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2. Methodology

HMIE (2009) summarised the key areas in which local authorities need to improve in child protection from its first cycle of inspection. Evidence was sought around these areas using a combination of database, manual and citation searches to identify key literature. The following databases were searched: ASSIA, Social Services Abstracts and Sociological Abstracts (all through CSA), COPAC and ISI Web of Knowledge. Further material was identified via interviews with key informants for the project, website searches of relevant agencies and replies to requests for unpublished research made to all 30 Child Protection Committees in Scotland. This review has focussed on empirical research literature but also included highly relevant policy documents and expert opinion pieces undertaken in Scotland since 2000, or with clear applicability to the Scottish child protection context. International studies and studies completed prior to 2000 were excluded unless they were frequently cited in the UK literature or there was a lack of contemporary UK research in a particular area. Before inclusion, all research studies were subject to quality and relevance appraisal.

Alan Gomersall's picture

Methodology - Evidence Informed Performance Improvement 2

It is a pity that the authors, as in Evidence Informed Performance Improvement 1, failed to use a single UK produced database to find the evidence. The databases used are all produced in the USA (COPAC is a catalogue) and these services are increasingly selective in their coverage of UK research and practice. Furthermore they fail to include any UK grey literature, local and central government reports etc.
It would be interesting to know why the researchers did not use UK sources such as Social Policy & Practice, ChildData, Community Abstracts or even Planex (produced in Scotland) or Social Care Online (free on the web). All these databases include a wealth of information on UK research and practice including reports and other grey material from many sources.
Approximately 30% of the content of Policy & Practice alone is grey literature.
Failure to search these UK sources inevitably means that there is a danger of bias in the final review and its recommendations.

IRISS's picture


Many thanks for these useful observations. We have consulted with the authors of the two reviews and they would like to clarify that they did indeed access Social Care Online. Unfortunately Social Policy and Practice was not available either through the University or through SSKS. ChildData NCB was checked but required a subscription of £600. COPAC is indeed as you clarify a catalogue rather than a database; however it does embrace both the British Library and the National Library of Scotland catalogues.

They are more puzzled by the comment on grey literature and government reports as there are references to such sources in both the reports (full and summary versions). Specifically for this one, Scottish grey literature was accessed from MARS, SCCPN, IRISS, Children 1st, SEED and the Chairs and Lead Officers of the CPCs were contacted. English grey literature was accessed via SCIE and NSPCC inform.

I hope this helps. As ever the authors have had to select an appropriate balance between a lengthy systematic review and a more rapid appraisal of the available evidence.