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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 230-232

Ground realities regarding systematic review as library dissertation for postgraduate students in dentistry – A perspective

1 Department of Research, DR D Y Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Faculty of Dental Sciences, M S Ramaiah University, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission13-Dec-2020
Date of Decision27-May-2021
Date of Acceptance09-Jun-2021
Date of Web Publication15-Oct-2021

Correspondence Address:
Pradnya V Kakodkar
Department of Research, Dr D Y Patil Vidyapeeth, Pimpri, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaphd.jiaphd_221_20

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How to cite this article:
Kakodkar PV, Pushpanjali K. Ground realities regarding systematic review as library dissertation for postgraduate students in dentistry – A perspective. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2021;19:230-2

How to cite this URL:
Kakodkar PV, Pushpanjali K. Ground realities regarding systematic review as library dissertation for postgraduate students in dentistry – A perspective. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 7];19:230-2. Available from: https://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2021/19/3/230/328277

  Introduction Top

The undergraduate program leading to the BDS degree has the ultimate aim of producing graduates who are competent of practicing general dentistry with necessary skills such as patient care, operating dental practice, communication, and few other general skills which are not taught with great emphasis.[1] Going forward, a fortunate few get admitted for postgraduation course in dentistry. The MDS curriculum prescribed by the Dental Council of India[2] is structured to facilitate learning skills in clinical aspects, research and as the future academician. Precisely, speaking about the research skills, the structured training schedule for MDS, indicates that the student has to submit synopsis in the first 6 months, undertake library assignments (in the first year), short-term projects (in the second year), submit completed dissertation (in the third year) and also accomplish seminars, journal clubs and critical evaluation of scientific articles during the 3 years.[2] It is unfortunate that the undergraduate training for research skills is a bare minimum; mostly as “learning to pass.” However, during postgraduation students, are exposed to various trainings to facilitate their honing of research acumen.

In the MDS curriculum[2] there is no narrative about what is meant by Library assignment. In our opinion, we call it Library dissertation (LD) and it is mainly assigned to provide students with an experience to use library resources (manually and digitally) on a focused topic, learn the skill of reading the literature, critically appraise, understand the nuances of conducting research and assess methodological issues. Thus, through this activity, the student achieves advanced learning competency. Further, these skills prepare them to step into conducting research for the dissertation, presenting the scientific paper, compiling report, and submission of manuscript as per standards. In fact, LD is an organized and structured narrative review with scientific rigor.

At present, there is this new wave of undertaking Systematic review (SR) as LD. No doubt it is a progressive step toward growing academically, but there are some ground realities which we should not turn a blind eye. Therefore, the focus of this paper is to put forth our perspective regarding the present scenario around SR as LD.

  Systematic Review Top

Evidence-based dentistry can be said to be the current best approach to provide interventions as it improves dentist's skills and knowledge as well as the quality of treatment provided to the patients.[3] SR has been considered as the pillar on which evidence-based healthcare rests. It is the highest level of evidence in the pyramid of the evidence hierarchy.[4] It is inevitable that, if a type of study method sits at the top of the pyramid, everybody will want to either conduct such a study or publish them.[5] SR could be a good research method to be used for postgraduate education because it not only enhances problem-solving by using critical and analytical thinking and acquiring in-depth knowledge of a variety of research methods, but it can provide opportunities for networking by contacting different authors of publications nationally and globally.[6] Doing an SR properly implies following a protocol[7] (Decide the uncertainty; Deciding the topic and formulating the research question; Prepare the protocol; Making a list of keywords/search strategy/literature search; Selection of studies; Extraction of data; Assessment of the study quality; Analyze and interpret results and Prepare the report).

It is well known that the team for an SR should include at least one person with some experience in the performance of SR's, one person skilled in statistics (if meta-analysis is planned) and one person with content knowledge of the topic being addressed.[8],[9] Further, at least two persons will be needed to search and extract data independently and a third person to resolve any discussions arising due to disagreements.[10] The crux of SR is in the extensive and comprehensive literature search. This is an exhaustive process and requires time and effort. However, data extraction may be relatively easy than the other steps but critical assessment of the included article using checklist and assessing the risk of bias/quality of the study isn't straightforward. Abstract thinking, critical appraisal skills, and knowledge of diverse research methods are mandatory skills for undertaking SR.[11]

  Eye Opening Ground Realities Top

  1. The Universities/Institutions are recommending SR to be undertaken as LD in their 1st year of postgraduation
  2. The awareness about SR among the dental faculty is low.[12] The majority of the guides are not trained.[13] The guides of the present age have completed their postgraduation education at least 5–35 years ago. The Dental Council of India DCI curriculum then or even today does not have training for Evidence-based dental practice and SR in the MDS curriculum[2]
  3. SR is known to be a rigorous and transparent form of literature review.[10] The rule of thumb for an SR literature search is that more than 2 databases should be used; articles in languages other than English should be included and there should be an attempt to find unpublished research (gray literature).[14] At present, all the students may not have access to variety of paid literature databases like the SCOPUS/EMBASE/Web of Science/CINAHL, etc.,
  4. Ignoring the above two points, even if the postgraduate students continue to undertake an SR without a trained guide and no availability of complete literature resources than the SR produced will be of a poor quality and will not serve the purpose of been a high-quality SR which is described as the most reliable source of evidence to guide clinical practice[15]
  5. Further, publication of such low-quality SR will be difficult.

  Recommendations Top

”You must have a solid foundation if you're going to have a strong superstructure”. Gordon B. Hinckley

The SR process is extremely demanding, time-consuming and resource intensive.[10] First, it is recommended that a pool of trained guides/experts should be created. Second, planning and procuring of access to variety of paid literature databases or provision for inter-library loan services of articles should be undertaken. Thirdly and most importantly, assess the capacity of the student[11] [Table 1] and the willingness to undertake the SR and lastly, there should be a provision of choice to choose between narrative review or SR to be undertaken as LD.
Table 1: Student capabilities to undertake a systematic review

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Dental Council of India. BDS course regulation. 2007. New Delhi. Available from: http://dciindia.gov.in/Rule_Regulation/Revised_BDS_Course_Regulation_2007.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 May 25].  Back to cited text no. 1
Dental Council of India. Master of Dental Surgery Course Regulation, along with Amendments, 2017. Available from: http://dciindia.gov.in/Rule_Regulation/MDS_Course_Regulations_2017.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 May 27].  Back to cited text no. 2
Prabhu S, John J, Saravanan S. Knowledge, attitude and perceived barriers towards practice of evidence based dentistry among indian postgraduate dental students. IOSR J Dent Med Sci 2012;2:46-51.  Back to cited text no. 3
Munn Z, Stern C, Aromataris E, Lockwood C, Jordan Z. What kind of systematic review should I conduct? A proposed typology and guidance for systematic reviewers in the medical and health sciences. BMC Med Res Methodol 2018;18:5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Wormald R, Evans J. What makes systematic reviews systematic and why are they the highest level of evidence? Ophthalmic Epidemiol 2018;25:27-30.  Back to cited text no. 5
Sambunjak D, Puljak L. Cochrane systematic review as PhD thesis: An alternative with numerous advantages. Biochemia Medica 2010:20;319-26.  Back to cited text no. 6
Kakodkar P. Training module for capacity building to conduct systematic reviews in dentistry. J Dent Res Rev 2019:6;1-2.  Back to cited text no. 7
Charrois TL. Systematic reviews: What do you need to know to get started? Can J Hosp Pharm 2015;68:144-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
Møller AM, Myles PS. What makes a good systematic review and meta-analysis? Br J Anaesth 2016;117:428-30.  Back to cited text no. 9
Mallett R, Zanker JH, Slater R, Duvendack M. The benefits and challenges of using systematic reviews in international development research. J Dev Eff 2012:4;445-55.  Back to cited text no. 10
Baloyi WT, Jordan P. Systematic review as a research method in postgraduate nursing education. Health SA Gesondheid 2016;21;a942.  Back to cited text no. 11
Kakodkar P, Deshmukh R, Singh S, Kale A, Joshi P. Systematic review in Dentistry: Awareness and perception among the faculty of Four Indian Dental Institutions. Indian J Public Health Res Dev 2020:10;699-704.  Back to cited text no. 12
Durgesh N Bailoor. Evidence based education in Dentistry: Can it be implemented in India? Int J Oral Maxillofac Pathol 2011:2;44-5.  Back to cited text no. 13
R-AMSTAR checklist - Quality Assessment for Systematic Reviews (Appendix-1) Available from: http://www.perosh.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/R-AMSTAR-Checklist-OSH-Evidence.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 May 25].  Back to cited text no. 14
Clarke J. What is a systematic review? Evid Based Nurs 2011;14:64.  Back to cited text no. 15


  [Table 1]


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