Professional nursing practice is guided by the objective of implementing strategies that support delivery of good quality care services. One such key strategy is an evidence-based nursing practice that has been well documented throughout a wide range of literature. The term evidence-based practice refers to the process of engaging in relevant research and applying the insights gained into nursing practice. Research questions come up from clinical scenarios that are complex and multifactoral. Such research questions might be aiming at questioning a certain practice or aiming at bringing about improvement in practice (Parahoo, 2014). The present paper is written on such a clinical scenario that aims to study the relationship between use of the stimulant drug and academic performance management of university student. The PICO question considered in this context is “Do stimulants increase academic performance in university students?” The paper would consider two peer-reviewed research papers relevant to the research questions. These papers would be critically analysed for understanding their credibility and importance. The next section of the paper would focus on highlighting the challenges that might be faced while applying the insights drawn from the research into practice. It would also consider discussing the alignment between the research studies and the research question considered.
- The present article has been co-authored by Elisabeth Hildt, Klaus Lieb and Andreas Gunter Franke. Hildt has expertise in Neuroethics and belongs to the Department of Philosophy, University Medical Centre Mainz, Germany. Lieb and Franke belong to the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.
- There is an absence of conflict of interest in this research paper.
- The study was undertaken with the research question of “do university students use stimulant drugs for enhancing the cognitive functioning and successively better academic results as well as other reasons?” The authors aimed at highlighting the connection between the use of stimulant drugs and student’s concern for academic results as well as other non-academic factors. The authors did not mention any hypothesis in this research.
- The researchers clarified the background of the present study. The gaps in existing literature throwing light on the use of stimulant drugs by university students were successfully highlighted by them. The researchers stated that no qualitative studies had been previously undertaken that was eminent for illustrating the present research topic. The lack of empirical data on the concerned topic motivated the researchers to undertake the study.
- The present study had a qualitative research methodology. The data collection management method was extensive face-to-face interviews held with the concerned participants. The interviews were held with the help of semi-structured questionnaire with questions that were close-ended. Three interviewers were appointed for the interview purpose along with one psychologist. Each interview was carried out with two interviewers. The complete process of interview was tape recorded. While one interviewer was responsible for engaging in communication with the respondent while the interview was being carried out, the other interviewer noted down the responses provided. The rationale behind this step was that the researchers did not want any loss of responses. Data analysis was done with the help of the process of generating transcriptions. An inductive category development method was considered for systematic data analysis.
- Based on the guidelines for research put forward by Chesnay (2015) it can be commented that the present research’s methodology was justified in light of the research question being addressed. Qualitative research methodology is suitable when one needs to highlight the views and feelings of respondents, as in the present case. Face-to-face interviews are crucial for extracting optimal information from the respondents since respondents can be communicated with and guided along the interview. As stated by Parahoo (2014) close-ended questions are of less importance than openended questions since they limit the responses of the participants. Nevertheless, inductive data analysis approach is appropriate for qualitative research since a summarised set of results can be achieved (Fain, 2017).
- The research had 18 students from the University of Mainz as participants who were healthy and without any psychiatric disorder. The students were to report non-medical use of illicit stimulants for enhancement of academic performances.
- The study highlighted six important categories for the life contexts in which university students use stimulant drugs. These were Context of stimulant use beyond academic performance enhancement, the Subjective experience of enhancement, Timing of consumption, Objective academic results, Side effects, Pressure to perform. The study inferred that students prefer using stimulant drugs for enhancing their cognitive ability that ultimately reflects their academic purposes. In addition, there are other multidimensional factors that lead to such practice.
Strengths and weaknesses
The study was significant for highlighting the contexts in which university students use stimulant drugs. The weaknesses of the study included participation bias due to the inclusion of only healthy individuals, spontaneous responses given and uncertainty in conclusion of the study.
- The concerned research article has been co-authored by four researchers Munro BA, Weyandt LL, Marraccini ME and Oster DR. The first, second and third authors of the paper belong to the University of Rhode Island, USA while the third author belong to the Bradley Hasbro Research Center, USA. However, the paper does not mention the affiliations and qualifications of the researchers.
- There is an abcence of conflict of interest in this research paper.
- The study was undertaken with the research question of “is there any association between nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NMUPS), executive functioning and academic outcomes among college students?” The researchers aimed at studying the relationship between these three variables among a certain cohort of student population belonging to five different areas of USA. The two hypothesis of the study were as follows-
Students who have EF deficiencies, as indicated by the Barkley Deficits Executive Functioning Scale (BDEFS), present more likelihood of representing NMUPS use opposing to those having average EF skills
NMUPS is responsible for having an modifying impact on the relationship between EF and academic performances.
The researchers illustrated the background of the present research. As per the researchers, there was a dearth of prasiseworthy studies that was efficient in studying the relationship between NMUPS and EF considering cohort of student population. The present research aimed at bridging the gap in existing studies highlighting the relationship between the variables in cohorts of college students. The studies that were carried out prior to this research only considered the link between EF deficiency and reporting of prescription stimulants.
The research under scrutiny was based on the principles of a quantitative research methodology. The data collection was done from the respective participants covering three variables, use of stimulant drugs, deficiency in executive functioning and acedmic performance. Use of stimulant drug was indicated by the Stimulant Survey Questionnaire (SSQ), while deficiency in executive functioning and acedmic performance were denoted by Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale (BDEFS for Adults) and Grade Point Average (GPA). The researchers used independent samples t-test and ANOVA test for testing the first and second hypothesis respectively.
Based on the research guidelines presented by Tapppen (2015) it can be stated that use of quantitative research methodology was justified. This is in light of the fact that quantitative research is appropriate when the aim is to establish the relationship between confounding variables. The other advantage is that accurate data can be retrieved that is free from biases to a considerable extent. Nevertheless, since the study wanted to highlight the nature of relationship between the variables the use of correlational study design was not justified (Fain, 2017).
The main findings of the study was that a notable section of the study population reported the use of NMUPS. Further, there was no dissimilarity between male and female population pertianing to this finding. The respondents stated that they used such drugs mainly for enhancing their academic grades. As the researchers had hypothesised that students having deficiency in executive functioning would be taking such drugs in more amount, it was proved correct by the study findings.
The strength of the study was that a quantitative research design was considered. The weaknesses of the study were in regards to sampling error due to gender bias, and insufficiency to find a causal relationship existing among the considered three variables.
Barriers for the application of evidence in practice- The case scenario of Wasim is the basis of the present paper. Adjudging the applicability of the inferences drawn from the two articles it can be stated that the conclusion drawn from the articles are not sufficient for coming up with a certain viewpoint regarding whether stimulant drugs are useful for academic performances. In case of Wasim, it can be recommended that he must not use stimulant drugs without further research that is accurate and trustworthy. This is more prominent since there are a number of weaknesses of these studies. These include sampling bias, inappropriate research methodology and uncertainty regarding author credentials.
Alignment of research studies with the PICO question- The present paper aimed at addressing the PICO question “Do stimulants increase academic performance in university students?” through the two studies. However, the question could not be completely addressed in this context by the papers.
The present paper was significant in presenting an opportunity to critically analyse research articles. Nurses who promote evidence-based practice have been indicated to foster service delivery in alignment with the organisational objectives as well as personal goals. In this context, it is to be mentioned that the research has to be based on current and up-to-date information present on the topic being researched. Critical analysis of the research papers is important for extracting valuable insights from the research that can be applied in different contexts for resolving clinical questions. The papers highlighted multifaceted aspects of the use of stimulant drugs by university and college students. The findings of the papers can be considered for application to real life contexts under suitable conditions. In the present case, it might not be suitable to apply the insights drawn from the articles into practice. For coming to a conclusion on whether stimulant drugs are to be used for academic purposes by a college or university students further research is to be carried out. These studies must rest upon strong research methodologies and must be flawless as much as possible.
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Hildt, E., Lieb, K., &Franke, A. G. (2014).Life context of pharmacological academic performance enhancement among university students - a qualitative approach.BMC Medical Ethics, 15(1), 23-23.doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-23
Munro, B. A., Weyandt, L. L., Marraccini, M. E., & Oster, D. R. (2017).The relationship between nonmedical use of prescription stimulants, executive functioning and academic outcomes.Addictive Behaviors, 65, 250-257. doi:
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