British Association of Hand Therapists

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The Research Process:


1) Have a clear question

  • Look for a gap in the literature   
  • Carry out a literature review (if possible, a systematic review) to identify gaps or disagreement in published work. See the CRD and Cochrane websites for more details:
  • Ask your local NHS librarian or use the CSP library and information services for assistance with literature searching  
  • Think about what your research will add to your department and the hand therapy community  
  • Think about how your research can add to, develop or challenge the existing literature  
  • Consider trialing an intervention/measure in a different environment or with a different population  

2) Think of the best and most practical way to answer it

  • Be pragmatic – what will be feasible in your setting?  
  • Select the most appropriate outcome measures – have they been validated for use with your population?  
  • Will your study be observational, or will you be introducing an intervention?  
  • Do you have access to the patients and/or the medical records you need?
  • Is your plan manageable within your timeframe and budget?

3) Find out what support you have locally

  • Do you have access to an audit department, affiliation with a university or links to other therapists with previous research experience?
  • Are there other individuals within your department, or other units who could become involved?
  • Are there research courses run by your trust, such as Good Clinical Practice, statistics etc?

4) Write a research proposal

  • This should include:
 A brief review of the literature and the rationale for your study, the key research question and any secondary questions
, your planned methods, your planned analyses
 and how the results will be used to inform practice.

5) Obtain ethical approval

  • Is your research for service improvement? If so you will usually need to obtain approval through your department manager and/or your Trust R&D department
  • Other types of research are likely to require NHS research ethics committee approval and completion of the integrated research application system (IRAS) form 

6) Identify any funding needs

  • Will funding be required to cover staff time, equipment, reimbursement of patients travel expenses etc?
  • What funding is available – Hospital charity, disease specific charities, BAHT, CSP, COT?
  • Consider applying for a research grant from BAHT
  • Persuade possible funders of the importance of the work and why you are the right person/people to do it

7) Give yourself enough time to recruit and carry out your project

  • Think about how you will advertise your research
  • If you are recruiting patients for your project, have a strategy to make sure you don’t miss eligible patients

8) Let BAHT know about your project

  • The Clinical Evidence Committee would like to keep a record of the clinical research and audits being conducted by BAHT members – with the aim of creating a database of research questions, methods, analyses and key findings

9) Give your self enough time for data analysis

  • Double check your data entry for errors and be thorough with your analysis

10) Don’t forget to write up and disseminate your findings

  • Who is the target audience for your research?
  • Remember to feed back your findings to your team and department
  • Remember to write a report for your funders and write a summary report/poster/leaflet for your participants
  • Consider presenting your work at your local BAHT interest group and/or BAHT conference
  • Submit to the Hand Therapy journal – BAHT is soon to announce a mentorship programme for members needing assistance writing up their work for publication, so check out the website

11) Additional resources

  • BAHT Clinical Evidence Committee presentations from the 2016 BSSH/BAHT Autumn Scientific Meeting:
  • Show me the money