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Study Design & Development

There is a wealth of information advising researchers on how to design and plan their proposed health-related research. Our intentions at Noclor are not to overload you with information; instead we hope to simplify things by signposting you to the most useful and relevant sources of information in helping you develop your research idea.

The Health Research Authority (HRA) has an excellent website providing detailed guidance for the research community for the full research lifecycle. Rather than duplicate information here within the Noclor website we will direct you to the source of relevant information on the HRA website.

Develop your idea into a research question

research questionFormulating a well-focused research question is key to success. The Centre for Evidence-based Medicine (Oxford) offers web-based tools that can help develop your research question.  

Take the time to discuss the idea with your colleagues; consider the clinical or service priority, the risk and benefits, the ethics and feasibility of answering the question within a realistic timeframe. Involve service users (patient and public) at the idea stage as their initial feedback will help formulate the question and define the design of the research study. 

To ensure that the research question is novel and has not already been investigated, it will be necessary to perform a literature review (including checks on online database of all existing evidence). This will support your proposal by demonstrating that the research is original and provide the rationale for the proposed research within the protocol itself. 

Research Design Services

The NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) supports researchers to develop and design high quality research proposals for submission to NIHR and other national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research. RDS London is our regional service. 

The service (which is free) provides expert advice to researchers on all aspects of preparing grant applications for applied research in health and social care, including statistics, quantitative and qualitative research techniques, clinical trials, evidence synthesis, health economics, epidemiology, public and patient involvement, ethics and governance.  Please get in touch with them directly by completing their online contact request form as early as possible, (especially if you have a clear funding deadline in mind) or browse their on-line resources.  

Clinical Trial Units

Clinical Trials Units (CTUs) are specialist units which have been set up with a specific remit to design, conduct, analyse and publish clinical trials and other well-designed studies. They have the capability to provide specialist expert statistical, epidemiological and other methodological advice and coordination to undertake successful clinical trials.

A registration process has been established to recognise CTUs that have the expertise to centrally coordinate high quality multi-centre clinical trials. To gain UKCRC Registration, CTUs must demonstrate a track record of experience in coordinating multi-centre trials, expert staff to develop studies, robust quality assurance systems and evidence of long term viability of capacity for trials coordination.

The Chief Investigator may choose to collaborate with any of the UKCRN Registered CTUs. The CTU resource finder can assist in identifying the most appropriate CTU for the proposed research; you can search by services offered, geographical location, experience and disease area.  Noclor may also refer researchers directly to specific CTUs for complex interventional studies where specialist expertise are required; for example to PRIMENT a CTU within UCL which specialises in mental health and primary care studies.  

Where collaboration with a CTU is envisaged, contact should be made directly by the Chief Investigator with the CTU as early as possible in the process (ideally 3 months prior to the funding application deadline so that the CTU is able to offer the full benefit of its experience and knowledge from the initial stages of study development).