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Physician Associates research project guidance: Critical review project

Resources and links to guide you through your research project.

When carrying out a critical review project, you will test a hypothesis or answer a research question using knowledge from the primary literature as your evidence. You will demonstrate a good understanding of your chosen topic to be able to bring together concepts and through this show awareness of the wider context of your research. Your report summary and research conclusions will clearly describe and illustrate how the evidence you found provides an answer to your research question or tests your research hypothesis. This allows your critical review to go beyond a basic literature review that would simply summarise existing knowledge.

To be able to identify the most significant research in the field we would like you to use a systematic approach to searching the literature that clearly identifies the search conditions used and your exclusion and inclusion criteria. Your review is most likely to be narrative in style and you are not expected to use any complicated statistical process or meta-analyses to reach a conclusion. If you present quantitative data from your findings, then you should use basic statistical analysis only where required and when appropriate.

See the following page for guidance on taking a structured approach:

Defining your study

Light bulb in a thought bubbleYour first step is to devise a focused, clear question which your project will address. Think about the following:

  • background;
  • research question and aims;
  • criteria for inclusion and exclusion;
  • time frame.

When defining your research question, take care to think SMARTLY and to limit the scope of the research question that you carry out to make sure it is achievable. You will need to use the literature as you develop a research hypothesis so that you are aware of the breadth and volume of research related to your topic and to make sure that your research question is valid and feasible. This project gives you the freedom to work on any topic that is of interest to you, and many students develop ideas from past experiences. 

You may wish to do some scoping searches of relevant databases to find out how much has been written, and what limits you should apply.

Discuss your topic with your supervisor.

When planning your critical review project make sure you allow time for the following.

  • Doing scoping searches on potential databases to help draw up a list of keywords and phrases to include.
  • Constructing a comprehensive search and adapting it for specific databases.
  • Applying for inter-library loans to get key articles not covered by Library subscriptions.
  • Learning how to use EndNote for managing your references if you aren't already familiar with it. Note that you can use Mendeley but it is harder to keep track of numbers of references and duplicates.

Doing a critical review

See the following pages for more guidance on doing a critical review.

Guidance on writing the review will be supplied on Blackboard.