• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Finally, you can manage your Google Docs, uploads, and email attachments (plus Dropbox and Slack files) in one convenient place. Claim a free account, and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) can automatically organize your content for you.


Step 3: Design Study and Methods

Page history last edited by Caroline De Brun 7 years, 5 months ago

HEALER Research Toolkit 

Step 3: Design Your Study and Develop Your Methods


This section of the toolkit will guide you through some of the key questions to ask yourself when developing your study and methods, as well as provide some pointers to resources that can help you.


Once you have formulated your idea into a clearly articulated research question (Step 1) and have reviewed the existing evidence-base (Step 2) now it becomes important to develop your study and research methods.  Your research question will help you think about what data and information you are trying to collect.  Your study is then the means by which you gather new evidence and explore your hypothesis.  Thinking about the options now can save you time-consuming re-work later on as without a well-designed study you may have flawed results to analyse.


There are a number of options to consider:


Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods 

Which research method is most appropriate to your research project? Do you know the difference between quantitative and qualitative research methods?  Do you need to collect a lot of hard data – facts and figures?  Or do you need feedback from participants to give a human element to your research?  Is your research question quantifiable or are you seeking opinions and values?


Each of these research methods has different approaches, and offers different results.  Decide which will suit your research needs most, or which elements of your research require which approach:



Survey and Questionnaire Design

Do you know what is the most appropriate survey method for your research project?  What method will give you the most useful data for the project you are working on?  Do you know how to design a questionnaire for survey research? 


Good survey design is important for securing high quality results and to enable accurate data analysis.  Some resources to help you think about which survey method to use include:



Statistical Issues

Statistics are often an inevitable part of research.  They can illuminate, and they can distract.  Use them wisely, use them in context, provide comparisons where possible, and be clear what you are trying to prove with your figures.

Are you familiar with the statistics you may need to use? If not, consider enrolling on a suitable course.  NIHR's RDLearning, your local Training & Development contact or Higher Education Institution should be able to assist you in finding a relevant course.


Other tools and guidance: 




Choose your sample population carefully to generate your results.  What method of sampling will give you the most useful data for the project you are working on?  Are you going to use a random sample or a controlled sample?  Be aware that results will be more objective or less objective depending on your chosen sample population.



Participant Involvement


Consider the effect of your research on the participant.  Does the design methodologies pose practical or even ethical problems for those taking part?  Engage with users whilst designing your study to ensure your study works well in the real world. Engagement should:

  • Be as early as possible in the process 
  • Could be in the form of a small focus group, users on your study design team or speaking to a relevant patient support or other group


The UK Clinical Research Network has access to local and national user involvement groups and may be able to help.  NHS Networks and the Patient Information Forum also have access to patient networks. See also the National Institute for Health Research Involving Patients and the Public in Research page.


Ethical approval may be required if patients are to be involved in research. See Step 6: Obtain Ethical Approval for more information.   


Intellectual Property


The ownership of the 'intellectual property' arising from your research will be a commercial consideration for the organisation(s) you are working for or with.  What is intellectual property and what does it mean to a researcher?



Further Information


The Department of Health's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in partnership with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) launched the Clinical Practice Research Datalink Service (CPRD) on the 1st April 2012. The CPRD provides capability, products and services across a number of areas including:

  • data services
  • interventional research services
  • research advisory services


The Research Information Network supports the development of effective information strategies and practices for the UK’s research community.


You are now in a position to draft your research proposal (Step 4).



Reviewed: October 2013

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