Category Archives: Conferences

HTAi15 IRG Advanced Searching Workshop: Qualitative Evidence

IRG BoothWhen I found out that Andrew Booth from ScHARR was going to be presenting at the IRG Advanced Searching Workshop, that was a decision maker for me. My education plan includes teaching methods for finding qualitative research and since I know Booth is an excellent teacher, I though it a brilliant opportunity.  I also know from previous experience that Booth loves acronyms so I had to laugh when I saw the opening slide of his presentation (above). Systematic reviews of qualitative research is increasing, and according to Booth, there are around 12 a month hitting the databases (the search strategy used to determine this interested me: Topic=(“qualitative systematic review” OR “qualitative evidence synthesis” OR “qualitative research synthesis”) OR Topic=(metastudy OR metasynthesis OR “meta synthesis” OR “meta ethnography” OR “meta ethnographic” OR “metaethnography” OR “metaethnographic”) OR Topic=(“systematic review of qualitative”). The main difference between quantitative and qualitative SRs is that while the former seeks to pool numerical results, the latter seeks to find themes or constructs – it is an interpretive exercise which aims to gather insights. Qualitative SRs answer questions such as how and why interventions work or don’t work, what outcomes matter to patients, and what patient experiences of disease are to name a few. The hardest thing about qualitative evidence is appraisal, so I was glad to find out about a method which Booth says is similar to GRADE. CERQual‘s aims to assess how much confidence can be had in the evidence in qualitative reviews. There are four components to this: methodological limitations of the included studies; coherence of the review; relevance of the studies to the research question; and adequacy of the data. Creating a search strategy can use these components as a guide: use methodological filters to find high quality studies; use sampling to retrieve papers that provide a fair representation of the phenomenon; use question mnemonics to guide search strategy formation; and use alternate search strategies to locate similar studies. There are a few question mnemonics to choose from: SPICE, ProPheT, ECLIPSE, SPIDER. It was fun to test these tools with a qualitative research question – one of the really useful workshop activities. Now onto something tricky – searching! The next activity was assessing whether an article was qualitative research or not and if not, why it came up in the retrieval set. I really liked this activity and will copy it in my own sessions – it is one where you can learn a lot from. And of course, there was another acronym to help with identifying qualitative research! ESCAPADE asks what methods, approaches and data were used. Now for qualitative filters. Filters are search strategies that identify papers using specific study designs or publication types and subject terms/free text terms used in high quality studies. Some of them are one liners: MeSH Qualitative Research (though it has some limitations as this subject added in 2003). Many of these filters are available via the ISSG Filter Resource. Booth mentioned the health services research filter available through the PubMed Topic Specific Queries (which I have to say I haven’t looked at often) which includes a qualitative research option. The third activity was an interesting and useful exercise too and one worth reusing: what weakness can you spot in a filter and what is one instance in which a filter could be useful? Next up was the sampling search method. I have a hard time with this because one of the mantras with searching for SRs is comprehensiveness. But this is impossible to achieve in reality for many reasons. SRs address specific questions and have strict inclusion and exclusion criteria and so there are set boundaries – the key is to be exhaustive within these. In qualitative research, the boundaries are more fluid. Is sampling the answer and what is it anyway? Sampling is used to reach data saturation (until information repeats itself and nothing new is gleaned). So instead of having more of the same information, only retain information that explains a concept, confirms interconnections or assists in argument formation. Where can studies be found? Don’t rely on databases – use expansive searches to include footnotes (risk of confirmation bias), citation tracking and snowballing, theses and books and other grey literature. A concept that Booth mentioned was sibling studies – different studies in the same context Sampling - cluster searches(I might not have got this right). Clustering is a search strategy technique used for identifying sibling studies. This is a difficult concept for me even though I use some of the techniques in isolation. I guess it is a matter of being a little more systematic (!) in my approach. Phew – it was an intense session which could have gone on all day. Well worth attending – and I encourage you to attend any sessions run by Andrew Booth – they are really good.

And did I do the acronym challenge? I did but stopped 1/2 through the session because there were so many and I was loosing track!

Goodbye EAHIL2015

Uni of Edinburgh

Uni of Edinburgh

I’ve just read Isla Kuhn’s posts about EAHIL2015 and I have to agree with her – it was a great event and I’m glad I attended. Like Isla, it was my first EAHIL conference and perhaps it won’t be the last. I attended many great workshops. Some have already blogged about it and I feel a little tardy (I started writing this post a month ago – oopps)! However, I hope my posts will add to what has been written and not offer more of the same. It is worth reading other reports anyway because you can’t be in two places at once. There were so many great workshops offered and it was hard to choose which to attend.

The Ceilidh

The Ceilidh

The conference dinner at the National Museum of Scotland was a treat (waiters coordinated serving – almost like a dance) and the ceilidh itself was massive fun. I met some great people – some I had communicated with via email and twitter only, so it was nice meeting them face to face at last. And wouldn’t you know it, I found out who the other Australian attendee was – from Eastern Health, just a few suburbs away from the Royal Melbourne Hospital!

The plenaries were interesting and sitting in the main lecture theatre made me feel like an undergrad again. I did my Major in Sociology so the sense of deja vu was very strong (the plenary presentations also had this effect on me). Professor Hazel Hall talked about the DREaM project which aimed to create a network of researchers in the library and information field and along the way, encourage the application of research in practice. This project finished in 2012 but the resources and the networks are still available. Dr Joanna R Eckerdal talked about her dissertation subject which was around how health literacy informed contraceptive method choice in young women, and the topic of Dr Liz Grant’s talk was about the Global Health Academy Project which amongst other goals, addresses sustainability and equity issues. You can read about member activities on the Academy blog

EAHIL 2016 will be hosted in Seville, Spain and if you are considering a holiday in Europe next year (or fitting a holiday around an overseas conference like I do), I encourage you to think about attending.

EAHIL2015: Thematic Analysis in Qualitative Research

interview-437026_1280Well, it has been awhile without posting – apologies everyone! So why did I choose to take this workshop? Well, I have a basic grasp of what content/thematic analysis is, well – I think I do, but I thought I should perhaps learn more about it instead of relying on presumption. I also had the recent experience of collating feedback surveys received from a course we run at work (I don’t usually do this job) and realised that when it came to the free comment section, I didn’t know what to do with the information.  If I had some basic knowledge of this type of analysis, perhaps I could extract meaningful information given during feedback. So what is thematic analysis all about? It is a qualitative research method that identifies recurring patterns, ideas or themes in recorded data. Professor Ina Fourie from the University of Pretoria led the session and before the workshop, she asked people to write to her about why they wanted to take the workshop. I responded, along with some others and these were bundled together for us to analyse. I found this a really interesting exercise to do, and also hard. What you have to do with your data is look at it more than a few times and perhaps in different moods and periods of time. You also have to ask yourself about your assumptions and biases and take these into account. No one is without bias.  Then each of us reported our findings to the class and this exercise demonstrated that different people see different things in data. Fourie said that she aimed to give us an idea about what was involved in thematic analysis as it is quite an involved process and requires many goes before getting the process right. And there isn’t any right or wrong answers to data – the act of thematic analysis is part of the research act itself. The process of extracting reoccurring ideas or themes is called coding and is a cyclical process where the code is refined and ideas reorganised along the way. Some coding can be built before analysis based on interview structure and the research question. When it comes to reporting, the methods in which the way the code and themes has to be explicitly described and the reasoning behind them too. So, could this method be used to extract information from free commentary in feedback surveys? I am a little uncertain about this. It certainly was an interesting process to go through. Perhaps I need a few goes and more knowledge about the theories behind it before I can see whether it could work.