Hi all, welcome back to ScienceIQ. Today we will discuss how to prepare your research protocol when you have no idea about it. Protocol writing can be intimidating especially for beginners who have no experience in research. I have been in the same shoes during my first year of graduate research. In the beginning, running a simple search looked like a daunting task.
You can begin by learning how to search for relevant articles. I have written a post on the search strategy. You can read it here (https://scienceiq.blog/2019/01/21/how-to-develop-the-search-strategy-for-a-systematic-review/ )
I will discuss other tips to make the process easier and simplify steps for writing a research protocol.
- Know your interest – Take up a research topic that you are curious and excited about. If you are not interested in your research topic then you will not enjoy conducting that research and will end up feeling distracted and lost. So, always go with an idea that excites you and discuss it with your supervisors.
- Be thorough with the existing literature – I have prepared a post on how to do a literature search. (https://scienceiq.blog/2019/10/28/literature-review-a-guide-for-beginners/ ) It is one of the key aspects of the research protocol. Know when, what, and how was research done in your area. Having a thorough in-depth knowledge about your topic will give you confidence and rigor in your methodology.
- Begin by writing your research question – The first step is to clearly articulate your research question. Write down the research question in PICO format.
Eg. Does XYZ therapy (intervention) given for XYZ dosage improves UL function (Outcome) when compared to standard UL exercises (comparison) in chronic stroke survivors (Population)?
- Think about the methodology – Think of ways in which you can research to get answers to your research problem. It will require understanding the different study designs, sample size calculation, access and availability of your research population, and ethical clearance.
- Dig in further – Once you have a basic idea about your intervention or research problem then develop a detailed plan for executing the research. What will you do, how will you do, equipment required, where will you collect data, for how long, what all outcomes will be measured, time points of outcome assessment and follow up. Be very clear and specific about the selection criteria of your research participants. Write down the inclusion and exclusion criteria.
- What is the impact of your research – Think critically about the implications of your research? What will you achieve if you address the research question and how will it add to future research. Your research may not be outstanding or path-breaking but it should have some value clinically.
- Write the protocol – when writing the protocol, first complete the methods section that should include the following sub-headings
- Study design
- Sample size
- Selection criteria
- Outcome measures
- Data analysis
- Write an excellent introduction – Once you have completed the methods and literature review, you should write an appealing introduction. The introduction should include the background of your research question, what is done to date, what has not been done, the gaps in the literature and how will you bridge the gap in the literature. Emphasize the need and novelty of the study.
That’s it. If you follow these simple steps, preparing the research protocol will be a fun and interesting process. Give your best.