Defining/Refining the Topic for Review

Communication, Depression and Primary Care

Defining The Task

In order to begin scoping the literature for the purposes of writing a literature review, a topic of investigation firstly had to be chosen. Whilst researchers may already have a specific topic area when considering a literature review, for the purposes of a demonstrative article, we had to select our own topics for review. The topic had to broad enough so that potentially important substantive themes could be explored, but also narrow enough that a meaningful literature search of empirical studies could be completed.

The topics that were decided upon for my colleague and myself depended on our backgrounds, preferences, interests and previous research experiences. In order to demonstrate how the process of writing a literature review might look for the different sorts of mixed methods studies, it was decided that it would be useful for one of us to focus on descriptive studies (studies that provide empirical description and contextual information on the issues surrounding a topic area) and the other look at studies evaluating an intervention (studies demonstrating the usefulness, or otherwise, of some form of intervention in health care). These two sorts of study reflect some of the different purposes to which mixed methods research are put, and thus were deemed appropriate for illustrative purposes. I decided to take on board a mixed methods review of descriptive studies, or studies that highlight the nature, context and current status of a particular problem. These studies may be the sorts of study that precede intervention studies. The topic for review I chose, through communication with my colleagues was communication, depression and primary care. This topic area was chosen as it is broad enough to offer a wide range of substantive themes, but also narrow enough so as not to be vague. I had previous research experience in, and interest in the management of depression in primary care so this topic area was of interest and I had some degree of insight into the sorts of themes I might find in the literature. I was ready to start undertaking my review.