This page has been put together with help and submissions from many Forum members.
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- A guide to starting out in clinical academic research
With a grant from UK Research and Innovation (Enhancing Research Culture), the School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, has produced a series of 10 free, short films offering advice and tips for clinicians on engaging in research and/or pursuing a clinical academic career. Find out more.
New evidence indicates the need to rethink anticipatory prescribing
This University of Cambridge Research Alert brings together new evidence on anticipatory prescribing, a widely used resource for healthcare professionals to help control distressing symptoms for people dying in the community.
The evidence identifies important problems with current practice in the UK and suggests system-level changes to tackle four areas for action.
The evidence is from research led by Dr Ben Bowers at the Palliative and End of Life Care Research group (PELiCam) at the Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge.
Qualitative research resources
- Braun V, Clarke V. Successful qualitative research: a practical guide for beginners. Los Angeles: SAGE; 2013.
This is an accessible, practical textbook which helps with planning and managing a qualitative research project. It avoids detailed theoretical discussion in favour of providing comprehensive tips and broad guidance for starting and completing successful qualitative research. Braun and Clarke provide a “thematic analysis” to qualitative data analysis in this book. They comparing and contrast thematic analysis with other commonly adopted qualitative analysis approaches. This discussion of commonalities, explaining why and when each method should be used, and in the context of looking at patterns, is invaluable in the qualitative research journey. A great how-to guide, whilst avoiding the trap of providing a cookbook recipe to analysis.
- Braun V, Clarke V. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qual Res Psychol. 2006; 3(2):77–101 (accessible via most libraries/universities, behind a paywall)
This article discusses the use of a thematic analysis approach in qualitative research. It discusses the strengths and weaknesses of thematic analysis, as well as clear guidelines to using thematic analysis with examples.
This often-cited paper provides context on the theoretically flexible approach of using thematic analysis to analyse qualitative data and provides insights into coding, categories and analytical themes. However, it provides limited practical insights into the process of coding and constructing thematic maps.
Starting with what’s special about qualitative data, this book covers more than simply data collection. It guides you through skilfully, thoughtfully, and ethically designing a project, managing data, exploring records, creating and justifying sound theories, and reporting results in ways that will be heard.
- Ziebland S, McPherson A. Making sense of qualitative data analysis: an introduction with illustrations from DIPEx. Med Educ. 2006; 40(5):405-14 (accessible via most libraries / universities, behind a paywall)
This article focuses on data analysis within qualitative research, and suggests an approach to analysing more unstructured, text-based data. It outlines stages in data analysis, including transcription, coding, analysis and the One Sheet Of Paper (OSOP) method. This practical technique helps in visualising the data, connections and the processes of identifying the story within each theme. The article also introduces the DIPEx website which hosts a public collection of research that may be useful in medical education.
This seminal and invaluable textbook demystifies the qualitative coding process with a comprehensive assessment of different coding types, examples and exercises. It neatly guides you through the multiple approaches available for coding qualitative data. It details straightforward and more complex techniques, providing a complete toolkit of codes and skills that can be applied to research projects.
- Bengtsson M. How to plan and perform a qualitative study using content analysis. NursingPlus Open. 2016; 2: 8-14 (open access)
The focus of this paper is ensuring credibility throughout the research process. Considerations include identifying internal and external resources and researchers considering their own bias and influence on the research.
This paper describes the research process when qualitative content analysis is chosen within a qualitative study. The purpose of content analysis is to organise and elicit meaning from the data collected and to draw realistic conclusions from it. This method is less focused on the interaction between researcher and participant, and more on analysing the data that is produced. Content analysis can be performed on secondary data, or primary data collected from social media posts, for example.
- Kiger M.E., Varpio L. Thematic analysis of qualitative data: AMEE Guide No. 131, Medical Teacher. 2020. Published online: 846-854 (accessible via most libraries/universities, behind a paywall)
This is another article that focuses on the use of thematic analysis. It outlines what thematic analysis is, how it relates to other methods of qualitative analysis, and gives guidance on when it is appropriate to use it.
Assessing quality in qualitative research
- Busetto L, Wick W, Gumbinger C. How to use and assess qualitative research methods. Res. Pract. 2020; 2(14) Published online (open access)
This paper provides an introductory overview of the use and assessment of qualitative research methods in the health sciences, and includes helpful information on how the methods can be used, reported and assessed. Criteria such as checklists, reflexivity, sampling strategies, piloting, co-coding, member-checking and stakeholder involvement can be used to enhance and assess the quality of the research conducted. Using qualitative in addition to quantitative designs will equip researchers with better tools to address a greater range of research problems.
- Williams V, Boylan A, Nunan D. Critical appraisal of qualitative research: necessity, partialities and the issue of bias BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine 2020; 25:9-11 (open access)
This article discusses engaging in critical appraisal of qualitative research. It discusses whether critical appraisal is necessary, how it is currently performed and what needs to be re-thought in the future.
- Braun V, Clarke V. One size fits all? What counts as quality practice in (reflexive) thematic analysis? Qualitative Research in Psychology 2020; 18(3):328-352 (accessible via most libraries/universities, behind a paywall)
This article discusses quality in thematic analysis and breaks down some of the common issues that arise with published thematic analysis. It also provides some advice on improving the quality of thematic analysis.
Sample size in qualitative research
- Malterud K, Siersma V.D., Guassora A.D. Sample size in qualitative interview studies: guided by information power. Qual Health Res. 2016; 26(13):1753–60 (not open access)
This article provides guidance on selecting sample sizes in qualitative research. The article suggests moving away from the use of ‘data saturation’, the concept of stopping collecting data when the dataset becomes saturated with the same information. The authors instead proposes the alternative concept of ‘information power’, meaning the more relevant information the sample holds in answering the research question, the lower the number of participants required.
- Aveyard et. al. A Postgraduate’s Guide to Doing a Literature Review in Health and Social Care. McGraw Hill, 2019.
This book provides a guide to undertaking a literature review, specifically in the subject area of post-graduate health and social care. It includes the step-by-step process of a literature review from start to finish. The book explains why literature reviews are important in research, and will help students to work out what type of review is best for their research and to appropriately select and analyse literature.
This is the resource set up by Braun and Clarke including recordings of their webinars. For anyone carrying out this type of qualitative analysis it is a really useful resource!
Conducting systematic reviews
This article provides a synopsis of the systematic review as a scientific exercise, one that influences health care decisions.
This paper looks at the use of thematic analysis in systematic reviews and how it brings together and integrates the findings of multiple qualitative studies.
This paper looks at the growing number of methods for synthesising qualitative research and discusses which methods are appropriate for which situation.
Good for all types of systematic reviews, for producing a high-quality piece of research.
This book covers all aspects of a review from defining what a review is (and is not), the family of reviews, (so you can pick the right one for you), defining the scope, all the nitty gritty of searching and managing your references, through to writing up and dissemination. Andrew Booth is vastly experienced, and he and his co-authors have produced a hugely accessible guide.
The York guidance is comprehensive, it has detail on every step of systematic reviews and is from the same team who run Prospero. Additional issues specific to reviews in more specialised topic areas are also addressed. This guide focuses on the methods relating to use of aggregate study-level data.
Why create your own search strategy when someone else has designed, tested and validated one for you? This site pulls together a wealth of search filters to help you identify study designs, population groups (e.g. ethnic or social groups), geographical areas (et LMIC), when you combine with your subject specific search terms.
Deduplication of the search results you’ve gathered from multiple databases is necessary to make the title/abstract screening as efficient as possible – you only want to see a paper once, after all. This paper guides you in making your Endnote deduplication as thorough as possible.
A very comprehensive ‘go-to’ guide to conducting systematic reviews of interventions. Frequently updated and freely available online.
- Bettany-Saltikov and McSherry (2016) – How To Do A Systematic Literature Review In Nursing: A Step-By-Step Guide
Excellent basic ‘how-to’ resource – a bible for UG & PG dissertations.
The JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis is designed to provide authors with a comprehensive guide to conducting JBI systematic reviews. It describes in detail the process of planning, undertaking and writing up a systematic review using JBI methods. This resource covers guidance for reviews and protocols for all review types. Very good for novices.
- GRADE Handbook – Handbook for grading the quality of evidence and the strength of recommendations using the GRADE approach
- Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines
PRISMA aims to help authors improve the reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. PRISMA may also be useful for critical appraisal of published systematic reviews, although it is not a quality assessment instrument to gauge the quality of a systematic review.
For reviews that cannot be combined in meta-analysis. The Synthesis Without Meta-analysis (SWiM) guideline has been developed to guide clear reporting in reviews of interventions in which alternative synthesis methods to meta-analysis of effect estimates are used. This article describes the development of the SWiM guideline for the synthesis of quantitative data of intervention effects and presents the nine SWiM reporting items with accompanying explanations and examples.
One of the newer review types is the ‘scoping review’. In general, scoping reviews are commonly used for ‘reconnaissance’ – to clarify working definitions and conceptual boundaries of a topic or field. Scoping reviews are therefore particularly useful when a body of literature has not yet been comprehensively reviewed, or exhibits a complex or heterogeneous nature not amenable to a more precise systematic review of the evidence.
Positive deviance is an asset-based improvement approach. At its core is the belief that solutions to problems already exist within communities, and that identifying, understanding, and sharing these solutions enables improvements at scale. This article provides examples of how positive deviance has been used to support healthcare improvement.
Co-production sees patients as active contributors to their own health and explores how interactions with staff and services can best be supported. Co-design is a related but distinct creative process, where patients and staff work in partnership to improve services or develop interventions. Both approaches are promoted for their technocratic benefits (better experiences, more effective and safer services) and democratic rationales (enabling inclusivity and equity), but the evidence base remains limited.
Collaboration-based approaches to healthcare improvement attract much attention. Longstanding examples of collaborative approaches have been associated with some success in improving outcomes and reducing harm. The evidence for their effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, however, remains inconsistent and contingent on the circumstances in which they are deployed and how they are used for what purpose. The authors of this article focus on two approaches: quality improvement collaboratives and communities of practice. They explore evidence of their impact on health outcomes, and evidence about how best to organise and implement collaboration-based approaches.