Developing your ideas
A successful research project requires a well-defined research question. Researchers should explore ideas which are novel, achievable and have impact on current practice. New ideas come out of the problems and challenges of today’s clinical work and are informed by the existing body of scientific information. You should be able to frame your hypothesis in simple and practical terms – what? why? how? when? who? – that a layperson could understand and appreciate.
Consider local factors and your own personal experience. You will be required to maintain interest through a long process of work and must be prepared for a negative finding. Your local resources in money, equipment, personnel and time are crucial. Your research methodology must fit within these available resources. Remember also to consider patient willingness to participate. Burdensome tests and frequent study visits will make it harder to recruit and retain particpants in your study.
Before designing your study, you should have a thorough understanding of previous research in this area. This includes basic information about the interventions you plan to test, recent journal publications and conference presentations, and ongoing trials. Searches of trial registries will identify other groups currently researching the same topic. This will help you identify the real knowledge gaps and to refine your own ideas, or even identify potential collaborators. To be sure you are up to date with your understanding, consider a systematic review (with or without meta-analysis). Even if the review is not published, it will still help you to write compelling funding applications and to ensure you understand the position of your study in the wider literature.
Ultimately, well researched and considered ideas will help you formulate a research proposal with a clear hypothesis, tested using well defined outcomes, and with the result filling an existing and important gap in current knowledge.