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

 

 

 

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

Happy Open Education Week!

Open education philosophies and approaches – resources, courses, practices – are well embedded into educational thinking around the globe. Here is just one example of how awesome open education can be, and how completely awesome the global community indeed is! Amber asked a simple question about open educational resources (OERs).

Open Education

Amber asked:

Hi! Could you please point me to any openly licensed materials that support students preparing for undergraduate degrees? Study skills but also independent learning for those students away from home for possibly the first time.

These were the responses:

OER1Digital Scholarship Website (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – Becoming a Digital Scholar – resources for research students and anyone wishing to use digital tools for study. Learning online, WordPress, academic and digital literacies and skills.

 

OER3Ready to Research Website (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – Getting started as a researcher, accessing and reading papers, data management, ethics and intellectual property.

 

OER2Prepare for Success ( (C) Southampton but free access to website) – a website for international students who are getting ready to come to the UK for study in further or higher education. Adapting to a new life, getting ready for university study, academic skills and studying independently.

OER4Learning Skills Portal University of Surrey (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – produced by Viv Sieber, a compliation of a vast number of open educational resources to support student study skills, researcher training, employability and lots more!

OER5OpenLearn Study Skills (Mix of (C) and Creative Commons licenses) – a number of short online Open University courses orienting students toward all the basic skills.

 

OER6Learnhigher (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – a “must” for all lecturers. Free to use, download and repurpose, a large number of resources from time mangement, to literacy, statistics, research and employability. Aimed at university staff.

 

OER7Careers Service OERs University of Leicester (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – a whole range of academic skills and employment skills covered here including applying for jobs and CV writing. Aimed at students.

 

OER8Being Digital – Skills for Life Online Open University ( (C) OU ) – a great online course covering a number of important topics such as digitial identify, using social media, and use of online tools to support learning. Aimed at students. Not openly licensed to download or reuse.

 

OER9Time Management Oxford Podcasts ( (C) Oxford University, but many other podcasts are Creative Commons). A podcast on time management – useful for students and staff!

 

 

OER10Engage in Research University of Reading CETL ( (C) University of Reading) – free to use website getting students started in research. A step by step guide from ideas to dissemination.

 

 

 

 

Enhancing Projects and Practicals in Biosciences

Here are some really nice reports from the HEA Bioscience Centre on enhancing undergraduate science dissertations and laboratory practicals. In recent years, academic departments have seen growth in student numbers, and the cutting back of resources and access to laboratories. Yet, we are still supposed to maintain a high quality education! The documents below compile ideas from universities across the UK on how to cater for undergraduate science dissertations and laboratory practical classes.

Undergraduate research projects

Student Research Projects: Guidance on Practice in the Biosciences. By Martin Luck. Available:ftp://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/TeachingGuides/studentresearch/studentresearch_web.pdf

Interesting information on the wide range of projects available from laboratory, to fieldwork, data analysis and literature reviews. We need to be mindful of the IBMS requirements for projects that must contain an element of data and statistical analysis. For fieldwork-type projects I have had students design questionnaires, and for data analysis students can carry out a “mini-systematic review” and meta-analysis of pooled clinical research data. Literature reviews are a challenge to do well and meet IBMS criteria I think. (Feel free to comment below!).

Universities run both individual and group projects. Some universities separate project choices based on year 2 performance. Projects are allocated in different ways:

1) Staff provide list of titles.
2) Students develop projects based on their own ideas.

In my experience, it is nice to allow students to develop their own ideas in line of what their career aspirations might be, but it is hugely time consuming to supervise them on an individual basis.

Useful resource for students

All my project students use this as a basis for their work. It takes them through every step of their project.

http://www.engageinresearch.ac.uk

—————————————————————————————

Improving Laboratory Practicals

The Bioscience Centre held a workshop on practical work back in 2008 and there are many good ideas in their report, and in the labwork notes for new staff.

Workshop on 1st year practicals. Available:

http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/themes/1styrpracticals.aspx

Labwork notes for new staff. Available:

http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/ftp/resources/newlect/labwork.pdf

  • Move away from recipe-led practicals.
  • Move away from practicals with no further analysis / discussion.
  • Flip-practicals: students watch videos / materials prior to coming into the lab.

For example at De Montfort, students used to work through our Virtual Analytical Laboratory for 4 weeks in their first year before coming into the lab. It enhanced their confidence no end, and staff reported it saved time going over common things.

In histology we would have a 4 hour wet practical and a 2 hour dry microscopy / observation class where students would peer-mark each other’s observations. They would grade their slides according to NEQAS standards. At level 3 students would design their own practicals and work in self-designated groups.

—————————————————————————————

Linking research and teaching

Linking Teaching and Research in the Biosciences. By Heather J. Sears and Edward J. Wood (2005). Available: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/subjects/bioscience/bioscience-education-5-4.pdf

This was raised as an item to explore in one of our staff meetings. We assume that our research and teaching is linked, but as the report says, “the link could be exploited more effectively for the benefit of staff and students”. Raising the profile of our research would give Biomedical Science a distinct identity and move it away from Healthcare Science.

Introduction to ethics for university undergraduate students

An introduction to ethics

Series of open educational resources openly licensed for your use (CC BY SA unless otherwise stated). This page includes:

  • Screencast part 1
  • Screencast part 2
  • PDF of slides
  • MOCK paperwork (participant information sheet, consent form and ethics checklist).

Part 1

Part 2 


Access to PDF of the slides
Introduction to research ethics SLIDES compressed Oct2013

Supplementary material

MOCK Consent Form October2013

MOCK Ethical Reviewer Form October2013

MOCK Participant Info Sheet October2013

Seek and ye shall find.

BLOG POST FOR:

  • Any student completing coursework essays
  • Students completing research dissertations

Anybody completing more professional research, in depth studies, systematic reviews should seek the help of library services to develop their search strategy. The resources on this page are the types of things I’d teach to new students when tackling an essay for the first time at university, just to give a leg up from looking for stuff on Google.

AIM:
By watching these tutorials you should be able to:

  • Understand what a search strategy is
  • Compile lists of search keywords
  • Conduct searches using Boolean terms
  • Use PUBMED for conducting your searches

Introducing the search strategy
(Go to >> http://www.screenr.com/b6Zs)

Conducting the search
(Go to >>http://www.screenr.com/w6Zs)

Note – this search looked within “all fields” which is useful to do when researching new or small scale areas. This looks at the title, MeSH term, abstract and full paper for those matching keywords.

Conducting the search using the MeSH terms
(Go to >>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dncRQ1cobdc&feature=relmfu)

This video from NCBI (the PUBMED people) shows how to specifically use the MeSH terms. These are “medical subject headings” and when author’s submit papers to journals, they will provide a list of keywords. As noted in the video above, this introduces some variability. The PUBMED cataloguers will look at every publication and the author keywords, and allocate the paper to the medical subject heading or subheading. You will see how exhaustive these lists are by looking at the MeSH page. Using the MeSH as the search field will be a more precise way of searching and essential for large scale subject areas. If you are not finding many results, I’d switch to “all fields”.

NOTES:
Boolean terms used for searching include these below and also a far more exhaustive list as you become more competent.

OR or +
AND
NOT

Web of Knowledge will search PUBMED and a number of other databases (WEB OF SCIENCE, BIOSIS, JOURNAL CITATION REPORTS). The use of keywords and Boolean terms applies in exactly the same way.

Heaps of free student study skills resources!


WOW! 

I was just pulling some resources together for project students to help them get started, and when I searched the web I found this fantastic webpage by Viv Sieber at the University of Surrey. It knocked me dead when I first saw it a few years back at a conference, and it has just knocked me dead again.

Link to Study Skills OER University of Surrey OPEN student skills portal built by Viv Sieber. (CLICK on the image to go and use! Or here is the URL http://libweb.surrey.ac.uk/library/skills/Learningskills.html )

This is a prime example of why universities and colleges SHOULD be using open educational resources (OER) – that is, openly licensed learning materials created by experts that we can all share. Imagine, there are over 100 universities in the UK, and each one this time of year, will be brushing up their learning materials to provide THE SAME introductory information to their new students, and in my case THE SAME “getting started with research” – type information for their project students. That has to be a waste of time and somebody’s money!

About the portal

As you click through the various areas you’ll be connected through to a number of UK universities or a number of open education collaborations that have arisen over the years. This means:

1) The materials (pictures, photographs, animations, video) will all have been copyright checked and openly licensed for your use.

2) All the materials are developed by experts within the UK higher education setting so will be of top quality and you can confidently use it. Remember students, if you ARE just finding information on the internet, you need to appraise the source to ensure it is good quality.

3) As a member of staff (academic, librarian, student support officer), this resource will save you time in preparing identical materials, or at least provide you with an open license so you may be able to repurpose some of it. Do look for the terms of the Creative Commons licenses being used.

But will it be relevant to me, at my university?

On the whole YES! Whenever I use this resource I struggle to find something that I think won’t work for my students. For example, definitions of academic offences and use of referencing systems will be identical between universities, although the REGULATIONS behind them might be different. The IT skills resources all seem to be for the most up-to-date software versions. Things like CV tips and interview skills are all pretty generic.

A big round of applause for the  University of Surrey for compiling and sharing this excellent resource.