Running the research study

Research implementation

Once a research study has been designed and received funding and ethical approval (see Chapter 12), it can be carried out. Ideally, the project will run as anticipated (see Table 10.14, level 5). Issues around the process may be identified during the process evaluation, which could be improved in future iterations, but for this ‘level’ participants will pass through the intervention smoothly and data will be collected as planned. However, even with careful planning, research projects can hit problems. Some of these problems may be easily assimilated into the research analysis (level 4). For example, a project that was intended to recruit adults aged 18-50 but recruited only adults aged 30-50


Table 10.14 The spectrum of options for how a research study runs






a number of conflicting factors have occurred which mean the research project has had to take a different turn and is not able to test the research question as originally intended.

The research has been carried out to completion. However some variables or external events are anticipated to have significantly affected results.

The research has been successfully carried out, although some minor variables or external events may have affected results. these are described alongside findings.

the research has been successfully carried out and, although additional variables or unexpected events are noted, they are all believed to have been factored into the testing of results so that their influence is minimized or removed.

the research has been carried out exactly to plan and no unforeseen circumstances or unmeasured variables are thought to have occurred that might interfere with the validity of results.


could still provide valuable data for this more limited demographic, but the demographic must be discussed in the research limitations and the results may not be as generalizable as hoped. However, sometimes it may not be possible to control for such unexpected events in analysis, such as higher levels of dropouts from the study than anticipated. This could affect analysis, limiting the opportunity for the study to obtain strong findings (level 3). At the least, these should be discussed in research write-ups as limitations, but they are also likely to feature strongly in the process evaluation. If the effects of this are great, it will reduce the effective running score for the study to level 2 and may compromise the validity of the study altogether. Such an outcome is what happens in level 1, in which conflicting events mean that the research project is entirely unable to answer the original research question. This could include major changes to a patient process meaning that patients are involved in a conflicting intervention alongside the intervention in this research study, biasing all the data. Or funding may run out before the study can be completed. It is important that this is carefully documented, partly so that biased data are not released.

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