Study Designs in Medical Research

Dr Anuj ParkashWritten by | BIOSTATISTICS, GENERAL

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A study design is a planned and systematic effort for the solution of any health problems in medical research. Various types of study designs investigate the research question according to their structure.  It is important to be careful while selecting a study design as it depends on your research question and outcome. A researcher with a research question and predetermined goal can easily select an appropriate study design.

Each study design has its own benefit. Why do people say that a study has disadvantages? Each study design has its own characteristics, assumptions and application. You have to choose one according to your research question. Each study design is equally important. The existence of one study design is based on the other. Also, selection of a study design depends on the quality of evidence you are looking for. Without animal studies, there is no existence of a phase-1 clinical trial in drug discovery. Similarly, descriptive studies help to generate hypothesis for observational studies.

Study designs in medical research fall into three categories: studies which give you a description of the population, studies which give you inference about the population and studies which give you evidence-based medicine research.

Descriptive study designs can be of both types i.e. qualitative and quantitative while analytical studies are of two types i.e. observational and experimental. Classification is being explained in the figure. Observational studies may be prospective (cohort), retrospective (case-control), or looking at simultaneous events (cross-sectional). Cohort studies usually provide stronger evidence than the other two designs. Studies based on patient outcomes such as resource utilization, functional status, quality of life, patient satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness are increasingly published in the literature.

Studies with an objective of assessment of interventions are known as experiments studies. It may provide stronger evidence than observational studies however clinical trials without controls are difficult to interpret and may not provide strong evidence.

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Last modified: 21/11/2019

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