4. Helps define your terminology or identify variations in definitions used by researchers or practitioners.
5. Helps to identify appropriate research methodologies .
6. You can also identify validated scales and instruments.
Case study: Attitudes of different professions to handwashing in a delivery suite - 1
A midwife is researching attitudes of different staff to handwashing. She firstly searches the literature to focus the scope of the original question.
Although the literature on handwashing is vast she needs to discover whether published research has been conducted specifically in obstetrics and gynaecology settings. Has anyone researched the topic specifically in a delivery suite?
Case study: Attitudes of different professions to handwashing in a delivery suite - 2
“ Handwashing” has many more definitions than she had envisaged.
Does handwashing include the use of a handrub? Does it constitute use of water only? What is the minimum duration of the procedure before it is classed as "handwashing"?
The literature search enables her to explore different definitions of her main concepts.
Case study: Attitudes of different professions to handwashing in a delivery suite - 3
Are there validated instruments to measure attitudes to handwashing (or towards routine hospital hygiene)?
The literature review may inform selection of appropriate outcomes - those employed in previous studies (literary warrant) or those considered appropriate by the relevant clinical community (user warrant).
Will she focus singly on attitudes or will she investigate knowledge and/or behaviour?
Q: Any other roles or uses for literature review that you have identified?
"Ask a poor question and you will get a poor review. A clear question also helps the reader rapidly assess whether the review is relevant to his or her own…practice". (Counsell, 1997)
Clearly framed questions "guide much of the review process including strategies for locating and selecting studies or data, for critically appraising their relevance and validity, and for analysing variation among their results". (Cochrane Handbook)
You are working on an ESRC funded project looking at the benefits of a doula ( a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth) for low-income mothers.
From: Etext on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Information Resources. Chapter 4: Searching MEDLINE/PubMed for Health Technology Assessment Information by Viveka Alton and Ione Auston. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/nichsr/ehta/chapter4.html
Take Home Message – 1 An optimal search will combine natural language and controlled vocabulary approaches
“ optimal permutations of search terms found in the titles, abstracts or the subject indexing of relevant articles that have been demonstrated to have a high correlation with study quality”
“ pre-prepared searc h strategies, previously referred to as ‘search filters’, ‘quality filters’, ‘hedges’ or ‘optimal search strategies’… developed (and usually tested) for use with particular databases and/or search interfaces to retrieve specific types of evidence, study design or …information more effectively”
Evaluating your search strategy Relevant Not Relevant Retrieved Use to generate additional search terms Eliminate terms with poor yield Not Retrieved Use reference lists from key articles to identify these No further action required
Take Home Message 3: Judge not by what you have retrieved but by what you may have missed!