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INTRODUCTION

Chapter Objectives

When you have completed this chapter, you will be able to understand:

  • What is meant by research and research methodology

  • The challenges in doing research in the health sciences

  • The steps to carry out research systematically

  • Why statistics is an essential component of research methodology

  • Who benefits from the knowledge of research methodology and why

  • How research methodology helps in clinical decision making

Research, the quest for knowledge, is an integral part of any scientific discipline including the health science specialties. However, research in the health sciences differs from that in other material sciences in many ways; it has inherent challenges, including issues related to ethics in dealing with human subjects and undertaking experiments in animals. The student of health sciences as well as any health care professional should know how to search the relevant medical literature and critically appraise it in order to provide better care for patients. In this context, adequate knowledge of biostatistics is essential to help them assess the strength and validity of the scientific literature for its proper application in clinical decision making. However, the concepts of statistical principles and formulas and their appropriate application in undertaking any research or in determining the strength of a study are more important than the actual math behind such statistical tests. This chapter gives an overview of the concepts of research methodology and biostatistics that are discussed in the subsequent chapters of the book.

DEFINITION OF RESEARCH

Derived from the French recerche, meaning “to go about seeking,” research or re-search is the careful search for knowledge and “a studious inquiry or examination, especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws.”1

BOX 1-1

Research is the careful search for knowledge and “a studious inquiry or examination, especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws.”

Examples of Clinical Observations

William Withering and Treatment of Heart Failure

In 1775, Dr. William Withering, a reputed British physician, on his way to see patients at the Stafford Infirmary, was asked to see an old woman with generalized edema. While seeing her he had the impression that the woman would not live long, but he was surprised when he came to know several weeks later that the woman was still alive and had also improved. He became interested in finding the cause of her recovery and learned that it was attributed to “a herb tea containing some 20 different ingredients.” Being well versed in botany, he realized that the active ...

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