How to Come Up With a Good Research Question:
Framing the Hypothesis
Charles G Durbin Jr MD FAARC
The Research Process
Devising and Improving a Hypothesis
An Example of Moving From a Broad Hypothesis to a Manageable Research Question
Determining What Type of Controls to Use
Deciding Exactly What Data to Collect
Novice Researchers Should Find and Use a Research Mentor
Having a questioning attitude is the fist step in the research process. Research begins with a question, which leads to a hypothesis. Questions abound in our daily clinical lives. Most quality research consists of comparisons. By carefully selecting a comparison group or condition, the quality of the research project can be improved. By including in the hypothesis the comparison group, the experiment can be focused and the analysis simplified. The best questions come from the investigator’s subject of interest. When starting a research project, start small and choose an experienced mentor. Key words: research, study design, research methodology, scientific method. [Respir Care 2004;49(10):1195–1198. © 2004 Daedalus Enterprises]
Respiratory care research is an important activity for the
individual and the profession. Research that leads to
changes in practice can improve patient outcomes, improve health care processes, and increase job satisfaction for clinicians. Though we often think of research as a
Charles G Durbin Jr MD FAARC is affiliated with the Department of Anesthesiology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Charles G Durbin Jr MD FAARC presented a version of this article at the RESPIRATORY CARE Journal symposium, “How to Write and Present a Successful OPEN FORUM Abstract,” at the 47th International Respiratory Congress, held December 1–4, 2001, in San Antonio, Texas.
Correspondence: Charles G Durbin Jr MD FAARC, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Virginia Health Science Center, PO Box 800710, Charlottesville VA 22908-0170. E-mail: email@example.com.
RESPIRATORY CARE • OCTOBER 2004 VOL 49 NO 10
complicated, meticulous process performed by specially
trained individuals, all practitioners should bring a research attitude to their practice. A research attitude arises from a desire to question, evaluate, and investigate clinical practices, and it requires being open to new ideas and using other people’s experience and experiments to answer the
questions, “Why do we do things the way we do them?”
and “Is there a better way?” A research attitude requires the assumption that, though we’ll never know the whole
truth, we want to gather data and get closer to the truth. It is this research attitude that has led to all improvements in respiratory care and other medical disciplines.
The Research Process
The process of research begins when the individual encounters a question that he or she thinks could and should be answered. The issues and problems that evoke a research
question are encountered in various contexts— during routine
care, while talking to a colleague, or while reading a journal or textbook. A clinician who has a research attitude is rarely at a loss for an aspect of practice in which additional research is needed. One of the beauties of science is that it does not claim to identify final, absolute truths, but only testable hypotheses. From each experiment in which a new idea is tested, many new questions arise. Thus, the process of discovery is
endless. A research attitude involves continuing to question what is believed to be true.
It is crucial to be able to identify and expose pseudoscience. When scientific methods are used for political or economic gain, the experiments are poorly designed and
important information is often ignored or kept secret. However, even in honest research the way an experiment is designed and conducted can lead to false conclusions. When
the experiment is designed to prove a...
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