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NURS 360: Group literature search assignment

This guide has been created to assist with one of the literature searching assignments for NURS 360. NOTE: This particular assignment may not be offered every year, or by every instructor.

Determining your selection criteria

Discuss with your team members: What is important about your research question that requires inclusion? Versus, What is out of scope and can safely be excluded?

Some clinical questions you explore might be very broad, and as a result your searches might end up with an overwhelming amount of irrelevant search results to sift through. One way to help guide the development of your search is to think of what's of utmost importance vs what is irrelevant.  These are better known as your inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Inclusion and exclusion criteria not only help with search formulation, but they help you down the line when you're screening your search results for the articles you ultimately choose to include for this assignment.

By setting up these parameters "a priori" which means, in advance/early, they will help to keep you focused on what it is you're specifically looking for.


Referring back to my research question:

What effect does music therapy have on the quality of life of elderly people with dementia? 

  • What exactly do I mean by "the elderly"? I need to be more specific about what age range that includes, because if I'm screening through my search results for relevant research, I need to stipulate what age range I consider elderly. Is it 55+? 65 and up?  80 and up? 
  • Additionally, the studies I find may not use such tidy age ranges.  There might be a study for music therapy for adults with dementia, which includes the elderly as well as younger folks with early onset dementia.  Should I take that study even if only some of the participants are elderly?  These are things I'd need to think about -- whether or not to would include or exclude those studies.
  • In many cases the assignment you are working on will ask you to search only recent articles, or articles published in the last 20 years.  If that is the case, that is an inclusion criteria.  If you come across any search results that are older than 20 years, those would be excluded.

Some of these inclusion and exclusion criteria could be built into the search (you can add a date-range filter), others you may want to screen for (take a closer look at the article abstract to see if it mentions what age range was included in the study).

There are other reasons you might choose to include/exclude studies, like the research methodology.  Because this assignment asks you to find empirical research (that is, an original research study on this topic) you will want to exclude articles that are literature reviews, letters to the editor, and other non-original research items.

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