5 Ways to Keep up to Date with New Research
“C’mon, admit it!”
You aspire to be an evidence-based practitioner and to be known as one among your peers and colleagues. But, you know deep down that you need to be up-to-date with a lot of the latest research before you could call yourself that and really mean it!
You need to read a lot of articles and you don’t have a lot of time to do it.
You’ve pretended to read a lot for way too long but now it’s time to come clean!
Once a burning passion of reading everyday for the sake of your valued patients, your quest for keeping up with research is now reduced to just a neglected collection of Twitter threads you’ve bookmarked and ‘articles-to-read’ folders overflowing your laptop screen.
It’s extremely hard for the modern physio to find time to read research. A few who are great at hustling can barely manage it. Others are just completely overwhelmed with the sheer volume of research that’s already available and that which gets added on every year. The aim of this blog is to provide you with some easy, practical ways to stay up-to-date with research along with the pros and cons of each.
After all, we owe it to our patients to find the way which works the best for us and to push the profession forward.
In these times of social media, reading journal articles might feel a bit unfashionable and outdated. Who’s got the time to read the journals when you can swipe through an Instagram post and get the gist of an article within a minute? If you are a purist like me, there’s nothing like diving in and reading the full text of papers.
Open access journals are a blessing for those who want to dig deeper into research papers. Online-only articles are available to all who want to stay abreast with the latest developments in physiotherapy. The more path-breaking research papers are freely accessible, the more the profession moves forward in the right direction. Considering the fact that I belong to a middle income country which has a dearth of quality education available and has limited resources to access research, open access articles are a great way of staying toe to toe with physios in the West.
Keeping in mind the massive amount of journal articles published each year, the number of open access articles is considerably less. Most papers are behind an expensive paywall. And the ones that aren’t, take a lot of time to read and are hard to understand. The sheer quantity of papers being published is quite overwhelming for an average physio. They are confused regarding the quality of the papers since it’s all about the quantity. In the present era, where the focus is to make research freely available to all and improve science literacy, keeping a high fee for access to articles is turning research into a business and is discouraging clinicians and students from building a habit of reading and staying in touch with current evidence.
2. Journal alerts / App alerts
In order to filter out the topics you are interested in reading about, you can subscribe to a journal email list, or set up app alerts in research apps, (e.g. ‘Read by QxMD’) where you can actually get the list of articles published at the beginning of each month in your inbox ! This is great to keep you up to date with what topic areas you’re interested in. PEDro is another good example of this. The particular journal app will send you a push notification on your phone concerning their latest publication. This process is an easy way to make sure that you don’t miss out on any relevant paper from your preferred reputed journals.
The problem here is, you usually only get access to the abstracts. As we are all aware by now, there are major limitations with only reading the abstract. As a reader, it might get overwhelming to receive constant notifications and long lists of articles on a single topic every month that you might actually stop checking your inbox out of sheer fatigue! It’s similar to how no one opens each and every newsletter they have subscribed to !
3. Social media
Instagram and Physio Twitter to the rescue!
In today’s world, one might assume that social media will be our Saving Grace. It will be the solution to all our woes simply because of its advantages. Physio Network has a massive social media following and are very aware of the fact that research translation is a lot faster on social media because everyone’s on it!
- Lot of information available
- Lot of experts available to interact with
- Platform to create healthy debate
- Research available in easily digestible form
There isn’t a lack of social media pages these days posting about new research. The problem here becomes – can you trust what is being said? It takes a real expert to analyze and interpret research, and convey the findings in an accurate way. And unfortunately, many social media accounts don’t have the necessary experience to do this well.
Another big problem with social media is you will likely see a lot of cherry-picked content from people you already agree with. In this way, social media platforms can quickly generate a tonne of confirmation bias. To remain balanced, sometimes you need to challenge your beliefs, not just confirm your biases again and again as you scroll through instagram and live in an echochamber on Twitter!
The spirit of healthy online debate is now turning more and more into a dumpster fire of personal insults and attacks which actually discourages a physio who’s new to reading research to question the elitism of experts on social media. Instead of engaging in a professional discourse, there’s a lot of anger and blame that gets thrown around, forgetting the fact that we are all colleagues who are just trying to challenge our biases and learn from each other. Quantity over quality leaves a user confused and turns an active engager into a lurker who just tries to absorb information from far.
4. Search on google scholar / pubmed / researchgate
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
Joining researchgate is a great way to actually engage with a community of researchers and fellow clinicians where you can actually ask for an article you are interested in. You have a good chance of finding full texts of articles here and there are people around to help you get access!
Google Scholar and PubMed are places where you find papers that you seek. You can get really specific in your search and not worry about the reliability of these resources.
Easy to carry out specific, complex searches over a vast, highly reliable database. Opportunities to engage with and follow authors and researchers with a chance of getting free access to their publications. Freely available resources to make science more accessible to everyone.
You don’t always get free access. Searching for a particular article can lead a novice reader down a dark rabbit hole of research. This can be frightening and a daunting experience for someone who isn’t used to these platforms.
5. Research Reviews
This is where experts break down new research for you, into more digestible and easy-to-understand summaries. This helps save you time and money keeping up to date, compared to paying for access to the full text of articles to read yourself.
Review authors who are experts in their fields coming up with highly reliable and accurate analysis of a research paper and its clinical implications. This helps in translating clinical research into clinical practice much faster without the paper feeling overwhelming for the reader and leaving them on their own to figure out how they can use the findings on the patients they see. You got clinicians and researchers from around the world critically appraising, summarizing and providing their unbiased clinical perspectives which makes it so much easier to get interested in staying up-to-date with research.
This is not an ideal solution for the purists at heart who love to dig into full texts. You do miss out on full texts as it is a modern solution for those who are fighting against time and trying their best to read or listen to these reviews while on their commute to their clinics or universities.
We have our own Research Review service here at Physio Network, where you get access to both written and audio summaries of 12 new studies every month, plus access to the entire library of 700+ reviews. And you can read/listen to them all through our app too.
Check it out HERE!
Just like everything else in physio, it depends which of the above ways works best for you. My sincere hope is that you get into reading more and more so that you can be an integral part of this forward movement of the profession towards making more evidence-based informed decisions and doing justice with the care of our patients.
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