Where do topics come from? A problem that needs to be addressed? Inspired by previous research? A gap in the literature? Does current practice work? Could we do something better instead?
Is it an import topic? What is the size and extent of the problem? Will the question provide an answer? Who is it important to? Will the results of the research be widely applicable?
Is the research timely? It could take several years for results to emerge. Will the research still be relevant? Will the world or technology have moved on?
Is the research original? Has the question already been answered? – Literature search or systematic review. Remember … it is often useful to replicate previous research in a new setting
Is the research achievable? Can you conduct a study to address the question? Do you have access to the data? Sample size – how many participants? Can you recruit participants? Evidence? Funding needed? How long will it take? Do you have the skills?
Recruitment How many eligible people are there? Will they agree to take part How many will consent? How good is your access to those people? Will you retain patients?
Defining the Research Question Acknowledgements to Prof Mike Clarke, CTSU, University of Oxford
Is a vegetarian diet good?? Over what time frame?
Is a vegetarian diet good? What is a vegetarian diet? What do we mean by good? Good for whom? Compared to what? Over what time frame?
PICO-T Population & Participants Intervention Comparator Outcomes Timeframe
Research Questions 1 EDUCATION Do primary children in the UK (P) in small class sizes (I) achieve better test results (O) at age 11 than those in larger classes (C) HEALTH Does the speech (O) of people with stroke (P) improve after speech and language therapy (I), compared to people who get lay support (C)
Research Question 2 POLITICS Does involvement in local communities (I) by young people (15-25) (P) increase their interest in politics (O)? SOCIOLOGY Are donors (P) more likely to give to charity (O) if they are offered public recognition (I) than if they are not (C)?
Other approaches PICOT is very useful when reading or designing studies that involve an INTERVENTION. But not always the case. Other common approaches in quantitative social science include: – Descriptive research (e.g. What parties did people in the UK vote for last election). – Comparison of outcomes between groups (e.g. Does household income vary by ethnic group?) – Is one thing affected by another (e.g. Does parental education and/or household income affect childrens exam results?) Population and Outcome Measures – need to be carefully chosen.
Population Unit – individuals, classes, streets? Choose sample carefully – external validity Recruitment and consent Ethics Power calculation is essential
Outcome measurement Choose an outcome that is: – Sensitive – Reliable – Valid Observed behaviour Unobtrusive measures Routine measures – scores, tests, etc Questionnaires