Interested in how to better understand scientific manuscripts or keep up-to-date with research in your field? Looking for tips and tools to approach your first research project? This toolkit provides a variety of research-related resources for RTs in all roles at all levels.
Tips for Understanding Research
These steps and tips will be useful to anyone interested in understanding how to get the most out of scientific articles, and raise important points for RTs to consider with their own writing practice.
- From LSE Impact blog: How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists
- From NCBI: Art of reading a journal article: Methodically and effectively
- From The Chronicle of Higher Education: Lessons on the craft of scholarly reading
Critical appraisal is the systematic evaluation of clinical research papers in order to establish:
- Does this study address a clearly focused question?
- Did the study use valid methods to address this question?
- Are the valid results of this study important?
- Are these valid, important results applicable to my patient or population?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you can save yourself the trouble of reading the rest of it.
From the University of Toronto webpage Critical Reading Towards Critical Writing:
Some Practical Tips
- Critical reading occurs after some preliminary processes of reading. Begin by skimming research materials, especially introductions and conclusions, in order to strategically choose where to focus your critical efforts.
- When highlighting a text or taking notes from it, teach yourself to highlight argument: those places in a text where an author explains her analytical moves, the concepts she uses, how she uses them, how she arrives at conclusions. Don’t let yourself foreground and isolate facts and examples, no matter how interesting they may be. First, look for the large patterns that give purpose, order, and meaning to those examples. The opening sentences of paragraphs can be important to this task.
- When you begin to think about how you might use a portion of a text in the argument you are forging in your own paper, try to remain aware of how this portion fits into the whole argument from which it is taken. Paying attention to context is a fundamental critical move.
- When you quote directly from a source, use the quotation critically. This means that you should not substitute the quotation for your own articulation of a point. Rather, introduce the quotation by laying out the judgments you are making about it, and the reasons why you are using it. Often a quotation is followed by some further analysis.
- Critical reading skills are also critical listening skills. In your lectures, listen not only for information but also for ways of thinking. Your instructor will often explicate and model ways of thinking appropriate to a discipline.
“It means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research.” (Sackett D, 1996)
The Joanna Briggs Institute Model for Evidence-based Healthcare (YouTube Video)
Use these databases to search for the evidence on your topic of interest
PubMed: From the National Library of Medicine PubMed is a free search engine accessing primarily the MEDLINE database. MeSH descriptors (Medical Subject Headings) are used to index the literature.
From Georgia State University:
CINAHL: Nurses, allied health professionals, researchers, nurse educators and students depend on the CINAHL Database to research their subject areas from this authoritative index of nursing and allied health journals. This resource also uses MeSH headings for searching.
Scopus: A database produced by Elsevier, Scopus is the world’s largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, including scientific journals, books and conference proceedings, covering research topics across all scientific and technical disciplines, ranging from medicine and social sciences to arts and humanities
Tip! Ask a medical librarian for help, if you have access to this resource.
Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information. Unedited, firsthand access to words, images, or objects created by persons directly involved in an activity or event or speaking directly for a group. This is information before it has been analyzed, interpreted, commented upon, spun, or repackaged. Depending upon the context, these may include research reports, sales receipts, speeches, e-mails, original artwork, manuscripts, photos, diaries, personal letters, spoken stories/tales/interviews, diplomatic records, etc.
Secondary sources interpret, analyze, or summarize. Commentary upon, or analysis of, events, ideas, or primary sources. Because they are often written significantly after events by parties not directly involved but who have special expertise, they may provide historical context or critical perspectives. Examples are scholarly books, journals, magazines, criticism, interpretations, and so forth.
Tertiary sources compile, index, or organize sources. Sources which analyzed, compiled and digest secondary sources included mostly in abstracts, bibliographies, handbooks, encyclopedias, indexes, chronologies, etc.
“Grey” Literature (from the University of Toronto)
Grey Literature is any literature that has not been published through traditional means. It is often excluded from large databases and other mainstream sources. Grey literature can also mean literature that is hard to find or has inconsistent or missing bibliographic information.
Search grey literature to:
- avoid bias
- ensure that the review is as thorough as possible
- find sources for negative results or brand new evidence
- discover more references to published literature that your database search might have missed
CADTH’s “Grey Matters” guide also lists many resources.
How to Integrate Research into Practice
- From LSE Impact blog: How to keep up to date with the literature but avoid information overload
- From Editage: Tips for effective literature searching and keeping up with new publications
Find out how to critically review a paper and why this can assist in both reading and preparing manuscripts.
- Systematically Reviewing a Journal Manuscript: A Guideline for Health Reviewers
- From Publons: How to Write a Peer Review: 12 things you need to know
- From Elsevier: Ten tips for a truly terrible peer review. In this fun but informative article, discover some of the major mistakes early-career researchers can make when acting as a reviewer
- See the CJRT’s Peer Review Policy
- The STROBE tool (STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology) is an international, collaborative initiative of epidemiologists, methodologists, statisticians, researchers and journal editors involved in the conduct and dissemination of observational studies. This is a checklist of items that should be included so that readers know what was planned (and what was not), what was done, what was found, and what the results mean.
Tip! The CJRT is always recruiting interested volunteers to participate in the peer review process. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org! You get to read the latest papers in your area of expertise and practice your critical review skills. After each completed review, the peer reviewer receives educational credit letters that can be applied to your provincial CPD program. New to research? We are happy to start you off slowly and pair you with experienced reviewers for your first review.
- From Health Research Policy and Systems: Frameworks for embedding a research culture in allied health practice: a rapid review
- From Health Services Research: Implementing research results in clinical practice- the experiences of healthcare professionals
- TRIP database: a clinical search engine designed to allow users to quickly and easily find and use high-quality research evidence to support their practice and/or care
Did you know that the CJRT encourages publication of your quality assurance/quality improvement projects? Below is a description of the Innovations in Practice format.
This article type highlights innovative approaches to, or evaluation of, any aspect of the theory or practice of respiratory therapy. This could include, without being limited to, process/protocol improvement, program evaluation, quality improvement, or practice change. These are similar in format to a research paper, but the reporting of results and analysis is less vigorous as these are a faster way of disseminating what is happening on the front lines of clinical practice, and thus do not always fall neatly into traditional research reporting. Quality improvement brings evidence into practice, while research introduces new knowledge. Note that no results are required to submit in this format, and these submissions are generally REB exempt.
Have you noticed a way that things could be done better? What are your next steps?
A gap is something that remains to be done or learned in an area of research; it’s a gap in the knowledge of the scientists in the field of research of your study. Every research project must, in some way, address a gap–that is, attempt to fill in some piece of information missing in the scientific literature. Otherwise, it is not novel research and is therefore not contributing to the overall goals of science.
Article from Alison Maxwell: Gap statements
Blog from the Research Whisperer: Mind the Gap – tips on framing the gap for grant applications
- Writing an Effective Literature Review
- Intro to Systematic Reviews & Meta-Analyses (YouTube Video)
- Systematic Reviews & Meta-Analyses: A 5-Step Checkup (PLOS One Blog by Hilda Bastien)
- Systematic vs Literature reviews
Studies on patients or volunteers require ethics committee approval and informed consent which should be documented in your paper. Patients have a right to privacy.
- From Memorial University: What Needs Ethics Approval?
- From Newfoundland and Labrador Health Research Ethics Authority: Does your study require ethics review?
- Guide to completing a human research ethics application (example from University of Waterloo)
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Responsible Conduct of Research
- Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans
- It is recommended that applicants consider accounting for gender as a socio-cultural determinant of health in clinical, health system and population health studies where appropriate. Additionally, it is recommended that researchers consider accounting for sex as a biological variable in basic science, clinical, health system and population health studies where appropriate. See Key Considerations for the appropriate integration of sex and gender in research from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This site also offers tools for researchers with further tips on integrating sex and gender into research.
- EQUATOR Network: One-stop-shop for writing and publishing high-impact health research, including a toolkit for finding the right reporting tool for your study, and how to use it.
- STROBE checklist – for cohort, case-control, and/or cross-sectional studies
- COREQ checklist for qualitative papers
- CONSORT Statement – evidence-based, minimum set of recommendations for reporting randomized trials
- CARE checklist for teaching cases/case reports
- PRISMA checklist for systematic reviews
- Conducting a Research Interview. Methods discussed in this reading include the face-to-face interview, group interviews such as focus groups, and remote interview conducted by telephone or using the computer.
- From the University of Toronto: The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It
- Designing and Using Surveys as Research and Evaluation Tools
- From The American Statistician: Data Organization in Spreadsheets
Check out these links and resources to improve your writing and editing
- The Abstract: Abstracts are important because they give a first impression of the document that follows, letting readers decide whether to continue reading and showing them what to look for if they do (from the University of Toronto) .
- How to write for publication (PDF from International Journal for Quality in Health Care): a guide for new authors (including 10 key questions to help you get started & identify your key messages & ideas)
- PLOS One Article: A Brief Guide To Writing Your First Scientific Manuscript
- Falcon Editing Blog: How to Write a Scholarly Article for Publication (15 Tips) Did you know that writing a paper can actually help define the value of your study?
- Elsevier Researcher Academy https://researcheracademy.elsevier.com/ (free modules)
As a general rule, written permission must be obtained from the rightsholder in order to re-use any copyrighted material. Typically the rightsholder of published material is the publisher unless it is explicitly indicated otherwise. Copyrighted material can include figures, illustrations, charts, tables, photographs, and text excerpts. Re-use of any borrowed material must be properly acknowledged, even if it is determined that written permission is not necessary.
When is permission not required?
Written permission may not need to be obtained in certain circumstances, such as the following:
- Public domain works are not protected by copyright and may be reproduced without permission, subject to proper acknowledgement. This includes works for which copyright has expired (for example, any US work published prior to 1923), works that are not copyrightable by law (for example, works prepared by US government employees as part of their official duties), and works expressly released into the public domain by their creators. (Permission would however be required to re-use the final formatted, edited, published version of a public domain journal article, for example, as this version is owned by the publisher.)
- Open access content published under a CC-BY user license, as well as open access content published under other types of user licenses depending on the nature of your proposed re-use (for example, commercial vs. nonprofit use), may not require written permission, subject to proper acknowledgement. Permissions vary depending on the license type, and we recommend that readers check the license details carefully before re-using the material.
- Creating an original figure or table from data or factual information that was not previously in figure or table format typically does not require permission, subject to proper acknowledgement of the source(s) of the data.
See CJRT Author Guidelines for more information: https://www.cjrt.ca/author-guidelines/
Disseminating your Work
- A seven step checklist from Elsevier Connect by author Aijaz Shaikh to check before you submit that article for publication
- From the LSE Impact blog: “Remember a condition of academic writing is that we expose ourselves to critique” – 15 steps to revising journal articles
Top 4 reasons why a manuscript might be rejected without review:
- The subject matter is not a match with the journal content
- The article offers no new knowledge, is not novel or unique
- The language/grammar is poor and difficult to read
- The article contains plagiarized sections (articles are screened through plagiarism software before review)
Tip! Be sure to check the author guidelines before submitting. Here is a link to the CJRT Author Guidelines
I’ve done the work – now what? Spread the word!
- From LSE Impact Blog: How to write a blogpost from your journal article in eleven easy steps
- From Fast Track Impact, by M. Reed & A. Sutherland: How to turn your next paper into an infographic