Research Practice and Methodology

Collection of articles on Research Practice and Methodology is available here.

Facilitating the planning and evaluation of narrative intervention reviews: Systematic Transparency Assessment in Intervention Reviews (STAIR)
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Gonot-Schoupinsky FN, Garip G, Sheffield D.
Eval Program Plann 2021:102043.
Narrative reviews offer a flexible way to report intervention results and comprise the majority of reviews published in top medical journals. However variations in their transparency pose evaluation challenges, compromising their value and potentially resulting in research wastage. Calls have been made to reduce the number of narrative reviews published. Others argue narrative reviews provide an important platform and should even be placed on an equal footing to systematic reviews. We believe narrative intervention reviews can provide a vital perspective when transparent, and thus support Systematic Transparency Assessment in Intervention Reviews (STAIR). This research evaluates the transparency of 172 health-related narrative and literature reviews (K = 172), by assessing how they communicate information about the interventions they review. Eight points supporting transparency, relating to sample sizes, traceability, article numbers, and references, were assessed. Half of the reviews reported on at least four of the eight points, but 24% reported on none. Only 56% of the reviews clearly communicated full references. The STAIR* (Sample sizes, Traceability, Article numbers, Intervention numbers, References*) checklist comprises five sections, and nine points. It is proposed as a convenient tool to address STAIR and complement existing review guidelines to assist authors in planning, reviewers in evaluating, and scholars in utilising narrative reviews. The objectives of STAIR* are to: 1) encourage narrative review transparency and readability, 2) facilitate the incorporation of narrative reviews results into other research; and 3) enrich narrative review methodology with a checklist to guide, and evaluate, intervention reviews.

Involving stakeholders in research priority setting: a scoping review.
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Grill C.
Research involvement and engagement 2021 oct;7(1):75.
BACKGROUND: This scoping review provides a thorough analysis of how stakeholders have so far been involved in research priority setting. The review describes, synthesizes, and evaluates research priority setting projects not only for the field of health-as previous reviews have done-but does so on a much broader scale for any research area. METHODS: A comprehensive electronic literature search was conducted in the databases PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science. Reflecting the importance of grey literature, Google Scholar and relevant websites were also screened for eligible publications. A computational approach was then used for the study selection. The final screening for inclusion was done manually. RESULTS: The scoping review encompasses 731 research priority setting projects published until the end of 2020. Overall, the projects were conducted within the realm of 50 subject areas ranging from agriculture and environment over health to social work and technology. Key learnings include that nearly all priority setting projects aimed to identify research priorities for the field of health (93%), particularly for nursing and care, cancer, pediatrics, and mental, behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders. Only 6% of the projects were not health-related and 1% identified research priorities at the interface between health and a non-health area. Over time, 30 different stakeholder groups took part in research priority setting. The stakeholders most frequently asked to identify research priorities were doctors, patients, academics/researchers, nurses, allied healthcare professionals, family members, friends, and carers. Nearly two thirds of all projects have been conducted in Europe and North America. Overall, only 9% of the projects emphasized the importance of stakeholders in their goals and rationales and actively involved them. In around a quarter of the projects, stakeholders deliberated on their research priorities throughout the entire process. CONCLUSION: By mapping out the complex landscape of stakeholder involvement in research priority setting, this review guides future efforts to involve stakeholders effectively, inclusively, and transparently, which in turn may increase the overall value of research for society. As a practical addition to this review, the first worldwide research priority setting database was created: https://ois.lbg.ac.at/en/project-database . The database contains all the projects analyzed for this review and is constantly updated with the latest published research priority setting projects.

Evaluating complex interventions in context: systematic, meta-narrative review of case study approaches.
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Paparini S, Papoutsi C, Murdoch J, Green J, Petticrew M, Greenhalgh T, et al.
BMC medical research methodology 2021 oct;21(1):225.
BACKGROUND: There is a growing need for methods that acknowledge and successfully capture the dynamic interaction between context and implementation of complex interventions. Case study research has the potential to provide such understanding, enabling in-depth investigation of the particularities of phenomena. However, there is limited guidance on how and when to best use different case study research approaches when evaluating complex interventions. This study aimed to review and synthesise the literature on case study research across relevant disciplines, and determine relevance to the study of contextual influences on complex interventions in health systems and public health research. METHODS: Systematic meta-narrative review of the literature comprising (i) a scoping review of seminal texts (n = 60) on case study methodology and on context, complexity and interventions, (ii) detailed review of empirical literature on case study, context and complex interventions (n = 71), and (iii) identifying and reviewing ‘hybrid papers’ (n = 8) focused on the merits and challenges of case study in the evaluation of complex interventions. RESULTS: We identified four broad (and to some extent overlapping) research traditions, all using case study in a slightly different way and with different goals: 1) developing and testing complex interventions in healthcare; 2) analysing change in organisations; 3) undertaking realist evaluations; 4) studying complex change naturalistically. Each tradition conceptualised context differently-respectively as the backdrop to, or factors impacting on, the intervention; sets of interacting conditions and relationships; circumstances triggering intervention mechanisms; and socially structured practices. Overall, these traditions drew on a small number of case study methodologists and disciplines. Few studies problematised the nature and boundaries of ‘the case’ and ‘context’ or considered the implications of such conceptualisations for methods and knowledge production. CONCLUSIONS: Case study research on complex interventions in healthcare draws on a number of different research traditions, each with different epistemological and methodological preferences. The approach used and consequences for knowledge produced often remains implicit. This has implications for how researchers, practitioners and decision makers understand, implement and evaluate complex interventions in different settings. Deeper engagement with case study research as a methodology is strongly recommended.