“Where do I begin?” -Paediatric project perspective!

As with research, the first question for a blog is: where to start? But what better place to start than the beginning? The order in which I have approached a lot of my past research has been:

  1. Posing a question
  2. Reading around the topic
  3. Identifying the gaps in the knowledge
  4. Creating a highly detailed plan about the best way to find answers
  5. and…once funding approval is sorted, following the plan

My current project is a little more open-ended, so the plan hasn’t been fully crystallised yet…So! I get to be part of planning the research-which is pretty exciting!

So where does all research begin? With a literature review, of course!

Especially when there is no protocol. A literature review is not just a way to find out what knowledge there is in the area, but how that knowledge has been gained! This enables you to find out which methods have produced useful data (and so could be used again with new questions), or have been underutilised, and so could shed a new perspective on, or highlight other facets of existing data in the area.

Little research has been undertaken on my topic- Paediatric patients’ (and their families’) understanding and reactions to MRI Scan Images”-which has its pros and cons. It is a common and effective justification for research, though results in few directly relevant studies for my project.

I started with a few preliminary searches of the literature (sometimes called a scoping review) in FindIT the University of Birmingham’s online search tool for all available resources. I found it to be helpful to record:

  • Search terms
  • Number of articles retrieved that looked relevant from reading the abstract
  • Total number of search results

You should always remember a literature search is an iterative process; you have to start reading the articles you find as you go along to know whether your searches are fruitful or not.

natalie image 1

I found many studies exploring the patient experience of cancer inside and outside the hospital, though few of these refer to MRI images. Interestingly though, there have been many studies on the experience of being scanned by an MRI. Being almost fully enclosed in a tunnel-like device can provoke a strong feeling of being “trapped” and need to get out of the scanner [2], even in those that have never been diagnosed as claustrophobic. Many of these studies refer to participants finding these images of the brain ‘fascinating’ [3]; and in some cases, fascination with seeing their brain was even a reason for participating in the study [4] with some going far as asking for an image of their brain to take home. In some cases, fascination with seeing their brain was even a reason for participating in the study.

Starting a new piece of research can be intimidating but if we break it down into discrete tasks, and tackle them one by one, we find it’s never that hard…


[1] Dijkers, M. (2015) ‘What is a scoping review?’, KTUpdate, 4 (1). http://ktdrr.org/products/update/v4n1/dijkers_ktupdate_v4n1_12-15.pdf

[2] Murphy, F. (2001) ‘Understanding the humanistic interaction with medical imaging technology’, Radiography, 7 (3). http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/radi.2001.0328

[3] Von Wagner, C., et al. (2009) ‘Patient experiences of colonoscopy, barium enema and CT colonoscopy: a qualitative study’, The British Journal of Radiology, 82 (973). http://dx.doi.org/10.1259/bjr/61732956

[4] Shaw, R.L. et al. (2008) ‘Ethical issues in neuroimaging health research: An IPA study with research participants’, Journal of Health Psychology, 13. doi: 10.1177/1359105308097970

Natalie Tyldesley-Marshall

(NIHR Research Fellow)

Editor:  Farina Kokab

(Ecrag Co-chair)




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