Research Methods in Health: Investigating Health and Health Services

By Ann Bowling | Go to book overview

Section I

Investigating health services
and health: the scope of
research

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from
here?', asked Alice.

'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said
the cat.

Lewis Carroll (1865) Alice's Adventures in Worderland


INTRODUCTION

Research is the systematic and rigorous process of enquiry which aims to describe phenonema and to develop and test explanatory concepts and theories. Ultimately it aims to contribute to a scientific body of knowledge. More specifically, in relation to the focus of this book, it aims to improve health, health outcomes and health services.

This book aims to provide an overview of the range of research methods that are used in investigations of health and health services. Ultimately it is to guide the reader into choosing an appropriate research method and design in order to address a particular research question. However, it is not possible to place research methods in a hierarchy of excellence, as different research methods are appropriate for addressing different research questions.

If the research question is descriptive, for example 'what is the health status of population X?', then a cross-sectional survey of a sample of that population is required to provide population estimates. The survey method will also enable the answers to secondary questions to be estimated for that population (e.g. 'Are men more likely than women to report poor health status?') and certain (non-causal) types of hypotheses to be tested (e.g. 'Men will be X times more likely than women to report good health status'). If the research question is 'Do women have worse health outcomes than men following acute myocardial infarction (AMI)?' then a prospective, longitudinal survey of identified men and women who had suffered an AMI would be undertaken in order to be able to compare their health outcomes over time in the future.

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