Phew! We made it … by Helen Kiely and Lorna Dawson

Almost one year on, Helen and Lorna take a look at how the first years of their MLIS courses went.

 

What did you enjoy most?

HK: I really enjoyed one assignment on looking at the future of libraries in different sectors and the governing body papers and reports. It was interesting looking at what the future directions are and how that affects what we do at present. The assignment gave me a lot of scope to look at case studies and examples of best practice which I found really useful to see what worked well and what hasn’t.

HK: I also enjoyed the opportunities to chat with my fellow students many of whom come from different library and information backgrounds so have different perspectives and experiences.

LD: I really enjoyed a group project we did where we had to present how we would implement a new innovation to a library service. It allowed me to think a bit like a library manager which was cool and an experience I wouldn’t usually have. It helped me put theory like organisational structure and marketing – which can sometimes feel a bit distant – into context. The girls I worked with were great, we worked really well together, put our all in and it definitely paid off.

 

What do you know now that you didn’t before?

HK: A lot! Haha. Seriously though all my assignments and lectures have taught me new things- I’ve been able to spend time actually researching different things and being able to see what research has gone before which not only gives me a better understanding of what we do now (and why we do it) but also gives me plenty of ideas to share with the team.

LD: How openathens and the linkresolver work. My final essay was about extending e-resource access and I had to explain about openathens and linkresolver problems. I was on a tight deadline (because I misread it) and could have kept it vague but I wanted to be able to explain it fully so I went away and researched it. I’m really glad I did. When I submitted that essay I knew no matter what mark I got, I was happy with it because I’d learnt something valuable from writing it.

 

How has it helped in your job role?

HK: I often come away from lectures going ‘Oh, so that’s why we do it like that’ or ‘I wonder how we could take those ideas and implement them here’ which is really fun- it certainly fires up the imagination.

LD: Yeah I had those kind of moments when we studied things like copyright and intellectual property. It helped me understand the reasons behind the processes in inter-library loans.

HK: It’s also given me a lot more practical understanding about the strategy side of things. One assignment I struggled with at first was writing a PID. I found it challenging because you had to create your fictitious library and organisation (which involved a lot of research of different organisations hierarchies!) but I really enjoyed the actual process of writing it and considering the eventualities and ways to mitigate risk. It’s helped me understand more within our workplace.

LD: Learning about and reflecting on team roles has helped me to better understand our team dynamic at work. I already knew it was a good one, now I have a better appreciation of why. It’s helped me understand my preferred way of working so I can now consciously try to work that way. It’s also highlighted things I might struggle with, which kind of makes them easier to address and hopefully overcome.

 

What are you looking forward to next year?

HK: We’ve got a research methods module coming up that I’m looking forward to as it’s been a long time since I last did something on this and I’m looking forward to finding out new ideas. There’s also going to be more about Knowledge Management, a concept I still find challenging to get my head around so I’m looking forward to that!

LD: I have to say, I’m also looking forward to the Research Methods and doing super intense research into a topic that I’m interested in. May not feel quite the same way by the end of it but we’ll see. I’m also looking forward to learning more about information literacy. It’s something that’s been touched upon a bit but not much this year. I think is really important for the future so am excited to learn more.

 

What will you do differently in the coming year?

HK: I’m not going to read the student google plus group the week before an assignment is due! The other google plus pages for modules often have useful information close to deadlines, but I’ve found the student one becomes an echo-chamber with everyone worried about getting their assignment Just Perfect. I think I will stress less if I don’t get caught up in it!

HK: On a perhaps more boring note I’m going to try a new way of notetaking that I found online (because yes, of course I google stuff like that in my spare time) which involves putting summaries on the supporting readings in a box alongside lecture summaries. I think it will help me remember what I’ve read, rather than flipping between pages so I’m going to give that a go!

LD: My aim is to read around the course more. I kind of got into doing this in second term and wish I’d started doing it earlier. It helped me feel more confident contributing ideas in class. One supplementary essay on change management actually helped me understand the changes that were going on at work in the Trust merger.

LD: I also want to go to more NLPN events. I attended one this year on negotiating e-journal licences. There was a guy from JISC who explained about what they do which was helpful because I didn’t have a clue before. It’s nice to meet people who are in the same boat – just starting out – and the events are usually free which is great!

Lorna Dawson and Helen Kiely

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One course, some coffee and a chat – Katie Nicholas talking to Kathryn Graham

“Since graduating from my undergraduate degree in 2014, returning to university one day has been at the back of my mind. After leaving the University of Leeds almost exactly three years ago I have had a variety of jobs and visited a variety of places, but it wasn’t until I started working as a Library Assistant at Central Manchester Foundation Trust last August that I felt I had found my calling.

Almost as soon as I began in my first library role, the possibility of studying for a postgraduate degree was on my radar. The desire to study at a higher level and establish myself in a library or information management-related career, mixed with the encouragement from those around me, led me to apply for the Library and Information Management course at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Last September, as soon as news spread that I had a vague plan to continue my studies, it was suggested that I speak to Katie Nicholas who, at the time, was working towards completing her dissertation in her third and final year of the course. We met up for coffee and I grilled Katie on every aspect of the course, primarily focused on my anticipation and trepidation of becoming a student once more. Nine months down the line, with one dissertation completed and a successful university application behind us, Katie and I met up again to formulate those initial musings and worries into something a little more comprehensive.” Kathryn Graham, Library Assistant, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT)

“We decided to structure our discussion using a ‘quick and dirty’ version of the Knowledge Exchange template from the Knowledge Management toolkit – neither of us were leaving one post to start another, but we were sharing learning and passing on experiences gained so we thought it was an appropriate way to capture our chat. Kathryn thought of 5 top questions she wanted to ask someone who had finished the course as she prepared to start and I thought of 5 key learning points I wished I’d know at the start.” Katie Nicholas, Knowledge Officer, Health Education England

 

Returning to student life

KG: How did you find the transition of returning to university and becoming a student again?

KN: Becoming a student again, especially as I am now working and not a full-time student this time around, was definitely a culture shock. One of the best pieces of advice I could give for easing yourself through this transition, is to begin reading and assimilating back into student mode as soon as you can. Try to do a little bit of reading or research around the module topics before you start to try to get yourself into the right frame of mind. Buy a nice new pencil case! That’s always my favourite part.

KG: Did you find it difficult to balance your part-time student life with your full-time working life?

KN: It was hard at times but you soon get back into ‘student mode’. I quickly learnt that it is important to manage your time well. Once you begin setting aside time in your diary for studying and completing assignments, you realise that you have a bit more time to study than you thought. There is often time during the day at university, between lectures and seminars, to get on with work too. It’s all about utilising any free time you have.

 

Getting the balance right

KG: How did you balance your work, university, and personal lives for three years without losing the plot?

KN: With difficulty! The key is to compartmentalise your time. As I said before, it is vital to manage all of the time you have efficiently. I made sure I knew all of my deadlines at the beginning of each semester, so that I had a clear idea of what I was working towards. I tried to keep study time, work time and personal time separate in my diary, and in my mind, so that I wasn’t sacrificing too much of one to fulfil the other. Deadlines are obviously important but so is making time to relax, catch up with friends to keep the balance and still have a life! I think by the end of the course I was more content with the fact that it was better to hand something in on time that was the best I could do rather than delay to try and produce perfection when you just don’t have the time to do that. As a perfectionist that was a hard lesson to learn.

 

Theory informs practice

KG: Was it useful to be able to apply knowledge gained on the course directly to your working life?

KN: Yes, that was definitely one of the benefits of studying alongside working. I found it really useful to be able to apply the theory I was learning to the job I was doing. It was also interesting coming from a health library background and seeing the different focuses of the modules and lectures, and being given an introduction to a broader range of libraries.

KG: Have you applied anything you learnt on the course directly to your current role?

KN: Yes, I found the searching retrieval module particularly relevant to the work I do, and the work done generally in health libraries. I applied the information retrieval skills learnt on that module to my working life, and still draw on those skills today.

 

Library student turned library user

KG: Did you notice a difference in your perception and use of the university library between studying at undergraduate level and studying on the Library and Information Management masters?

KN: Definitely. Using the library while studying for the masters made me realise how much support and assistance is available from the library staff. When I was studying for my undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester, I never would’ve thought to ask for help or request papers I was struggling to access. But while studying for my masters, I attended training sessions at the library and ordered papers, I may not have known these services were available if I wasn’t actively learning about them on the course and they weren’t a core part of my job at the time.

 

Financial burden or invaluable investment?

KG: And finally, did the cost of studying ever discourage you from applying, or were you sure that the benefits would outweigh the initial cost?

KN: It’s undeniable that the tuition fee is a lot of money if you think about it in one lump, but it didn’t put me off. I knew that to establish a career in libraries and knowledge management the skills learnt and knowledge gained would far outweigh the cost. Plus, I never felt as though I was taking the cost on all by myself – the financial and pastoral support from HCLU and the LIHNN network made me feel less anxious about it. In terms of the experiences I’ve gained professionally and academically, as well as the network of new professional peers I now have, it’s definitely been beneficial.

KN: 5 things I learned that I wish I’d known before I started:

    1. Make use of the HCLU staff library – when it’s essay deadline time and 30+ people are trying to borrow one copy of the same book the staff library is a brilliant way to get hold of the titles you need without buying them.
    2. Course structure and deadlines: As a part-time student you’ll do three modules in Year 1, three in Year 2 and the dissertation in third year. The modules are usually broken into two halves (one half delivered in the term before Christmas and one after). The deadlines were mainly around Christmas time and in May (sometimes all very close together) though of course there are some throughout the course.
    3. Download the university App. You can check Moodle, email, library loans and locate available PCs using it. It’s really handy if you’re on the move and want to check a deadline or look at some course material – especially when you’re part-time and not always on campus. I also synched my uni email account to my phone so I got communications immediately. If a lecture room has changed or a seminar is cancelled you don’t want to be half way to campus before you know about it.
    4. Have a read of the Course Handbook (it’s usually located on the Moodle area somewhere). It answered some of those little questions that make you the most anxious when you first start a new course like what font type should I use for my essay or what should the title page say. If you’ve had a look at the start you won’t panic about when you get your first assignment.
    5. Get in touch with some wider library networks for new professionals or students. NLPN have lots of free events and you can meet other people doing the course at the same time across the country. They’ve also just started a shadowing initiative which, if you aren’t able to the do the placement element of the course (I wasn’t because I worked full time), you may be able to arrange a day shadowing in another sector. You might also want to join CILIP as a student member to get updates/ job adverts etc. and access training opportunities.

 

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LIHNN/HCLU Briefing June 2017

Knowledge for Healthcare: Business Critical – David Stewart

LIHNN AGM 2017

LIHNN Group Updates

The patient will see you now: a new era of empowered people living with health conditions – Simon R. Stones

Patient and Public Information Workshop – Prioritising PPI ideas – John Gale

The exercise John did on prioritising PPI ideas is available on the PPI section of the Knowledge for Healthcare blog under Resources – Workshop Materials

 

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Postcards from LIHNN – Group Updates for Summer 2017

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Evidence Summary and Synthesis: a Summary by Katie Nicholas

Evidence Summary and Synthesis: a Summary[1]

I hope I’m right in saying that when asked to ‘do a search’ for someone our default is usually to ask a few questions of the enquirer (if they haven’t already run away to get on with something else), jot down some key terms, quickly switch HDAS on and get on with formulating a strategy so that HDAS can generate a lovely list of references we can then email to whoever asked. We hope they appreciated it but they have since gone about their day and we’re left wondering if anyone ever opened the email – then the next search comes in and we start the process all over again…

I came into the Searching and Synthesis course from a slightly different perspective. The types of requests we receive from colleagues in HEE are less suited to this way of searching and the answers rarely come from HDAS. Quite often I start with Google to look for titbits in reports and board papers that, though lower down the ‘evidence hierarchy’, might just be what our enquirer is looking for. Going in I was anxious, I wasn’t sure I could do ‘proper searches’ using masterfully honed strategies that reaped endless systematic reviews and RCTs. And, after I’d struggled through the search, would I be able to ‘take a breath’ as John suggested[2],  and actually look at the results and paint some form of coherent picture of what they found?

The first session helped me think about how I organise the results I find as I’m searching. I think most of those who attended found the ‘table tool’ useful. It seems simple but organising results into a matrix detailing citation information and notes from the abstract really did help me organise my thoughts. You can download results from HDAS into Word or Excel but they are not tidily arranged so if you’re doing this factor in time for cleaning up the results. This of course takes longer if the results cannot be downloaded from HDAS as they have been plucked from all over the web – something I raised in the last follow up session. However, on the whole I found this a really helpful way to organise my results and prepare them for the second phase –summary/ synthesis.

The second session felt like much more familiar ground, we looked at other useful sources where commissioners/ managers might expect the answers to be (the Health Foundation, the King’s Fund or the HSJ for news updates).

However, it was the follow-up sessions (three half mornings, plus a mailing list) where I think I gained the most practical experience and where the most ideas were shared. Each session had an accompanying practical exercise that we could all have a go at then talk about at the session. The exercises were stepped;

  • in the first we were given a set of results and asked to ‘write a review’
  • in the second we were again a set of results to review but, to make it a little harder, the results had contradictory findings so we had to be more inventive in our write up
  • and finally we were given a query and had to do the search and write the review.

I gained a lot from this opportunity, because we all conducted the same search and compared reviews in the follow up sessions there was an element of peer-review it is normally hard to achieve. Seeing how others had gone about theming and presenting results was for me the most helpful part of the course.

I did think we missed an opportunity to do what I’m coining a “HDASless search” and review though –if the evidence managers and commissioners need to make decisions is not always found in the databases it would’ve been nice to have a go at a review where the results couldn’t really be organised by level of evidence, or that were from disparate sources with no abstracts.[i] These results inevitably take longer to summarise and a bit of digging might be required to really pick out the useful bits. I think going forward this is something that we should revisit if we’re going to have an impact from ‘bedside to boardroom’.

The general consensus from the groups I attended was:

  • This isn’t appropriate for all searches or for everyone who has a query (a bit a judgment on our part is needed to select the occasions where this could be impactful and add value)
  • Putting the reviews together is incredibly time consuming (the last search and review took at least 8 hours, others in the group reported longer). I’m sure we’d get a bit quicker with practice but this re-enforces the first point about it not being realistic for every search
  • This process definitely hones our skills – it encourages us to actually get to grips with the material and put our synthesis hats on to create a useful, brief review
  • The results were aesthetically pleasing – people used tables, headings, colour(!) and everyone agreed it made for a much nicer final result that could be packaged and branded as a LKS ‘product’

We also had some discussions about who the audience for reviews would be and decided that that would be entirely dependent on the organisation. We would each know best when, and for whom, these reviews could work. In the last activity it was easy to forget who the audience was and what they were actually asking. I struggled to get to grips with the final search question and lots of us reinforced the importance of the ‘reference interview’ in a real search scenario. After all this is not Line of Duty – we need not be ‘one rank senior’ to probe a little further to uncover what our colleague really wants to know, rather than what they originally asked for when they collared us in the corridor.

Some other questions the feedback sessions raised?

  • How important are levels of evidence? They are obviously important, but how important are they in this scenario? It’s possible we’re dismissing, or not paying enough attention to, potentially useful results because they’re at the wrong end of the trusty evidence pyramid
  • Where does critical appraisal fit into all this? The reviews take so long it may be necessary to push the critical appraisal ball back into the courts of health professionals or at least make it clear we have not appraised the material
  • Just what is the difference between synthesis and summary? I’m not sure we really had an answer for this. I’m proposing 42.
  • Is there any merit to shared searching and reviewing? There could be scope in tackling searches together to get a higher quality, almost peer-reviewed, final product
  • How do embed this into practice? Is it realistic to embed this into practice? I think the answer to this will depend on each team; their capacity to deliver this to their members and their belief that it will add value to their service offer
  • What are the next steps? There may be a way we can all re-group and have another practice to maintain the skills and keep the discussion going through the already existing Clinical Librarians’ group
  • How do we better distribute these summaries? We need to think about duplication of work and remember the ‘do once and share’ motto if we are going to invest so much resource into this
  • How do we overcome our insecurities as non-clinical folk? I think after an early crisis of confidence I came to the conclusion that I could only review the information in front of me, in the words it was written. Transparency is key – we can only be clear about what we’ve done, or not done (i.e. critical appraisal), ultimately it is for the health professional to unpick what the evidence means in practice
  • How do we tackle those HDASless searches and reviews? It’s hard for me to ignore the wealth of resources that are not housed in the databases that could enrich these reviews, even if they do muddy the waters and make them trickier to do

For me the course was a good start to what I’m sure will be an ongoing conversation about this and I look forward to hearing from the other synthesisers (thanks John). The mailing list (reviewing_practice_north@libraryservices.nhs.uk) is a good place to start  There have already been some interesting discussions about RAG ratings, disclaimers, critical appraisal and how best to tackle these reviews so why not join the conversation and share some of your thoughts and tips?

 

Katie Nicholas
Knowledge Officer
Health Education England, working across the North West

[1] Or is it Synthesis?

[2] John Gale’s blog about the course https://lihnnclinicallibs.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/evidence-synthesis-going-beyond-the-reference-list-by-john-gale/

[i] Anne Gray shared an interesting article about commissioners and the evidence they’re looking for: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/blogs/evidence-based-policy-making-the-view-from-a-commissioner/6045

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Scholarly summer reads by Helen Kiely and Lorna Dawson

If you’re thinking of doing the MLIS, Helen and Lorna give you a head start with their top texts to read for the course.

 

Lorna:

Formulating the Evidence Based Practice Question: A Review of the Frameworks by Karen Sue Davies

Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (2011) vol 6. Iss. 2 75-80

This is the article I wish I’d read in the first few weeks of the course. We had a group project to undertake a mini systematic review. The entire project was conducted through enquiry based learning so no lectures, all discovering the steps for ourselves. One of the decisions was to decide what framework to use to frame our research question and this article would have been perfect for helping us make that decision. Davies identifies 10 different questions frameworks including PICO, ECLIPSE and SPICE but also several variations. She breaks down the elements of each framework, and identifies the specific context within which that framework is most appropriate for example ECLIPSE was designed to address questions on health policy and management.

 

 

Developing skills of reflection by Birmingham City University

http://library.bcu.ac.uk/learner/Study%20Skills%20Guides/7%20Reflection.htm

 

Beginning reflective practice by Melanie Jasper

I must admit, I didn’t use a full blown text book to do the reflective parts of our assignments. I used this study skills page because it described really simply and clearly what was needed in reflection: the experience, how you felt about it and an evaluation of it. Some people might feel more confident using a book with frameworks to aid reflection and my fellow coursemates recommended Melanie Jasper’s Beginning Reflective Practice. With simple exercises and diagrams, this was a really good introduction to reflection for them. Whatever you prefer, my main point is to familiarise yourself with the process of reflection because you’re going to have to do it at some point on the course. Not many people enjoy it but I find it really beneficial. I tend to discover I learnt more than I thought, and I find it useful to think about what I’d do differently next time.

 

Written evidence submitted by InformAll and the CILIP Information Literacy Group (FNW0079) by Stéphane Goldstein, Dr Jane Secker, Dr Emma Coonan, Dr Geoff Walton

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/written/48215.html#_ftnref6

This article was actually co-written by one of my lecturers on the course. It responds to the “post-truth” or “evidence-averse” era we’re currently living in and suggests ways we can educate people in how to appraise news and information. The article argues that people need to develop their own ‘cognitive firewalls’ and actively evaluate the information they are confronted with. A key player in the development of this mindset is teaching critical thinking skills in secondary school. I found this article important because as librarians, we are in a natural position to support people becoming more information savvy. It also made me realise that there is a political side to what we do and what libraries stand for, which is not something you really expect when you go into the course.

 

Exploring Strategy by Gerry Johnson

Johnson’s ‘Exploring Strategy’ was a great starting place if you’re researching strategy. There are so many strategy theories out there and Johnson gives a really good overview of some of the key ones. He then walks you through the main aspects that need to be included/considered in a strategy and provides a nice strategy checklist at the end of one of the chapters. It has a very textbook feel which is helpful and reassuring if it’s a topic you’re kind of coming to by yourself. It’s not really written with libraries in mind, more large for-profit organisations. This doesn’t mean the theory can’t be applied but bear in mind that some bits won’t be relevant or may need to be interpreted in a slightly different way. It’s also always useful to get perspectives from other texts but this is a really good place to start.

 

Organisational quality and organisational change: Interconnecting paths to effectiveness by Ian Smith

Library Management (2011) vol 32. Iss. 1/2 111-128

One of the topics I found really interesting and which I think will always be relevant to libraries was organisational change. There are lots of different models of how change takes place. Smith’s paper discusses two – Kotter’s and Doppelt’s – and I found it really useful to see the similarities and differences in the two. Smith then uses these two models as frameworks through which to consider a case study which helps you see the theory in context. The thing I learnt most from this paper was the need to have an organisational mindset that was receptive to change. This is so relevant to us as the roles of librarians are constantly changing and we need as a profession to be willing to embrace the new.

 

Helen:

Theory and Practice of Leadership by Roger Gill

One of my current core modules is Leadership, Strategy and Change and this book has been absolutely terrific for me. Gill explains the differing theories that have developed over the years simply and yet thoroughly enough to give me a good understanding- after starting with several other texts which were rather more philosophical in their outlook it was a relief to read one that brought everything together. As you might expect I was reading quite specifically at the time for an assignment, but I would certainly go back to this book for any further help I might need on the topic and would definitely recommend it.

 

The Impact of clinical librarian services on patients and health care organisations by Alison Brettle, Clare Payne & Michelle Maden

Health Information & Libraries Journal (2016) vol 33. Iss. 2 100-120

I hope it isn’t a ‘cheat’ mentioning an article I’m sure the vast majority have already read, but truthfully I have referenced this in so many of my assignments this year, and referred back to it. It really is a key study about measuring impact and ways in which this has been done so far, and is a really important article for the direction of travel within libraries for the future.

 

Managing your Library’s Social Media Channels by David Lee King

This book isn’t from a health library perspective, but I have been finding it extremely helpful nonetheless, mired as I am in a current assignment about social media tools and marketing. It has given me a lot of ideas and I will definitely be picking it up again post-assignment. Whilst not all of King’s ideas necessarily translate, he highlights a lot of important points about the use of social media by libraries, particularly with regards to using it to encourage more interactivity from users – inviting and responding to queries etc- and embedding the service within the community through tone and user-engagement.

 

Time to rethink the role of the library in educating doctors: driving information literacy in the clinical environment by Mary R. Simons, Michael Kerin Morgan, Andrew Stewart Davidson

Journal of the Medical Library Association (2012) vol. 100 iss. 4 p. 291-296

Although probably a little old now I used this article, among others, as part of our information literacy assignment and this one had a lot of ideas about the relationship between the medical profession and information literacy. Put simply, although 1:1 sessions and one-off teaching are incredibly useful, there is a concern within the literature of this topic that the training is not entirely retained. Although the case study given in this is quite niche (it focuses on one small speciality in a hospital attached to a university) it looks at other ways of incorporating search skills and information literacy training into a clinical team.

 

Queering the Catalogue: Queer theory and the politics of Correction by Emily Drabinski

Library Quarterly (2013) vol. 83 iss. 2 p. 94-111

Finally, this is an article that is less about direct use and more ‘a bit of fun’- well for me at least. It discusses the use of cataloguing and how categorisation is affected by social and political moods, and how these have changed overtime using examples from the Library of Congress. It appealed to me because it explores the changeability of language and social concepts of ‘normality’ and what language is acceptable, and really helped me at the start of my studies in terms of helping tie in and relate to my previous studies and academic interests in an accessible way.

Lorna Dawson and Helen Kiely

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Evidence synthesis – going beyond the reference list by John Gale

Doing literature searches for people can feel a little bit like working a sausage machine. We shovel search terms in one end, wait for HDAS to do its magic and then shovel the resulting list of references back to the reader. Often we don’t engage with the material at all beyond weeding out articles in foreign languages or filtering out the systematic reviews.

Evidence synthesis is a different approach. It means taking a deep breath and plunging in to the material, sorting it, getting to grips with it and attempting to provide a structured response for the end user. Over the course of our sessions on evidence synthesis it became apparent that there are almost as many ways of doing this as there are librarians. Some preferred to use a framework, exporting the results into an Excel spreadsheet, rating them for quality and providing a structured response in the form of a table. Others preferred to use a more narrative approach, seeing what story – if anything – emerged from the research and attempting to tell this with the references at the end. Perhaps there’s no right or wrong way – although if we do it in a way we feel more comfortable with and enjoy using I would argue that would lead to a better end product.

Subjects that are amenable to being searched on HDAS make life a lot easier. You can round up all your references in one Word document and – if you’re lucky enough to have access to a bibliographic software package – export them into EndNote or something similar. I was very old-school and actually used pen and paper to make notes on the articles. I found it slowed me down enough to start thinking about the topic and while I was writing my mind was mulling everything over – something I don’t find occurs when I’m just cutting and pasting. At that point it struck me that compiling a narrative evidence synthesis wasn’t that dissimilar to doing an essay at college albeit with COPD and health literacy taking the place of crime in the nineteenth century. As it happened, in this particular instance, the research told a clear story which very much lent itself to a narrative approach but this might not always be the case. For more ‘on the one hand, on the other hand,’ results it might be an idea to group studies by whether they favoured the particular treatment being studied or not, or by the outcomes they measured; both of which allow us to indulge our inner Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen and do a bit of colour coding, at least in a digital format.

All this takes time of course. If I’d been more pressed I’m sure I’d have made more use of cutting and pasting and foregone my pen and notebook and searches can, of course, expand and contract to fill the time available. However, I suspect few of us will ever end up in the Goldilocks zone of having just enough searches to do a thorough evidence synthesis for each one. In my experience it’s easy to tell which searches are for presentations or journal clubs – “have you got anything, anything at all, on x,y or z”- and searches made for more clinical reasons but even then that might leave us with too much on our plates. There is a real risk that we raise expectations by doing Rolls-Royce searches when we’ve got time only to find we’ve only got enough time to knock up a Morris Minor when we’ve got half-a-dozen to get through at the same time. However, I don’t think this is an adequate reason for not doing them. We’re hoping to share our evidence syntheses where people have given permission for their search results to be shared and it would be great to have a central repository somewhere on the old ‘do once and share’ approach. There’s now a mailing list set up for evidence synthesisers at reviewing_practice_north@libraryservices.nhs.uk so why not chip in with your own thoughts, share your reviews and pass on a few tips?

John Gale
Trust Librarian
Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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