Browsing the literature serendipitously or seriously?


Image copyright of Guardian Website

As an undergraduate I would look at an article because I was told to, as a newly graduated speech and language therapist I would look at an article because I thought I should. Over the years I gradually realised I enjoyed reading what people were writing about. I started browsing through the literature in a serendipitous fashion, looking for what I enjoyed, following where my fancy took me.

I became passionate in endeavouring to identify what expert researchers and academics might recommend to be the most effective intervention options for my patients. Gradually I started to identify in myself a desire to join these researchers somehow. And in undertaking new aspects of my work; writing a book, completing small clinical governance and research projects, I started looking for answers in the literature. This meant I would conduct searches of google scholar and pubmed with certain questions in mind. What ARE the most effective interventions out there for primary progressive aphasia. But where and when do I stop searching? I couldn’t always find these answers, yet felt surely if I just looked hard enough the answer must be there in those gazillions of journal articles somewhere in the world.

Now I realise that systematically reviewing the literature is a skill and science unto itself. It requires planning and strategies, aims and specific search terms. All of which must be rigorously documented. And you still may not find the answer you’re looking for. In fact finding the gaps can be useful. If that research hasn’t been done, or hasn’t been done well enough it raises the question; Perhaps that is the research I should be doing?

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