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Do Cochrane summaries help student midwives understand the findings of Cochrane systematic reviews: the BRIEF randomised trial.

Alderdice, Fiona; McNeill, Jenny; Lasserson, Toby; Beller, Elaine; Carroll, Margaret; Hundley, Vanora; Sunderland, Judith; Devane, Declan; Noyes, Jane; Key, Susan; Norris, Sarah; Wyn-Davies, Janine; Clarke, Mike

Authors

Fiona Alderdice

Jenny McNeill

Toby Lasserson

Elaine Beller

Margaret Carroll

Vanora Hundley

Judith Sunderland

Declan Devane

Jane Noyes

Susan Key

Sarah Norris

Janine Wyn-Davies

Mike Clarke



Abstract

Background

Abstracts and plain language summaries (PLS) are often the first, and sometimes the only, point of contact between readers and systematic reviews. It is important to identify how these summaries are used and to know the impact of different elements, including the authors’ conclusions. The trial aims to assess whether (a) the abstract or the PLS of a Cochrane Review is a better aid for midwifery students in assessing the evidence, (b) inclusion of authors’ conclusions helps them and (c) there is an interaction between the type of summary and the presence or absence of the conclusions.


Methods

Eight hundred thirteen midwifery students from nine universities in the UK and Ireland were recruited to this 2 × 2 factorial trial (abstract versus PLS, conclusions versus no conclusions). They were randomly allocated to one of four groups and asked to recall knowledge after reading one of four summary formats of two Cochrane Reviews, one with clear findings and one with uncertain findings. The primary outcome was the proportion of students who identified the appropriate statement to describe the main findings of the two reviews as assessed by an expert panel.


Results

There was no statistically significant difference in correct response between the abstract and PLS groups in the clear finding example (abstract, 59.6 %; PLS, 64.2 %; risk difference 4.6 %; CI −0.2 to 11.3) or the uncertain finding example (42.7 %, 39.3 %, −3.4 %, −10.1 to 3.4). There was no significant difference between the conclusion and no conclusion groups in the example with clear findings (conclusions, 63.3 %; no conclusions, 60.5 %; 2.8 %; −3.9 to 9.5), but there was a significant difference in the example with uncertain findings (44.7 %; 37.3 %; 7.3 %; 0.6 to 14.1, p = 0.03). PLS without conclusions in the uncertain finding review had the lowest proportion of correct responses (32.5 %). Prior knowledge and belief predicted student response to the clear finding review, while years of midwifery education predicted response to the uncertain finding review.


Conclusions

Abstracts with and without conclusions generated similar student responses. PLS with conclusions gave similar results to abstracts with and without conclusions. Removing the conclusions from a PLS with uncertain findings led to more problems with interpretation

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 1, 2016
Publication Date Mar 1, 2016
Deposit Date Mar 8, 2016
Publicly Available Date Mar 8, 2016
Print ISSN 2046-4053
Electronic ISSN 2046-4053
Publisher BMC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
DOI https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-016-0214-8
Keywords Randomised trial; Evidence summaries; Structured abstracts; Format; Interpretation; Conclusions; Systematic reviews;
Public URL http://researchrepository.napier.ac.uk/id/eprint/9648
Publisher URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13643-016-0214-8
Contract Date Mar 8, 2016

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