Monthly Archives: May 2012

#acwri challenge so far

A couple of posts back I challenged myself to write at least 100 words per day of academic writing, over and above essay marking comments (I would only include them if I did 100 words of something else as well. But did want to include them, mainly because they take so much time and effort!). I realise this is hardly riveting reading, but here’s my progress so far as much as an encouragement to me to keep going as anything else:

1 May: reflective diary, 300+ words
2 May: reflective diary, 140 words
3 May: reflective diary, c250 words
4 May: fail. But good intentions for the weekend!
5 May: outline of book review, c100 words. Also around 1500 words (conservative estimate) of essay marking comments.
6 May: revised conference paper – words unknown (a few added, a few taken out, bibliography added), plus around 300 words (again conservative estimate) of essay marking comments.
7 May: notes on articles read for work project, c800 words
8 May: blog entry (book review), c900 words
9 May: notes on articles read for work project, c500 words. Plus around 300 words of essay marking comments.
10 May: notes on articles read for work project, c300 words
11 May: notes on articles read for work project, c500 words. Plus one side of A5 (c150 words) notes in preparation for a talk I’m giving next month (more on that when it happens).
12 May: fail.
13 May: fail. (I have though been doing tons of marking this weekend – just no other academic writing so much as it pains me, the words don’t count!).

Next week my plans are:

1. More marking (sigh), plus tutorial preparation.
2. More reading at work.
3. Firm up next month’s talk.
4. Firm up next month’s conference paper.

Book Review: “Using Research in Practice”

Some time ago I was fortunate enough to benefit from the largesse of the British Journal of Nursing in a twitter giveaway (you can follow the BJN on twitter @BJNursing). The book I received was “Using Research in Practice: It Sounds Good, But Will It Work?” by Jaqui Hewitt-Taylor. I loved the premise of the book – it is aimed not at researchers per se, but at practitioners who need to appraise research in order to think about its relevance and application to their clinical practice. This is, I think, a very useful aim: I remember as a student nurse doing my research module, and struggling to find sources which explained in simple language what research was actually all about. Later, after I qualified, I picked up a bit more about appraising the suitability (or otherwise) of research claims, particularly thanks to a group of district nurses I worked with who (I later discovered, from a friend who managed medical reps) had a bit of a reputation for grilling medical reps and giving them a hard time when they visited and plied us with sandwiches and free samples and tried to get us to buy their wound dressings. However, I must admit before starting my PhD to being really quite vague about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of clinical research, and it is here that I think this book has much to offer.

The book is in three sections, “What is research, and why should it be used?” which outlines the benefits of research and the basic definitions, paradigms, ethical issues and methods/methodologies, followed by part 2, “Is the research any good?” This largest section discusses finding and appraising research generally, before more specific chapters on different types of research (quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, and summaries of evidence). The final section looks at “Putting research into practice”, including making decisions about incorporating research findings into practice, and the practicalities of managing change.

The substantive chapters on appraising research were all easy to read, and set out in a way which I found very helpful for the non-researching practitioner. Each chapter starts with a brief scenario, which outlines a practice-based dilemma requiring some appraisal of research evidence. The bulk of the chapter then outlines the principles of the particular type of research under discussion, and includes consideration of methods, methodology, sampling and analysis. Crucially this includes discussion of the relevance of the particular type of research to the research question in the scenario, and this is in my view a particular strength of the book, which I think is accessible and easy to follow. The chapters end with worked examples, with another scenario and discussions of two papers which may or may not be relevant and appropriate to the requirements of the practice dilemma. As a student and relatively newly-qualified nurse I am certain that I would have really appreciated a source like this to help me make sense of all the clinical research that we were expected to understand and assimilate with minimal research training.

My area of interest/expertise is in qualitative research, so that is the section I turned to first, and I was pleased to find no howlers but material with which I was in general agreement, which boosted my confidence in the credibility and authority of the author. After this I turned to the chapter on quantitative research (where I am on much shakier ground!) and there I found simple and easy to understand explanations which I greatly appreciated (although I do wonder if I found them thus because I have read more research over the years and have a greater understanding of general principles of research so was not approaching it from a zero-knowledge base). I am sure though that as a qualitative researcher currently working in an area where there is a lot of quantitative research of which I need at least a basic working grasp, I will be returning to this chapter more than once!

There were a few minor irritants about the book; a few spelling/punctuation errors which should have been spotted by the editor, particularly in the opening chapter, and most annoying for me, a number of passages where the author explains her point using chatty anecdotes about things such as a holiday in South America, niggles the editor might have with the author, and something to do with ice cream (if any of my OU students read this they will no doubt recognise this criticism; I do not expect an informal chatty style from students so I certainly don’t want to see it in published academic authors! Although I do realise this probably says more about me than about the author!). The substantive chapters, where points were explained using clinical examples and scenarios, were so well done, relevant and easy to follow that the excessively chatty and anecdotal style in those more personal examples seemed out of place and unnecessary.

I did feel that the latter chapters, whilst of interest to student practitioners, would be of most use to those already qualified and in post, in more of a position to effect change in the practice setting. However the book as a whole is to be welcomed as a useful addition not only for practitioners but also students to help ‘demystify’ research and hopefully encourage them that research is a vital part of practice rather than yet another additional burden.

#acwri challenge

On twitter, the #acwri (aka academic writing) hashtag has been around for a while to try and galvanise people into actually doing more writing (unsurprisingly). So I have set myself a mini-challenge, starting yesterday – I intend to write at least 100 words per day of academic-related writing. Which sounds miniscule and silly, but it is so easy to get distracted that I often end up with a blank sheet of paper and an entire article to write after a week of doing other things, whereas this way I could write a paragraph, or a paper outline, and by the time I come to a serious writing day I’m not starting entirely from scratch. Obviously if I can write more than 100 words then that is a bonus, but 100 a day is surely manageable even with loads of distractions.

I am newly in post in the new job (I started yesterday) so am currently doing quite a lot of reading rather than writing, and preparation for fieldwork. So I have decided that, at least initially, the types of things I will count for my challenge will include:

* reflective/research diary entries
* blog entries
* notes on articles/books I’m reading
* plans/outlines of papers

as well as actual articles. I also have a fair bit of essay marking coming up in the next couple of weeks, and have decided that I will count essay feedback, but only if I also do another 100 words of another type of academic writing as well (ie my essay comments will add to the total from another activity, rather than being the only academic writing that day, which means that even when I am marking I can’t use that as an excuse to not think and write about my research).

I will record my totals here around weekly, for accountability purposes (to my vast audience :D). My reflective diary is hand-written and so I haven’t counted the words, but yesterday I wrote just over 2 sides of A5 so would estimate around 300 words. Today’s writing will be the diary as well. At the weekend, as well as my marking I have to finish my conference paper; I wonder how I will count negative word counts as I have at least 1000 words to cut out (whilst still wanting to say more).