RESEARCH PLANNING Research planning is a process through which we transform our ideas into a well-planned, ethical and realistic research project. THE FORMULATION OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS Identifying research problems: In health research many research problems are often focused on identifying effective interventions for preventing or treating health problems. However not all research problems are concerned solely with treatment. There are numerous other research problems, including gaps in our knowledge of the causes and consequences of health problems and an opportunity to improve the quality of our practices. FORMULATING THE RESEARCH QUESTION ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL CHANGES As the biological and social environment changes, new health problems may emerge. For example, abundant food supplies and increasingly sedentary lifestyles have led to a high prevalence of obesity in some communities. Obesity is a serious risk factor for a numerous health problems including, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. The research problem of interest to a researcher may be the lack of effective interventions for preventing and reducing obesity in the community. LITERATURE REVIEWS AND RESEARCH Before embarking on the design and conduct of a research project, the investigator must review previous work and publications relevant to the aims of the intended project. Another reason for reviewing the literature is to examine how previous researchers have approached sampling, design, data collection and analysis decisions in their research. There are benefits in reviewing how previous researchers succeeded or failed in achieving their objectives. METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS The precisely stated research question requires an examination of the proposed methodology of the project. RESEARCH PROPOSALS By the time we have stated our precise aims or hypotheses, we have also worked out in detail the way in which the data are to be collected. This information is written up as a research proposal. A research proposal is an explicit statement of how and why you intend to conduct a research project. A research proposal will contain the following information: Identification of the research problem. Literature review. Research aims and hypotheses must take into consideration the: participants to be selected data to be collected research design/s ethical considerations estimated cost. data to be collected research design/s ethical considerations estimated cost. The research proposal is circulated to various individuals and committees in order to obtain critical feedback from supervisors, institutions and your fellow students concerning the practicality and quality of your research project. It is often desirable to carry out a small-scale preliminary study called a pilot study. SAMPLING METHODS What is sampled in a study? Many other things are also selected or sampled. These include: 1. The information to be collected by the researcher. 2. The procedures used for the collection of the information. 3. Where the research is conducted, e.g. in a field setting or in a structured research setting. 4. The clinicians and researchers who are involved. BASIC ISSUES IN SAMPLING It is not within the resources of the researcher to study the whole target population. In any event, in most situations it would be wasteful to study all of the population. If a sample is representative, one can generalize validly from the sample’s results to the population without going to the expense of studying everyone. REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLES There is a variety of different ways by which one can select the sample from the population. These are called sampling methods. The ultimate aim of all sampling methods is to draw a representative sample from the population. The advantage of a representative sample is clear: one can confidently generalize from a representative sample to the rest of the population without having to take the trouble of studying the rest of the population. If the sample is biased (not representative of the population) one can generalize less validly from the sample to the population. This might lead to quite incorrect conclusions or inferences about the population. SAMPLE SIZE One of the most poorly understood aspects of sampling is the number of cases that should be included in a study sample. It is obvious that in one sense the more cases selected the merrier (or the better the sample representativeness), but the costs associated with the sampling and data collection must be weighed against the greater generalizability that is generally associated with larger samples. Therefore in this case it is ethically and logistically desirable to ensure that no more than the bare minimum of participants is used to achieve the desired sample accuracy. ETHICS A key ethics principle is that of informed consent and self-determination, i.e. freedom of choice to participate or not. That is, the research participants must be fully informed about the purposes of the research, any risks associated with their participation and the uses to which the collected research data will be put. Their participation must be fully voluntary and made with full knowledge of any potential benefits and costs.