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Information Literacy Skills In Preparation For Constructing A Literature Review

KEC: Enquiry Portfolio Two ( EP2): Written Enquiry Framework Template

Purpose: 1. To provide evidence of identifying and evaluating sources, gathering relevant information, and evaluating modes of enquiry related

to an enquiry question.

2. To demonstrate information literacy skills in preparation for constructing a literature review.

Enquiry question

What changes (if any) have you made to your question and why?

I wanted to research the effects of Methylphenidate medications and any side-effects they may have on children that were prescribed them to manage ADHD. As there was plentiful information on its efficacy but unfortunately not as many articles on the side effect of the medication I decided to add to my inquiry. Initially, I wanted to focus on only one drug (Ritalin) but according to the literature, its chemical name would yield more results rather than using the commercial name to search for trials. This led to expanding the search to all the stimulant medications used for ADHD treatment in children – methylphenidates.

The second part of my question concerns itself with the “natural” aspect of treatment – using Essential Fatty Acids to relieve symptoms of ADHD in children. There was a large amount of information on the use of Essential Fatty Acids but as it is only recently that it has been researched in earnest, there is not much information on any potential side effects.

Using “children” proved to be too broad of a subject and could encompass infants to late teenagers. Thus, the question was further modified to only focus on school-aged children; in the literature, too, this was the most common group researched.

The question evolved into: “ What are the benefits and side effects of using Methylphenidates (Ritalin, Adderall) versus efficacy and side effects of supplementation with Essential Fatty Acids (eicosapentaenoic acid & docosahexaenoic acid) in school-aged children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity disorder?”

From the feedback received from the tutor I modified my question to be less wordy but to still maintain the intent of the original inquiry.

What is your developed final question?

The question now reads : How do methylphenidates compare with Essential Fatty Acids in treatment for ADHD in school-aged children.

Modes of enquiry

What are the relevant and appropriate modes of enquiry (qualitative and/or quantitative) for your question and why?

Qualitative research:

Qualitative (as the name would suggest) is concerned primarily with the quality of the research – the personal experiences of those assessed, it uses in-depth questions or interviews and the sample groups are smaller but are more intently scrutinised. Qualitative research focuses on the individual (or small group) and is more personal – information relevant to that individual is gathered and its relevancy is limited to the small sample that is being researched.

Qualitative research investigates culture, perceptions, behaviour, why people do something in a particular way – their attitudes.

Field notes, personal interviews and discussions are the common means of obtaining information.

Quantitative research:

This type of data is far more objective and uses large numbers of participants in studies to assess the general trends. This method uses statistical methods to establish relationships between its variables and frequency of incidence. Starting with a hypothesis and a theory (like any good experiment) it studies the facts and figures to give a clear-cut conclusion of the findings that could be used to estimate findings in similar groups.

Appropriate modes of enquiry for my question

Quantitative research seems to be the most relevant type to use. As I am researching the effects of methylphenidates and EFAs I needed facts and numbers of how many would be prescribed it and how many would experiences side effects. From a large sample group it is easier to see a general correlation. Qualitative research could also be of benefit in my research as they types and severity of each side effects (or improvement) could be assessed in each child but for the purpose of this experiment the quantitative data is the primary objective.

Search strategies

What key words did you use in your search?

ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder, children, Ritalin, Adderall, methylphenidates, EFAs, Essential Fatty acids, Omega 3, Fish Oil, effect, cause, side effects, efficacy

What search strategies have you used to find sources? E.g., library resources, synonyms, search words/phrases:

Initially, I did some research on summon and to familiarise myself with the amount of material available. At the time I did not have full access to the full text articles available on the sites provided by summon. However, seeing the abstract and the source of the article that interested me I searched for it in various search engines and managed to attain the full text elsewhere. Using Boolean logic helped me in my search: instead of searching for commercial names of the drugs individually, I was able to combine the possible names the researches may have used.

For example: instead of searching for “ADHD effects Ritalin”, I searched for “ADHD AND effects AND Ritalin OR methylphenidate OR Concerta OR Metadate”, “ADHD OR Attention Deficit Disorder AND effects AND Essential Fatty Acids”.

I did not use many other operators as those seemed sufficient and provided quite specific results that I needed.

I had also looked at several books recommended by the AUT Library search but found them to be mainly out-dated and therefore decided to use mainly research articles published online.

Skim-reading these articles ensured I selected only the ones that were as impartial as possible (not funded by the drug company that was researching its own drugs – obvious bias), limiting my searches to simple phrases instead of the entire research question and condensing my question all helped me streamline my search and find the exact information I needed.

Often, I found the references in any one paper interesting and researched the reference myself. This way I found many articles I would not have known to search for.

How are you organising and storing the information you have found?

Using Faigley (2011) has made me narrow down the information I need and to concisely organise it in my records

Having downloaded all the PDF files of the research articles I needed, I stored them in several places:

A printed copy in my lecture folder with the heading of the research and date it was performed on the front of each

Copies of files on a memory stick – organised in folders by key words and date published.

Copies stored on my PC at home and a copy saved in my email folder.

This ensures I can access these files at anytime and anywhere.

I have also downloaded Endnote to ensure correct referencing when it comes to writing my Literature Review.

Source evaluation

How have you assessed the credibility of your sources? (Show use of REAL for two separate sources)

Ahmann PA, Waltonen SJ, Olson KA, Theye FW, Van Erem AJ & LePlant RJ.(1993) Placebo-controlled evaluation of Ritalin side effects. Pediatrics;91:1101–6 Originally published on

R This peer-reviewed article retrieved from the website: shows a credible source according to the URL.

E The article is very comprehensive. It talks about the incidence of side-effects when using Ritalin on children with ADHD. What the side effects are, the frequency and the intensity. The article references several papers to do with methylphenidates and those papers will be of interest to me in the future. However, the article is somewhat out-dated and I will have to find similar ones from more recent years. Numerous tables clearly the findings of the study and are all explained sufficiently.

A Peer-reviewed by at least 2 other academics. All the authors have since published other articles in the field and received doctorates. All have worked in the medical field extensively, focussing on paediatrics - the field I am interested in.

L The article sources many credible sources –which I have researched independently. These articles have led me to find similar others that are relevant to my inquiry.

Natalie Sinn, PhD & Janet Bryan, PhD (2007)

Effect of Supplementation with Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Micronutrients on Learning and Behaviour Problems Associated with Child ADHD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioural Pediatrics 28:82–91

R The article from the Journal of Developmental & Behavioural Pediatrics is a trusted publication and the article has been peer-reviewed by at least 2 other professionals in the field.

E This is the exact kind of article I need. The title is impartial and matches my inquiry question. It examines the effects on children when given supplementation and whether improvement was reached. It is the largest study to date on children with ADHD being supplemented with Essential Fatty Acids and is fairly recent – only a few years old. The study assessed over 100 children for 15 weeks with a crossover and additional 15 weeks with the results clearly explained. Many citations and references were used in the article as the study was compared with similar ones at earlier dates.

A Both of the authors have Medical Doctors as well as PhDs. Natalie Sinn has written over 10 articles on the subject of Essential Fatty Acids and the brain while Janet Bryan has written 18 articles in the fields of Psychology and Nutrition.

L With over 65 references the article links to many further fields of study and additional research. All are either publications of medical journals or medical books on the subject – making them very credible.


How effective have your search strategies been? What changes, if any, do you need to make?

My search strategies have been very effective, all the information I need is easily accessible and with regular tweaking of my searched keywords I was able to refine the findings to better suit my inquiry question. The main concern I would have with the searches is that a large number of studies is undertaken by drug companies researching their own drugs or with an organisation or individual associated with a drug company. To remain as fair as possible I must find studies without any bias. Additionally, some of the articles I’ve found – although very interesting and relevant – are unfortunately many years old and are less relevant now than when they would have been published. Searching for articles published in the last few years will have to be a priority.

Ahmann PA, Waltonen SJ, Olson KA, Theye FW, Van Erem AJ & LePlant RJ.(1993) Placebo-controlled evaluation of Ritalin side effects. Pediatrics;91:1101–6 Originally published on

As deficiencies in Essential Fatty Acids have been associated with psychiatric disorders including ADHD, this study supplemented 103 children with Fish Oil (Omega 3) for a period of 30 weeks. The study compared supplementation with just EFAs, EFAs with a multi-vitamin/mineral to ensure the absorption of the EFAs and placebo. The study found the children supplemented with the fatty acids to have improvements in the condition – 30%-40% of children in the first 15 weeks and 40%-50% over 30 weeks of supplementation. The limitation of the study is that the nutritional assessment of the children was not performed, so a link between deficiency of EFAs and supplementation to improve condition could not be made.

The study also briefly mentions similar studies done with medication for ADHD and that medication began to lose its effect after 4 weeks but the Omega 3 supplementation continued to show improvement even after 30 weeks.

This is a study very relevant to my inquiry question, it shows the effects of EFA supplementation and the improvements that could be had for those suffering from ADHD and its symptoms.

Natalie Sinn, PhD & Janet Bryan, PhD (2007)

Effect of Supplementation with Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Micronutrients on Learning and Behaviour Problems Associated with Child ADHD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioural Pediatrics 28:82–91

The study assessed over 200 children that fit within ADHD parameters for 4 weeks to evaluate the severity of the side effects: insomnia, poor appetite, stomach ache, headaches and dizziness as well as the improvement in ADHD symptoms such as staring, irritability and anxiety. The study noted that only half of the children exhibited side effects while the placebo group exhibited a slightly higher prevalence of side effects. 4 children experienced severe side effects of the above mentioned. The results of the study according to the authors are that even there are side effects from Ritalin treatment, they are very slight and do not affect all those on the drug.

This was an interesting article as it referenced a number of papers with different views while remaining impartial. It has the exact data I need in terms of types of side effects and the severity. The article also mentions others with similar findings which may prove helpful in the future.

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