New expert reviews on research methods from the NIHR School for Social Care Research

The recent focus on mindfulness should not be limited to the general population or a privileged few but accessible and relevant to parents of children with disability

Frequent readers won’t be surprised to read we are always keen to support improvements in the quality of research. One of the clarion calls of many systematic reviews is for better quality studies to increase the numbers of trials that meet inclusion criteria.

It was with great interest therefore that we read of the commissioning of expert reviews on research methods in social care research by the NIHR School for Social Care Research at the London School of Economics. Thanks to Dr. Michael Clark (Research Programme Manager) for drawing these to our attention.

The reviews so far completed are:

  1. Research with Black and Ethnic Minority people using social services (PDF)
    Tom Vickers (Durham University), Gary Craig (Durham University), Karl Atkin (University of York)
  2. Observational methods (PDF)
    Professor Jim Mansell (University of Kent)
  3. Research with d/Deaf people (PDF)
    Alys Young, Ros Hunt (University of Manchester)
  4. Care homes (PDF)
    Rebekah Luff (University of Surrey), Zara Ferreira (City University), Julienne Meyer (City University)
  5. Mathematical modelling and its application to social care (PDF)
    Hazel Squires and Paul Tappenden (University of Sheffield), SSCR Methods Review 7, NIHR School for Social Care Research, London
  6. Overview of outcome measurement for adults using social care services and support (PDF)
    Ann Netten (University of Kent), SSCR Methods Review 6, NIHR School for Social Care Research
  7. The use of ‘large-scale datasets’ in UK social Care research (PDF)
    Shereen Hussein (King’s College London) SSCR Methods Review 5, NIHR School for Social Care Research, London.
  8. Research governance and ethics for adult social care research: procedures, practices and challenges (PDF)
    John Woolham (Coventry University). SSCR Methods Review 4, NIHR School for Social Care Research, London
  9. A brief guide to carrying out research about adult social care services for visually impaired people (PDF)
    Nigel Charles (Plymouth University), SSCR Methods Review 3, NIHR School for Social Care Research, London
  10. LGBT sexualities in social care research (PDF)
    Elizabeth Price (University of Hull), SSCR Methods Review 3, NIHR School for Social Care Research, London
  11. Qualitative Methods Overview (PDF)
    Dr Jo Moriarty (King’s College London), SSCR Methods Review 1, NIHR School for Social Care Research, London

You can also view a list of forthcoming reviews on the LSE website.

We here at WELD are particularly interested in the review of observational methods by professor Mansell.

This review looked at observational research, which is particularly useful for people with severe or profound learning disabilities, who may be unable to answer interviews or questionnaires about their experiences. The review deals with

  • what to observe
  • how to define it so that information gathered is valid and reliable
  • sampling (how often to observe and for how long)
  • practical steps to make observations in services
  • how to analyse and present observational data

The author concludes that quantitative direct observation measures aspects of the lives of people as they live them  where people using services are unable to answer interviews or questionnaires about their experience

A key finding from observational studies of this type has been to provide evidence of a better life in community-based services for people with learning disabilities, but also that  it cannot be assumed that new models will automatically provide this better life. Such studies have also helped to focus on the key role played by staff and that the way staff provide help is an important predictor of outcomes.

The author points out that such methods have also been used in undercover filming to document abuse and neglect to provide direct evidence of the reality of people’s lives in situations where they cannot speak for themselves.

He suggests that observation is

likely to continue to be an important addition to the range of methods used in social care research.”

You can read the full review here:
Observational methods (PDF) Professor Jim Mansell (University of Kent)

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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