A well-running team, process are paramount in conducting a research study

Feb 01, 2008, 5:00am

Conducting a pilot study is key to launching a successful larger research study. In a pilot study, researchers can identify shortcomings like poor adherence and how to address those shortcomings. A timetable for a research study should be established, taking into account the experience and competence of the principal investigator and research team. Data should be reviewed in the initial phase of a research study, when missing information can be more easily retrieved, to minimize the amount of data missing in a study.

Key Points

London, Ontario - A successful research study must have team members' responsibilities defined.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Wound Care, Karen Polansky, R.N., M.SC.N., a registered nurse at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, described ways to avoid problems and pitfalls in a research study.

"There are ways that principal investigators can bypass problems in research," says Ms. Polansky, a clinical nurse specialist.

Clearly, launching a pilot study is a wise step to avoid errors and discover any unforeseen issues in a research study, Ms. Polansky says.

If there is poor adherence in the pilot, researchers can address that shortcoming. Without performing a pilot study, investigators may find that some data are not being captured quantitatively, she says.

Once a pilot study is completed, it should be fully analyzed to identify areas that require troubleshooting.

In the area of woundcare, determining the amount of drainage from a wound seems like a reasonable measure.

However, without continuous monitoring, or without a method of tracking the drainage, that question cannot be accurately answered in a quantitative fashion, Ms. Polansky says.

"If I need to document how much drainage there is from a wound, I have no way of knowing that, based on seeing patients on a twice a week basis," Ms. Polansky tells Dermatology Times.

"By doing a pilot of a pilot, I would find out that the question couldn't be answered,"she says.

Staff need to be informed about the study protocol and the reason for the protocol; for instance, why they need to take vital signs at certain points in time in the research.

It is incumbent upon the principal investigator to decide on the research question and definitions within the research plan and to delineate the research plan, Ms. Polansky says.

The research team can ask a librarian to assist in refining topics and assess methods for exploration.

A timetable for the project should be established that takes into account the experience and competence of the principal investigator and research team, as well as resources for the team.

"It's important to keep everyone on track," Ms. Polansky says.

In addition, expectations should be established for members of the research project.

A good research project begins with an extensive literature search to discuss prior research and identify gaps in knowledge. Here again, the librarian is a valuable asset to the research team.