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Nursing

Do your references pass the CRAAP test?

When was this source published?

How old are the references and data used?

Has this source, or its data, been updated?

Does this type of information get updated?

Is there likely to be more recent information available elsewhere?

Is this information relevant to your assignment? Is there likely to be better information?

Is this aimed at the correct audience?

Who wrote it? What are their qualifications?

Where do they work? Who do they work for?

Are they likely to have a good understanding of this field?

Is the information reliable?

Can you find the original source?

What is the quality of the presentation? Are there significant errors?

Do the conclusions match the data?

Have all sides been considered?

Why has the article been written?

Is there any obvious bias? Is the author or their employer likely to get a benefit out of the recommendations?

Is it recommending a particular course of action or therapy? Does the data support this? Are any alternatives considered?

Primary and secondary research

In university, you need to use peer reviewed articles for your assignments. Sometimes these can be called scholarly or academic articles.

A peer reviewed article is checked carefully by a panel of experts to make sure it is accurate.

The typical peer-reviewed primary research article contains some or all of the following sections (and possibly other sections not mentioned here). Click each one to learn more:

The abstract provides a brief summary of the journal article contents.

Look at the abstract when deciding whether to select and use an article in your search results.

animated GIF representing article being mechanically compressed to an abstract

The introduction sets the background and context of the article, and may include the reason the research was undertaken.

Pay attention to this section on your first reading.

cartoon, Jessica and article shaking hands

The methodology might not be included in some "discussion articles", but will be included in many research articles.

It gives explicit details of how the research was conducted, and should be sufficient to reproduce the research.

On your first reading you might skip over this section.

It's the research equivalent of a cooking recipe.

 

cartoon, Jessica pouring coffee
To consistently make the best mocha requires adhering to a strict recipe.

 

Results and analysis (sometimes merged, sometimes separate sections) give a detailed listing of the research results, and details on how the results were summarised and interpreted, and may include statistical details.

On a first reading you might skip over this section.

This section might not be present in some "discussion articles".

cartoon, Jessica with LOTS of numbers

This is usually a discussion of the results or other sections of the paper, including potential flaws in the research and implications of the results.

Pay attention to this section on your first reading.

cartoon, Jessica with cartoon talking article

This usually sums up the outcome or recommendations from the research or discussion. It is the "bottom line" of the article.

Pay attention to this section on your first reading.

cartoon, Jessica concluding cats are better than dogs

At this point, you might want to consider whether the results and the analysis justifies the conclusion, or whether a strong conclusion is being made from insufficient or uncertain results.

Good-quality journal articles will provide references to either support the ideas and arguments in the article, or to provide a source for the ideas and information used. In-text citations in the other sections will show where each reference has been used. On a first reading you might skip over this section.

If you are using a recent article, the references can be a good source for finding more articles on the same topic.

quality research acknowledges its sources

Sometimes you may be asked to use primary research articles in your assignments. What does this mean?

Primary research
  • Reports on the authors' own research that they have conducted themselves
  • Original data and information found through surveys, interviews, experiments, clinical trials etc.
  • The 'methods' or 'methodology' section describes how the research was done, such as data collection and who or what was studied
  • The 'results' or 'findings' section describes what the researchers found out, and may include statistics, graphs or tables to show their data 

This abstract from a primary research article shows the population studied, the intervention or treatment applied, and what the researchers found out. 

Examples:

The role of gender in a smoking cessation intervention: A cluster randomized clinical trial

Behavioural activation v. antidepressant medication for treating depression in Iran: Randomised trial

Sometimes you may be asked to use primary research articles in your assignments. What does this mean?

Secondary research
  • Reviews and evaluates other peoples' research and findings
  • Discusses and evaluates already existing research by other people
  • The 'methods' or 'methodology' section describes how the authors searched for and decided which studies to include in their review
  • The 'results' or 'findings' section might not always be present, but can include how many articles the authors looked at

This abstract from a secondary research article shows how many other articles were examined by the authors, and how they decided which ones to study. 

Examples:

Qualitative systematic review: Barriers and facilitators to smoking cessation experienced by women in pregnancy and following childbirth

Meta-analysis of the effects of peer-administered psychosocial interventions on symptoms of depression

Here's how to limit your search results in QuickSearch.

In your results screen, you can filter results using the options down the right hand side of the page.

To limit to peer reviewed articles, under Availability, click on Peer-reviewed Journals. The results will now only be peer reviewed articles.

You will notice this icon which shows under all peer reviewed articles. 

To limit results to secondary research, under Resource Type, select Reviews by hovering your mouse over the word and clicking on the checkbox to the left that will appear. This will show only articles that are reviews, or secondary research.

To limit results to primary research, click on the red box to the right. This will remove secondary research from your results. 

You will still need to check the results carefully for yourself and decide if the articles you choose are primary or secondary, as this filter is not completely accurate every time. 

Critical appraisal: Evaluating research

Need to critically appraise a randomized controlled trial or a systematic review, or some other type of research article?

Critical appraisal checklists can be found at:

Useful ebook:

Riegelman, R. K. (2005). Studying a study and testing a test: How to read the medical evidence (5th ed.).

Useful article on appraising qualitative research articles:

Côté, L. (2005). Appraising qualitative research articles in medicine and medical education.