Research in the medical and public health fields is ongoing, including the study and reporting of new findings, confirmation of previously reported findings, and the development of ways to build knowledge for the field in general on specific health-related outcomes. Many people find the research process to be exciting and innovative, but who will know about all the research being done without clear and concise reports of such great work?
Writing reports of health related research requires the researcher to carefully and clearly identify the steps of the research study that were carried out in order to make use of the study. Below are several important components that are regularly included in health-related and clinical research reports.
The conceptual framework that motivated the study
The research problem being investigated in the study
The purpose of the research
The research questions and hypotheses being asked in the study (which should be a direct reflection of the purpose of the research, and should be consistent with the conceptual framework presented)
A clear description of the data used in the research, including how observations of the study data were sampled (drawn from and included in the study), who was included in the target population ( the population the researcher aims to generalize the results to), and the information collected for each member of the sample
How the data is adequate to address the research questions and hypotheses
The types of analyses to be used to investigate the research questions and hypotheses
What information was learned from the analyses
How the results apply to the research questions, and whether the results are consistent with any research hypotheses proposed
Whether the results are consistent with previous work (in the literature)
Potential explanations based on the current literature of any unforeseen patterns or results in the data
Whether the results provide additional information to the current literature
Implications of the work for the field of study
Future directions for similar work, and extensions of this work to be carried out in the future.
Health-related and clinical research reports are most useful when they contain the elements above because it allows for reproducibility of the research being done. It also allows other researchers to evaluate whether research carried out by other scientists is applicable to particular questions of interest, including those defined by the target population, health outcome of interest, or in the case of public health, exposure of interest. Research without clarity is hardly useful to the other researchers who study the same topic!
About the Author
VICKI LAWRENCE is an academic researcher who studies the epidemiologic nature of social conditions in relation to cardiovascular and other disease outcomes. More specifically, her work focuses on studies of poor health among African Americans and health disparities that may occur my age, race, and gender in cardiovascular and mental health outcomes. Utilizing her background in epidemiology and biostatistics, she has provided statistical support on multiple studies with various investigators commonly focused on physical and mental health data. In addition, she has worked with clinicians, research investigators, and tutored multiple graduate students as well in public health, epidemiology, social work, medicine, education, and nursing to tackle statistics related issues.
Dr. Lawrence takes a significant amount of effort to ensure the students and researchers she collaborates with or supports understand the theoretical rationale behind the methods appropriate for their research problems, meeting the students and researchers at their stage of understanding. In addition to explaining the foundations, she regularly provides each individual with the opportunity to ask questions, and explains the differences in statistical approaches as needed. Further, she can help develop data analysis plans, refine research questions, and examine data collection methodologies with clients as well.
In her own work, Dr. Lawrence has used exploratory/ descriptive analysis tools (such as t-tests) and nonparametric tests, ANOVA (including one way, two way, repeated measures and others), structural equation modeling, exploratory factor analyses, multilevel models, linear regression, logistic regression, multinomial regression, and growth curve modeling as well. She has prepared analytical methods sections for publications, including tables of regression outputs. Further, she can provide information relevant to epidemiologic methods, including prevalence, incidence, risk and rate ratios, causal diagrams (including mediating and moderating variables) and other topics as needed. She has used a variety of data sets of both large and small magnitude, including nationally representative public data sets such as NHANES and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, but has also used survey as well as medical systems based data. She has substantial experience using SAS and Excel, and also uses HLM and SPSS.
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