When is it research and when is it not?
Research involves collecting and analysing information to answer a specific question. The information may be gathered from participants via interviews, discussion groups, questionnaires or from a test. These tests may be medical tests (e.g. scans or blood tests) or other clinical tests (e.g. neuropsychological tests or walking assessments).
The range of possible research questions is vast! However some common examples include the following:
- What factors influence late outcomes after MTBI
- What is the outcome after Total Joint Arthroplasty
- Does [treatment X] change health outcomes for people with a specific injury or illness?
- How does [treatment X] change health outcomes?
- What is better at changing outcomes – treatment X or treatment Y?
- What are people’s experiences of [their specific injury or illness] and what challenges do they face? How could health services assist with these challenges?
- What are people’s views on health services currently provided? How could these services be improved?
Research is often talked about as being qualitative (stories) or quantitative (numbers) in its design and methods. See HERE for glossary of common research terms.
A clinical trial is a specific type of research studying the effects of specific treatments.
A study protocol will be developed for any research study. A protocol is a document that describes, in detail, the plan for how the study will take place. The protocol explains the purpose and function of the study as well as how to carry it out. A protocol may also be referred to as the ‘study design’.
An audit is used to review how well a programme (e.g., a health service) is meeting its own aims, and the needs of the people who access it. An audit usually only uses information that has already been collected as part of clinical practice, however it will only be used in a way that will not identify specific individuals. Therefore an audit is usually considered to be part of a service improvement evaluation, rather than as research.
Clinical practice will usually involve gathering and studying information about you as a health service consumer/user. This gathering of information is aimed at directly improving your health care. Any information that is gathered as part of clinical practice (and is identifiable as being yours) cannot be used for another purpose unless you give permission for this to occur.