Developing a Research Question

This page contains useful links and sources of information for developing research questions.

Do let us know how helpful the resources are. If you know of any other books, websites, journals that have helped you, let us know and we will add them to the page.  

Please do not be put off. Questions do not have to be for the purposes of an MSc or a PhD. This material is just as useful for: proving to your commissioner or manager or indeed clients that an intervention you are doing has a meaningful outcome and or answering those niggling questions you have about why you do certain things in your clinical practice!

We have split the resources into sub-sections, but this will not always be the order in which do things, but the structure will help clarify your thinking.

Evaluating the existing evidence base

What do we know about it? What do others know about it?

Three questions to start with

  • What do colleagues say?
  • What do clients say? (for more on patient and public involvement PPI- see NHS INVOLVE website)
  • What does the literature say?

Useful sites for accessing good quality literature

ASHA’s Compendium of evidence

speechBITE (an Australian database)

Cochrane Library (an excellent resource for finding systematic reviews)

EPPI Centre (created by the Institute of Education for looking at systematic reviews)

Once you have identified the literature….

Useful frameworks to support critical analysis include

How to read a paper: getting your bearings Greenhalgh T. BMJ 1997;315:243-246. : A good introduction to this area

The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP): a really useful website that contains 8 CASP critical appraisal checklists for reviewing RCTs, systematic reviews, cohort studies, case control studies, qualitative research, economic evaluations, diagnostic tests and clinical prediction rules.  It also as workshops and EBP and other useful links.

Refining your research question

The next stage, developing a question that is useful, ethical and can actually be answered! You have your overall aim, but how do you break that down? How will you know that it is feasible? Some of the resources below have helped us during this stage, and will hopefully help you too.

Creating Evidence Based Practice. A Guide for SLTs (2013) (Eds) Corrine Dobinson and Yvonne Wren.  J&R Press Ltd

Chapter 2 is especially useful if you need help with refining a question. But is also has chapters that can hold your hand right the way through a process, from thinking of a question, to sharing your findings. It is aimed at clinicians and is written in a concise manner with action points along the way- a great way to add a research element into your personal development plan.

The PICO model can be a useful way of breaking down intervention focused clinical questions into structured question(s) that maybe answered:

PICO Model:

P: Population or participants

I: Intervention or Indicator

C: Control or comparator

O: Outcome

Cochrane Library Research Tutorial on the PICO principle– a really nice interactive explanation

ASHA “Framing the Clinical Question”– also has further information about PICO and provides a 5-step process for developing a research question

The PECO Model can be used when the question relates to PROGNOSIS i.e. “What happens to people with condition y?” In this case three part question becomes:

P: Patient

E: Exposure (or risk factor)

C: Comparison (to no exposure/risk factor)

O: Outcome Impact

Ok, so you have a research question. Now how do you design a study or project to make sure you answer it?

Methods for answering your research question

This can be influenced by the the type of question you are asking, for example if your question is about people’s views on something, or whether you want to

Research Methods in Communication Disorders (2005) by Tim Pring

This is a really good book for the stats phobics among us. It has a great introduction to the different types of research design we might consider and their pitfalls. It also gently eases you back into the world of quantitative research.

Please note this page is still under construction, but hopefully there is enough to get you started….

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