Empirical Research Literature Evaluation

Research Assessment

To determine whether the conclusions of empirical research are logically supported or not, it is necessary to check whether they offer assertions based on research findings. In conclusions are not logically supported, they invalidate most of the study because it means that the hypothesis has not been confirmed, or that research questions have not been answered. However, the lack of logical support does not invalidate the study entirely. Thus, a researcher may use statistical data gathered by the authors or take advantage of the literature review section.

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While reading other works and using its data, a researcher might misinterpret it due to having a different angle of interest. If the researcher’s scientific goals do not coincide with those of the author’s, he or she may decipher data, not in the same way. Data are a useful source of evidence if they are related to one’s research endeavors. It is hardly possible to misrepresent data or conclusions using statistics. However, if a sample is too small or if data contain findings on a different aspect of the research topic, one can misinterpret them.

The most challenging aspects of the doctoral pursuit are choosing the topic of research and determining the hypothesis. It is necessary to make sure that they both do not lack originality and have been studied to the extent that is necessary to give the basis for my research. The most rewarding aspect is the possibility to find something useful that will improve people’s wellbeing.

Evaluation of Literature

Evaluating literature is a crucial phase of research because it helps the researcher to identify what has already been established on the selected topic and what gaps exist in the field. When analyzing other scholars’ works, a special emphasis should be made on the literature review part. As a rule, such a section is given at the beginning of an article (Pyrczak & Tcherni-Buzzeo, 2019). Another important chapter is the conclusion, in which authors summarize their findings and discuss implications for future research. In the articles concerned with the selected PICOT question, reviews of the literature are presented differently. Some authors make it extensive whereas others keep it brief. The arrangement of conclusions in all articles is similar: they contain a summary of the articles’ value. The purpose of the paper is to evaluate the review of literature and conclusion parts in the annotated studies to find their strengths and weaknesses.

Themes of Literature Reviews in the Studies

There are several similar themes of literature reviews in all articles, such as constipation prevalence and bowel management. These topics are discussed by the authors of all six articles under analysis. However, some scholars also examine specific issues in their studies. For instance, in addition to analyzing constipation management options, Knowles, McInnes, Elliott, Hardy, and Middleton (2014) investigate the prevalence of diarrhea in their literature review. The additional topic in Loftus et al.’s (2015) review of literature is constipation symptoms that require operative intervention. A specific issue analyzed in this section in studies by Munch, Tvistholm, Trosborg, and Konradsen (2016) and Staller, Khalili, and Kuo (2015) is the incidence of constipation in elderly people. Munch et al. (2016) present an overview of scholarly studies analyzing elderly people’s pre-and post-hospitalization constipation experiences. Meanwhile, Staller et al. (2015) focus on articles on elderly patients with heart failure who use laxatives at home. Finally, a different theme is raised in Staller et al.’s (2015) article, and it is secondary constipation.

Data Supporting Conclusions

In five of the six articles, data supported the conclusion. In one study – by Knowles et al. (2014) – the hypothesis was not confirmed. Knowles et al. (2014) implemented a bowel management protocol, but they found that it had not been successful in decreasing constipation incidence. Still, it is necessary to remark that the main discussion of data and how it supported conclusions in all articles was made not in the ‘conclusion’ section but ‘results’ and ‘discussion’ parts.

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In Liu et al.’s (2016) research, data confirmed that acupuncture had a positive effect on increasing patients’ complete spontaneous bowel movements. With the help of collected data, Loftus et al. (2015) proved that the administration of Gastroview enabled early identification of bowel obstruction. Munch et al. (2016) found answers to their research questions concerned with patients’ experiences and strategies related to constipation. Scholars concluded that experiences could be summed up under the topics “bodily signs and symptoms of constipation, impact on well-being and social activities, and striving for bowel balance” (Munch et al., 2016, p. 30732). The coping strategies included “struggling to find a solution, wait and see, and constipation is a private problem being challenged during hospitalization” (Munch et al., 2016, p. 30732).

Data established by Noiesen et al. (2014), who analyzed the prevalence and incidence of patient-reported constipation symptoms, allowed authors to conclude that the rate of prevalence was 39%, and the rate of incidence constituted 43%. Staller et al. (2015) also succeeded in exploiting data to prove their hypothesis: they found that the length of hospital stay (LOS) was shortened of patients were offered constipation prophylaxis.

Conclusions and Research Questions

Conclusions answer research questions in studies by Knowles et al. (2014), Liu et al. (2016), Loftus et al. (2015), and Staller et al. (2015). Munch et al. (2016) and Noiesen et al. (2014) did not include a discussion of research questions in their conclusion parts. Munch et al.’s (2016) research question was “What is the prevalence and incidence of patient-reported constipation symptoms among acutely hospitalized individuals?” Meanwhile, in the conclusion, scholars noted that “Constipation is common, unpleasant, and interferes with older peoples’ overall well-being” without pointing out the incidence and prevalence of this condition (p. 30732). In Noiesen et al.’s (2014) study, the hypotheses were that (LOS) would be shortened due to constipation prophylaxis and that individuals with prior constipation would have longer LOS. In the conclusion, it was only mentioned that “symptoms of constipation were common among patients acutely admitted” (p. 2301). Overall, the conclusion parts in all articles are rather brief, and the discussion of research questions and hypotheses is given more prominence in the ‘discussion’ and ‘results’ sections.

Questions I Would Ask the Authors

I would like to ask Knowles et al. (2014) what factors, in their opinion, affect clinicians’ decisions regarding bowel management protocol and whether they consider that the analysis of clinicians’ behavior intentions is the most decisive aspect in improving the protocol implementation. The question to Liu et al. (2016) is what the most complicated phase in the process of was collecting data for their study. These scholars’ sample constituted 1075 patients in fifteen hospitals, and I am interested in how they coped with such a large number of participants and locations. An inquiry I would make about Loftus et al.’s (2015) article is what helped them to reach the absence of anaphylactoid events. I would ask Munch et al. (2016) whether they considered comparing their findings for elderly people to those in patients belonging to other age groups. The question to Noiesen et al. (2014) is which of predisposing disorders they find to be the most active determinant of constipation. Finally, I would like to ask Staller et al. (2015) whether they think that recording partial days would have changed their outcomes significantly.

Refining the PICOT Question

Evidence found in the studies may be of use to refining my PICOT question and formulating my DPI project. Based on studies’ literature reviews and conclusions, I have discovered that I need to clarify my outcome measures. Particularly, instead of aiming at decreasing constipation, I should focus on improving the intestinal motility of patients. Also, I should specify what will be included in the protocol. At this stage, I am planning to include the following issues: the patient’s usual bowel pattern and regimen, the use of laxatives, the assessment of daily intake of fluid and fruit, and the inquiry about the intake of medicines that are likely to cause constipation. Additionally, research by Knowles et al. (2014) serves as a crucial point since these authors concluded that nurses are not willing to follow the protocol. Hence, it will also be necessary to include the evaluation of nurses’ behavior concerning bowel protocol management.

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Conclusion

The evaluation of literature review and conclusion sections in the articles allowed comparing authors’ findings and singling out the most and least effective approaches to constipation management. I learned that even if the hypothesis was not confirmed, the study could still bear a significant value. Composing questions to authors helped me to identify gaps in studies and find prospective directions for research. Despite some weaknesses, all articles played a significant role in helping to shape my future project and refine the PICOT question.

References

  1. Knowles, S., McInnes, E., Elliott, D., Hardy, J., & Middleton, S. (2014). Evaluation of the implementation of a bowel management protocol in intensive care: Effect on clinician practices and patient outcomes. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 23(5-6), 716-730.
  2. Liu, Z., Shiyan, Y., Wu, J., He, L., Li, N., Dong, G., … Liu, B. (2016). Acupuncture for chronic severe functional constipation: A randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 165(11), 761-769.
  3. Loftus, T., Moore, F., VanZant, E., Bala, T., Brakenridge, S., Croft, C., … Jordan, J. (2015). A protocol for the management of adhesive small bowel obstruction. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 78(1), 13-21.
  4. Munch, L., Tvistholm, N., Trosborg, I., & Konradsen, H. (2016). Living with constipation – Older people’s experiences and strategies with constipation before and during hospitalization. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 11(1), 30732.
  5. Noiesen, E., Trosborg, I., Bager, L., Herning, M., Lyngby, C., & Konradsen, H. (2014). Constipation – Prevalence and incidence among medical patients acutely admitted to hospital with a medical condition. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 23(15-16), 2295-2302.
  6. Pyrczak, F., & Tcherni-Buzzeo, M. (2019). Evaluating research in academic journals: A practical guide to realistic evaluation (7th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
  7. Staller, K., Khalili, H., & Kuo, B. (2015). Constipation prophylaxis reduces the length of stay in elderly hospitalized heart failure patients with home laxative use. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 30(11), 1596-1602.
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