by Vicki Lawrence
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.