Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Success for online course

The PhD-course in Systematic Reviews in Social Sciences attracted students from different countries and disciplines.

The course “Introduction to Systematic Review (SR) and the use of SR in Social Science” was taught for the first time in June 2020. A Systematic Review (SR) is a synthesis of existing knowledge that uses transparent and explicitly defined procedures to find, evaluate and synthesize the results of relevant research. SR is widely used in medicine and healthcare, and has in the last decades also increasingly become known and used in the social sciences.

– Social sciences includes a wide range of disciplines and methodological approaches. The intriguing challenge we wanted to address in this course was how we can make SR relevant for students and participants coming from distinct different academic backgrounds, says professor Marit Skivenes.

– The basic platform for SR, and that is valid for all research, is that we build on what others have done and what we know is the existing knowledge in a field. What SR offers, is an approach for systematization of this knowledge by using transparent and explicitly defined procedures to find and evaluate and interpret the results of relevant research, Skivenes explains.

Digital learning

Skivenes was the course coordinator together with Professor Hans Lund at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL). Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was designed as a fully online course. Lectures, plenary discussions and group work – all was conducted on the digital platform Zoom.

Professor Hans Lund presenting during the course.

Even though this was the first time with a fully online course for both the professors and many of the students, the feedback from the evaluation was overall very positive.

– Phu, that is such a relief, says Skivenes. We were very nervous for how the online teaching would function for this type of course. The students did not know each other, and they came from different parts of the world. We wondered if we would we be able to create a good leaning environment; if the internet connection would work; how the group assignments would function; and so on.

Both Skivenes and Lund were impressed by the work the students have put into the course and the academic level of the students.  The participants also reported on new insights:

– I have gained a good insight into what SR is, how I can assess the quality of SR, and how I can use SR in my work. Hans and Marit made the professionally demanding content easily accessible and communicated it in an engaging way, states Bernhard Wegel, senior analysis at Oxford Research AS.

– The course was extremely informative and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a comprehensive understanding of how to effectively conduct systematic reviews in the field of social science, says Hannah C Doughty, PhD Student at the University of Liverpool.

Hope to continue the course

Based on the feedback from students and the value of providing future researchers with methods skills and knowledge about Systematic Reviews, Skivenes and Lund hope to run the course again in 2021.

– It’s been immensely interesting to hear the students and participants present their research topic and see how they have applied SR, and the types of challenges and reflections they bring to the discussion, states Marit Skivenes.

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