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Finding the right research

Finding the right research and evidence for your work, and for the care that you and your team provide is crucial. This will help to help to ensure that your practice is underpinned by best evidence, is safe as possible, will lead to the best outcome and is as effective.

Top Tips for literature searching

In terms of the Quality Strategy (Scottish Government, 2010) research and evidence  contributes to delivering and illustrating that there is/are:

  • caring and compassionate staff and services
  • clear communication and explanation about conditions and treatment
  • effective collaboration between clinicians, people you care for  and others
  • a clean and safe care environment
  • continuity of care
  • clinical excellence

Identify an aspect of your practice or a clinical problem that you would like to know more about and use the following process to help you find out more.

  • be methodical in planning and conducting your search
  • define and clarify your topic area. This means making sure that the area is neither too broad because you will be overwhelmed by information or too narrow or you will find it difficult to find information.
  • identify which databases you are going to search
  • identify key words that best define your topic area (looking at key words contained in abstracts may be helpful)
  • set a time period for your searching. Would the last 5 years be sufficient or do you need to go back further than that?
  • set exclusive and inclusive criteria - for example include all English written articles from Europe, North America and Australia
  • keep a record of which databases you have searched as you go along - this helps to prevent you repeating activity!
  • keep a record of all your references as you search the literature. It may be tempting to skip this but it's important that you record  the full reference accurately - it will save you time in the long run as you won't waste time hunting for it months later when you don't have the full details
  • be prepared to further narrow or widen you search if you identify too little or too much material

Now that you have identified a range of literature about your chosen subject, you should identify other activities you want to complete where you can use it.


Accessing the right research findings

There is a vast amount of information and range of databases you can use for finding information. However, this has led to the problem of information overload and can make it more difficult to find the information that you are looking for.

For you to get to the information that you want, identify the databases and sources of information that will be most valuable. You will find the following websites useful.

The Knowledge Network provides guidance on finding journal articles, databases, books, libraries.

It also provides information about which databases you will find useful for differing purposes.

Evidence into Practice can help you find useful sources of information

Use The Knowledge Network Keep up to Date and library Help and Training pages to help you to identify the databases and sources of information that will be most useful to you. Add them to the favourites on your computer or record them in another way that will be useful to you.

Developing your computer-based search skills

As a student, you will have developed some computer-based search skills in completing your assignments. However, as the information you are looking for gets more specialised you may need to develop your skills further.

The following tutorials will help you in this development:

There are 5 sections to the tutorials and, if your time is limited, you may wish to work through them at different times.
These tutorials discuss using your university library however; the Knowledge Network is often the most accessible source of information.

Evaluating internet search results

Healthcare professionals and the people you care for are increasingly using the internet to locate information about care and treatments.

Imagine that one of the people you care for shows you a print out of information about their condition which they have downloaded from the internet. It claims to be a major breakthrough and will revolutionise the treatment of their condition.  How will you evaluate this information and what questions will you ask? What advice would you give them for the future?

The following activities will help you to develop the skills and knowledge to advise them.

1. The 'Evaluating Internet Health Information' tutorial from the National Library of Medicine will cover the major issues that you need to think about.

2. Use an internet search engine e.g. Google or Bing to search for information about a health issue that you deal  with frequently and pick several of them and evaluate them using the checklist from the tutorial.