Critical Appraisal for Forensic Science Introduction and Goals

Introduction to critical appraisal!

Welcome to all students studying the MSc in Forensic Analysis. This blog post is part of your Research Methods and Practical Skills module led by Helen Green (USSKM3-30-M). USSKM3 = the module code; 30 = indicates this is a 30 credit module; M = indicates master’s level).

I’m Viv Rolfe and we have a number of 2 hour sessions together as follows:

Week 9 (20 September)
Lecture and discussion –> Notes here lecture-1-19sept2016_online
Task 1 – writing critically

Week 11 (4th October)
Week 15 (Independent learning)
Week 16 (8th November)
Week 17 (15th November)
Week 18 (22nd November)

Learning goals!

My goal for you is of course to pass the January 2017 examination in which you will write a critical appraisal of a forensic science journal article. I also hope we have a constructive and fun time in these sessions and that you will also develop valuable skills in critical thinking and critical writing.

I think we take for granted our ability to read scientific articles, and write about them, but do we ever stop to question whether we are being really effective? How are your critical thinking skills?  Do you sometimes think critically about the scientific world around you, or are you too rushed to stop and do so? Do you consider yourself a fair person, unbiased, in the way you think and communicate your ideas with others?

I hope these sessions help you grow as critical thinkers and writers. You might wish to watch this introductory video to critical thinking, which references the work of Richard Paul who was a leading proponent in this area.

 

How are these sessions structured?

You will need to bring a pen and paper to these sessions, as a big part of them will be you developing your thinking and writing skills. We shall be forming pairs and groups to discuss aspects of forensic science research and court case studies. Each week there will be a ‘task’ or homework which I very much hope you will all take part in; these will include the opportunity for you to complete small writing tasks for me to help you develop your talents!

Some preliminary reading for weeks 9 – 11

READING 1
I am hoping you’ll find these sessions a bit of an ‘eye opener’ and we will be challenging some of the established doctrines that surround our research industry – from experimenting, interpretation, communication and publication. Here is a blog post that I wrote reflecting on the quality of medical research – or often, lack of it.

Research Quality’s Scandals 2014

READING 2
We are going to base some of this module work on the writing of Trish Greenhalgh. She has perfected the art of ‘trashing a paper’, and there are a number of articles that you can refer to, all freely available here. I’d focus on two at the start of this module:

Getting Your Bearings
Assessing the Methodological Quality

We’ll work toward understanding these papers toward the end:

Papers that Report Drugs Trials
Papers that Report Diagnostic Screening

Greenhalgh T (-) How to read a paper. The BMJ. Available: http://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/resources-readers/publications/how-read-paper

The do’s and don’ts of publishing.

American Association of Immunologists (2010). Dos and Don’ts
for Authors and Reviewers. Available: http://vivrolfe.com/research-methods/Assets/Scientific%20Publishing_Dos_Donts.pdf

READING 3
These items may also be helpful:

A blog post on basic journal searching and some openly licensed (again free) learning resources coving all basic skills for students.

Seek and ye shall find.

Roll up. Roll up. Get your free study skills OERs here.

 

Let’s get started!

You have my UWE email address and contact details on the Blackboard Module Page, but you can also contact and chat with me via Twitter – in fact, I would love for you to share any interesting articles or videos relating to our studies.

@vivienrolfe

 

 

 

Getting to the bottom of neuroscience in education

I am very sad not to make it to the Association of Learning Technology conference on right now in Warwick (#ALTc), and the first two recorded keynotes that I’ve just viewed have already had me gripped. I’d like to focus on the one today by Lia Commissar who is part of the education team at Wellcome. You can view all the conference keynotes including Lia’s on the ALT YouTube Channel ( Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities). (Of course, Josie Fraser’s excellent one on trolling is also there).

Several education and neuroscience projects are underway to better inform educators about learning processes, and to dispel some of the mythology and misconceptions we have about how people learn, and that we have favoured learning styles, or use or left or right brain hemispheres. What interested me more are a series of projects looking actively at the brain and how it can impact on learning, using MRI scanning technology, looking at student sleep patterns to name a few of the ideas.

Let’s debunk some more myths.

As a physiologist of course I’m interested in the brain and central nervous system. But I’m also aware and very interested how our body systems act in concert, and it is not ever relevant to think of one system in isolation. And of course, when we start talking about the wonder of the nervous system, we usually forget another nervous system in our body that is as extensive as the brain, contains the same array of neurotransmitters and is located in the only part of our body that is able to work entirely independently of brain control. What am I going on about now? Our enteric nervous system in our guts.

“A north wind brings constipation”.

OK, so Hippocrates through his ancient and detailed observations didn’t always get it right, but he was probably the first to observe that stagnant water caused diarrhoea. The trouble with the intestines is they are very inaccessible, and therefore carrying out research to understand the mechanisms therein, is awfully difficult. To make matters worse it contains a ridiculously wide ranging number of cell types – epithelium, striated muscle, smooth muscle, immune cells (oh yes, most of your immune system is also in your gut), blood cells, nerve cells and sensory cells. The reality is also that humans are just mere hosts for bacterial and fungal ecosystems, large numbers of which also reside in our guts. We apparently are more bacterial than human.

Structure.

Layers of the GI tract

By Goran tek-en [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, Available: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Layers_of_the_GI_Tract_english.svg

You can see how buried away the enteric nervous system is. It forms a series of mesh layers that extend along the entire lengths of our guts – from mouth to anus. The mucosal plexus, submucosal plexus and myenteric plexus are the main components, and they are connected to the central nervous system and brain via additional connections. Sensory information is gathered all the time and fed-back to the brain, and the brain elicits commands to control our gut functions. The gut contains:

  • Primary afferent neurones that senses food and chemicals within our gut.
  • Tension receptors monitor the contents and control peristalsis.
  • Glial cells, as with other parts of the nervous system, provide support.
  • “Pacemaker” cells (like in the heart) control motility patterns.
  • You find all the neurotransmitters that you find elsewhere – acetyl choline, serotonin, dopamine etc.

Gut-brain axis.

We know increasingly how vital the connections between the gut and brain are, and how the two systems work synergistically not just for our physiological processes but as part of our psychological ones. Some interesting medical studies looked at the use of psychotherapy for treating patients with gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (Reed, 1999). We know ourselves about these connections – we often refer to having “gut feelings”, and that is simply our sensory environment in our guts responding before our brains provide more of an interpretation of what might be going on.

The gut and neurodegeneration.

This is such an interesting area of science, and this is no attempt at a literature review. However there are many interesting epidemiological studies (that have looked at patient populations), controlled medical studies and animal work that points to the gut and other peripheral systems being associated with the processes of neuro-degeneration. Science gets excited at treatments and discoveries that target biochemical markers in the brain, and rightly so, but research shouldn’t only focus there. Here are a few papers.

Gut Brain Papers

Some of this is fascinating – the first paper shows how important the vagus nerve is – that is the main route of connection between the gut and central nervous system. In patients where the connection was severed (as part of a previous operation), the incidence of Parkinson’s in that group was lower. The last paper shows some intriguing interactions between our bacterial flora and nervous system.

So what is the role of neuroscience in education?

The work funded by Wellcome is starting to explore just that. It is worth thinking that gut neuroscience seems to be involved in degeneration and the loss of cognitive processes, so I would think the gut most likely will also play a role in our development and ability to learn. I guess, that could be the next project for Wellcome to fund!

References

  • Chung, S.J., Kim, J., Lee, H.J., Ryu, H.S., Kim, K., Lee, J.H., Jung, K.W., Kim, M.J., Kim, M.J., Kim, Y.J. and Yun, S.C. (2015). Alpha‐synuclein in gastric and colonic mucosa in Parkinson’s disease: Limited role as a biomarker. Movement Disorders.
  • Haehner, A., Tosch, C., Wolz, M., Klingelhoefer, L., Fauser, M., Storch, A., Reichmann, H. and Hummel, T. (2013). Olfactory training in patients with Parkinson’s disease. PloS one, 8(4), p.e61680.
  • Kelly, L.P., Carvey, P.M., Keshavarzian, A., Shannon, K.M., Shaikh, M., Bakay, R.A. and Kordower, J.H. (2014). Progression of intestinal permeability changes and alpha‐synuclein expression in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Movement Disorders, 29(8), pp.999-1009.
  • Mulak, A. and Bonaz, B. (2015). Brain-gut-microbiota axis in Parkinson’s disease. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG, 21(37), p.10609.
  • Rahne, K.E., Tagesson, C. and Nyholm, D. (2013). Motor fluctuations and Helicobacter pylori in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of neurology, 260(12), pp.2974-2980.
  • Svensson, E., Horváth‐Puhó, E., Thomsen, R.W., Djurhuus, J.C., Pedersen, L., Borghammer, P. and Sørensen, H.T. (2015). Vagotomy and subsequent risk of Parkinson’s disease. Annals of neurology, 78(4), pp.522-529.