Get Involved in Research - Introduction

This article goes through the various types of research and how students can get involved. 

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The world of research can seem so big and there’s so much scope for different kinds of research. What exactly does it involve? There are many different things you can do: clinical trials, biological experiments, surveys, articles and what on earth is the difference between quality improvement and an audit?

This article aims to help clear some of these answers up and give you an overview of the main research methods and what they involve which should help you place whatever research you are currently undertaking in the broader scheme of academia, as well as helping you decide what kind of research projects you might want to get involved in in future.

What is Research?

Research is simply solving problems by gathering data and information in an organised way to advance knowledge on a topic.

Formally gathering information on a topic can be carried out in different ways:

1. Opinion piece: An opinion piece may take the form of an article. This is similar to an essay with an introduction, your points backed with evidence on a topic and then a conclusion which may call people to action.

2. One patient/event: Information can be gathered from one patient or one event which would be called a case report or case study.

3. Biological process: Information can be gathered through mechanistic studies designed to understand a biological process, the pathophysiology of a disease, or the mechanism of action of an intervention.

4. Original clinical research: Some students conduct original research by producing and collecting data from research control trials, surveys or cross-sectional studies and write this up in a formal manner.

5. Collate existing data: Alternatively, you may choose to collate existing information to summarize the field on a topic using already-published research control trials. This is called a review article, and this forms the highest quality of evidence (systematic review or meta-analysis)

Special Cases

Audits and quality improvement projects are not considered strictly as research. They do however employ principles of research such as a need for ethical considerations and using the appropriate methods. QI and audits both look at healthcare standards and aim to improve them.

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