UWC writing for publication retreat: day 2

Today has focused on the practical aspect of publication i.e. actually writing, so we didn’t have as many presentations. We began by reviewing some of what was discussed yesterday and adding a few reflections and comments from participants.

Yesterday, one of the presenters suggested the CARS (link downloads PDF) model for structuring an Introduction. Today, someone suggested that that particular model is based mainly on English language publications from the UK,USA and Australia. Some have suggested the OARO model as an alternative, based on a synthesis of publications from other countries:

Open A Research Option (OARO) model

  • Attract a readership
  • Establish credibility
    • Share background knowledge (own research / anecdotal experiences)
    • Justify the need for the research (answering the “why” question)
    • Present interesting thoughts (who decides what’s “interesting”?)
    • Introduce the general goal
  • Offer a line of enquiry (open questions and explore)
  • Introduce the topic

Remember that it’s difficult to build a model that is based on cross-disciplinary publications.

A review of the writing process

“An increasing number of references in publications may point to a form of academic insecurity”

How well are you telling your own story?

Instead of using pre-defined headings e.g. Discussion, try to highlight the major finding / point and use that for the heading instead

Each phrase should be used to advance your argument. Make sure that the pieces fit together to create a coherent whole.

Writing about the topic begins broadly (macro view) and then narrows to get to the crux of the article (micro view), then expands again to place the results into a broader context e.g. hourglass shape

Review of the literature (because it’s a process, not a thing)

Entering occupied territory” → can be intimidating

Be wary of absolute statements about the review i.e. what it should or shouldn’t do or be

Working with literatures:

  • Locate the work in a field
  • Create a mandate for the research
  • Informs the methods and theorisation
  • Specify the contribution

Learning to speak with authority, adopting a critical yet generous stance to the scholarship of the field, and establishing authority to speak, is an enormous challenge (Kamler & Thomson, 2006)

Find patterns in the literature

Patterns:

  • Chronological
  • Geographical
  • Definitions
  • Genre
  • Concepts
  • Methods
  • General → specific
  • Policy / practice

Try to avoid “Smith et al (2000) have suggested that…”, “They emphasise the following…” Rather, try to put your take on their research first, and then credit the other researchers

Trying to convince the reader that there’s an organising mind at work (Swales, 2004)

Literature review isn’t about constructing a thing, it’s a process that’s embedded throughout the article

Clinical guidelines: should we be using them?

I attended a lecture a few days ago by Karen Grimmer-Somers, a professor at the University of South Australia and Director of the Centre for Allied Health Evidence (CAHE). An adjunct professor at the University of Stellenbosch, she visits Cape Town every year or so and this year we were fortunate enough to have her visit our physiotherapy department. She gave a great talk about the emerging use of clinical guidelines in healthcare, as well as the standards around their development and discussed why we should be looking to these guidelines in our practice.

Traditionally, clinical guidelines have been viewed with suspicion by anyone interested in working from the evidence base, as “guidelines” were often little more than one individual’s personal opinion. Over the past 5 years however, the approach to producing clinical guidelines has radically changed, with vast amounts of time and resources being poured into their development.

Nowadays, a clinical guideline focuses on the current understanding of a particular condition and makes use of a diverse range of academic literature to establish an approach to best practices, based on the outcomes of a large number of the studies available. They also inform the reader what level of evidence has been used to establish “best practice”, from systematic reviews of the literature (Level A) to expert clinical opinion (Level D). This allows the clinician to make up their own mind about how solid is the foundation upon which the guideline is built and how much weight to allocate it.

Here are a few links to some of the organisations responsible for developing guidelines (in no particular order). Since different organisations are tasked with developing different guidelines, you might have to look around until you find what you’re looking for. You should also bear in mind that not only are new guidelines being developed all the time but old ones are typically reviewed every 2-3 years, so you need to make sure you have the latest version.

And an article looking at both sides of the use of clinical guidelines:

With the international movement in healthcare towards evidence-based practice, it seems logical to make use of any tools available that would assist us in this regard.