward and even enjoyable – when you know how.
Midwife, Calderdale Birth Centre, West Yorks
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