Understanding research

A refresher of the basics

Research subjects are often one of the first subjects undertaken when you begin a health science course and unsurprisingly, sometimes forgotten.

Evidence based practice (EBP) follows in the spirit of evidence based medicine (EBM). Whilst not entirely interchangeable, the themes are applicable across both domains. Whilst a consensus definition of EBP can be problematic I personally prefer to follow from the EBM movement:

"Evidence-based medicine requires the integration of the best research evidence with our clinical expertise and our patient's unique values and circumstances" (Straus et al., 2019, p. 1)

To me, that philosophy typifies what it means to practice as a clinician within the EBP movement and should be the model that we all seek to emulate. As such it strikes an important balance between the evidence, our expertise and the wishes of the patient, sometimes this last domain is forgotten. Similarly, be mindful that the key aspect of research is that you understand how to apply and use evidence not necessarily that you have an in-depth and thorough understanding of how to conduct it.

A key theme that we need to consider. Often, academics and rubrics refer to contemporary and relevant literature. This is often implied to mean that the 'best research' is conducted within the last 5 years and can be stretched to some degree to the last 10 years. This fallacy fails to consider much of the excellent literature that has been developed that has revolutionised the way we conduct modern medicine beyond the last 10 years. Moreover, the term 'best evidence' is subjective. Different researchers and clinicians may consider the best to be different depending upon their objectives. Therefore, be mindful that there is excellent literature beyond 10 years, however, most assessments and assignments will want you to support your argument with recent literature.

Broadly, we can group research as either Quantitative or Qualitative. Quantitative data incorporates research that aims to quantify a problem, meaning to address 'what' or 'how many' aspects related to a research question. It is often displayed numerically including graphical representations of the data. Qualitative data describes the characteristics or qualities and is often collected through observation, interviews or questionnaires. This often includes textual examples relevant to the research question. Whilst there are a variety of ways and methodologies to conduct either quantitative or qualitative data, the key learning is that both are relevant. But, it ultimately depends on what you're trying to understand and what literature would best support your argument.


Straus, S., Glasziou, P., Richardson, S & Haynes, B. (2019). Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach EBM (5th Edition). ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral.proquest.com