Research Design Service: East Midlands
National Institute for Health Research
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Using Information in your Research Proposal

  Created on Wednesday, 12 Apr 2017. Posted in Design Tips

Information is critical throughout your research

Your research idea

  • Has anyone done it before? Perform a scoping search of PubMed. Check for systematic reviews.
  • Is anyone working on it now? Check ongoing/current databases such as the UK Clinical Trials Gateway, Europe PubMed Central Grant Finder Tool, Clinical trials.gov
  • Establish whether the topic has been flagged as important to the NHS and relevant to clinical practice/national policy. Look for relevant guidance and policy or priority-setting documents. Look at NICE guidance, clinical guidelines, and the James Lind Alliance

Writing the background
Set your study in a practical and/or theoretical context, making it clear how much is known already and what difference your research will make. Justify your research proposal using evidence from the literature, particularly any systematic reviews or recent guidelines (NICE). Support your case with:

  • Recent data describing the size of the problem, the cost to the NHS and implications for patients
  • Recent articles/primary research – show awareness of current ‘players’ in the field
  • Systematic reviews/meta analyses whenever possible

Methods section
Information can also be useful in the methods section to:

  • Explore how other researchers have tackled similar questions
  • Demonstrate the feasibility of your proposed research design

Other uses of information
Your searches can also help you to:

  • Identify potential collaborators/specialist reviewers
  • Identify funding for your research by noting how other similar studies were supported

Referencing
Remember to cite all information sources, including any supporting statistics.

Getting help
Make use of:

  • Health librarians - contact your local NHS trust or university librarians
  • Online tutorials – available for searching techniques and about individual databases
  • The RDS has Information Specialists who can help you with your searches. They can also give advice on undertaking systematic reviews, search techniques, sources of information and referencing (Mary Edmunds Otter, mleo1@le.ac.uk; and Christine Keen, ckeen@dmu.ac.uk)
  • The RDS has developed a website 'Finding Information for Research Proposals' that should provide links to virtually all the information sources you will need!