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From The CriticsReviewer: Kathryn Parker, MA, PhD (The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences)
Description: This book provides medical students and practicing clinicians with knowledge of the fundamentals of good research using existing medical research to illustrate the principles and practice of conducting medical research. This is the fifth edition of this book, but it is not evident when the previous edition was published.
Purpose: The purpose is to aid medical students and practicing clinicians in determining the value and merit of published research. Given that access to medical research of varying quality has grown considerably, the ability of young researchers to critically appraise published research is increasingly vital. Thus, books such as this are necessary to help clinicians translate evidence into optimal patient care.
Audience: According to the author, the book is written for medical students and practicing clinicians. However, the book would also be of value to other students from other health professions such as nursing, pharmacy, medical imaging, and therapeutics. The author is an MD with a master's degree in public health. Attaining these academic credentials requires the exposure to and practice of medical research. However, the extent of his experience conducting research is not stated; it would have been helpful to have had an "About the Author" paragraph that provided such information.
Features: The book provides a comprehensive look at many of the critical components of the research process. Study designs and tests for statistical significance are well covered. References are provided at the conclusion of each chapter allowing easy access to further information. Furthermore, case examples using existing research provide authentic illustrations of these concepts. The tables and figures support the text nicely. While the strengths of the book are numerous, there is some information that could have been included. Firstly, the importance of the rationale, purpose (and hence the research question) is not emphasized. Secondly, levels of evidence and effect size — two concepts common to current research and worthy of information on how to interpret them — are not covered. Finally, for the novice research student, it would have been beneficial to present a printout (from a commonly used software package such as SPSS) detailing the results of a statistical test and interpreting and discussing the meaning of each relevant metric.
Assessment: This is a comprehensive book for the novice researcher. It uses published research to convey and illustrate important concepts and practices in the field of medical research. The language is easy to understand and complex concepts and methodologies are presented in a clear and concise manner. The use of published research throughout is the book's greatest strength. It provides the reader the opportunity to contextualize complex information and understand how this knowledge can be applied.