The following is a short list of basic characteristics you can look for in a good study. They are not overly complicated research methodological intricacies that you would need to examine, but rather some more obvious signs of a well-planned out research study that you might look for. Many good studies will not necessarily have every one of these characteristics, but it is these characteristics that researchers would strive for. They are more commonly seen in studies that are experimental in nature and are important for health related studies – we tend to have higher standards for research that impacts our health and well-being.
1. Prospective in nature – a study that sets out to measure something (a variable of interest) over time, into the future, as opposed to looking back at changes or measuring something that happened in the past (retrospective). Retrospective designs can be good studies too, but are generally less reliable as you are counting on people’s memory of events, proper recording of occurrences, accuracy of historical documents, etc.
With a prospective study, you can ‘plan’ to track or measure things properly, train your data collectors to do it consistently, and control/measure for other confounding variables (i.e., variables that may also affect the outcome but are not what you are studying). Prospective studies tend to be more expensive to conduct.
Example: If you wanted to conduct a study looking at the levels of satisfaction of your school’s graduates who find employment in the local business region, you could propose: a) To survey students for the next 5 years at 1, 3 and 5 years post-graduation. A Prospective Design. b) To locate students who have graduated in the last 5 years and survey them on how satisfied they have been with their employment. A Retrospective Design.
2. Randomized, double-blind placebo controlled trials – Every word in this phrase indicate something...