I attended an interesting lecture while working at Mayo Clinic; I thought it would be nice to share some of the ideas I learned.
Dr. Victor Montori
I arrived a few minutes late, Dr. Montori was expressing how amazing the idea that our research questions are basically at the “cutting edge of knowledge”, we are contributing to the exploration of knowledge and expanding what humans know of the world .
PICO can always help organizing the question you have in mind. (PICO stands for Population\Intervention\Control\Outcome)
He also mentioned that physicians are often influenced by stories of patients (case-reports) than actual data!
It’s always important to see if physicians are interested in your question. Plus, check out how they want the answer to end up.
Now for the interesting part:
When I have a question, it should have certain characteristics:
1- Public Health Significance:
Is the problem this question adresses important to public health? Does it have high prevelance? (such as Diabetes). Does it have severe consequences? (AIDS)
Do you have the required resources to answer the question? (Team, Enviroment, Data, Money and funding, etc.)
3- Frustrations in Care:
Will your question (and study) answer a problem physicians have been frustrated to know?
Alternatively, you can create a frustration!
Show the readers that you have something very important to their practice that they have never thought of before, make them want want you are trying to study!
IF these 3 points are full-filled, then it is a great question to proceed with!
Now you should make sure of the following:
AIDS as an example; Are we still identifying what AIDS is? Are we looking for ways to diagnose it? Are we looking for a treatment for its symptoms? Are we looking for a cure? Are we questioning which treatment is better?
The internal validity, how will I be sure my data is correct?
The external validity, can I apply this data to the actual population outside the research environment?
If you can’t do the study, Don’t do it obviously! 😀
Whether Vs. To What Extent
It is better to ask “To what extent is drug A better than drug B?”, instead of simply asking “Is drug A better than drug B?”.
During your study, lots of new questions will arise that you can answer through your study. But be careful not to be carried away! Add-on questions should not compromise the main question!
It is best to determine all of these side questions before the study starts, and it might be good to actually budget these secondary aims separately.