What is Research?

Research begins with a good question. We ask ourselves questions all of the time.

"It seems like everyone is getting diabetes these days. Are more people really getting it? How can we know?"

"Since my baby was born, I have not been able to lose weight. What have others done that actually works?"

"It seems like the children in my clinic with asthma are getting better. How can I tell if what we are doing is making a difference?"

Research consists of asking questions, gathering information in consistent ways and drawing conclusions. Research follows basic steps (the scientific method):

  • Ask a question.
  • Find out more information about your question.
  • Come up with a possible explanation (hypothesis).
  • Test your hypothesis by gathering facts to see if they support your explanation.
  • Analyze the information you have learned.
  • Share what you have learned (scientific journals, newsletters, presentations).

There are several different types of research. Here are a few examples:

  • Literature review: Read what others have written in scientific journals, looking at the evidence of what works for your particular problem.
  • Qualitative research: Talk with people in a planned, systematic way, such as with small groups (focus groups) or individuals (key informant interviews).
  • Quantitative research: Count, use numbers, averages, or trends.
  • Randomized clinical trials: Assign people randomly to different ways that might help a health problem to study which way works best

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