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G A O Smith, J E Smith, editors. (Pp 206; price not stated.) The Key Topics Series of Books. BIOs Scientific Publishers, Oxford, 2003. ISBN 1-85996-028-6
Until recently books and articles on how to research have been scarce. Those available have been challenged to bridge the gap between the obvious expertise of the authors and the novice reader. The result has been a tendency to turgid texts with confusing examples, requiring an exceptional tenacity of the reader.
The authors of this comparatively small book are from an anaesthesia/intensive care background and are used to teaching specialist registrars on research issues. Their stated objectives are to provide comprehensive, concise, and easily accessible information on all aspects of audit and research for the busy trainee preparing for specialty examinations. Emergency medicine is not represented in the 23 contributors therefore rendering the book of generic research interest rather than specific to emergency medicine. With the possible exception of the final chapter on Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) the book remains highly relevant to the emergency medicine trainee.
The authors have achieved their objectives. There are 41 short easy to read chapters through 206 pages covering the inspiration (research ideas) to publication (peer review) of research issues. There are some chapters offering overviews (medical research as part of postgraduate training, and research process). There are 16 chapters on statistics. There are examples and diagrams as appropriate. In all the style is neat, trim, and lean as each chapter tightly divides into headings, subheadings, and bullet points. Despite being concise the material is intellectually accessible and does not leave the reader lost somewhere along the explanation of concepts. In achieving this, the authors demonstrated their teaching experience and it is this accessibility that I liked most about the book.
Though appropriately targeted at the specialist registrar, I would also recommend other staff to look through to lighten up those dark areas of their knowledge or just where the memory has dimmed. Each chapter has suggested further reading.
For as broad a title as Clinical Research, one might anticipate a section on how to evaluate clinical research, but this is not included. How to go about and how to evaluate research are in a sense sides of the same coin and there are ample texts on evaluation elsewhere. A short chapter though offering a generic approach or approaches to research interpretation might be seen by specialist registrars to have pulled many issues together, helping their knowledge and exam prospects, and above all their future clinical practice.
This book however is still an excellent one. I can envisage it becoming essential reading for specialist registrars in emergency medicine and other specialties, who, like the rest of us, have to learn quickly and move on. Others wanting to understand research issues will find the contents demystifying whether new to clinical practice or well established. It would be an excellent book for medical libraries. I am very grateful for the editors of this journal for bringing it to my attention. Now, how does that logistic regression thing work again? Oh yes, here is the chapter, in three pages.