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NURS 7301 - Methods for Evidence Based Practice: The Research Question

Research Questions

In order to search the literature effectively, you must ​construct a searchable question.​ This will not necessarily be the same as your research question. You may need to formulate multiple searchable questions in order to provide the necessary background for clinical research or a structured literature review. A clinical research question tests a hypothesis and finds it valid or invalid. A literature search question:

  • Frames your question in specific terms
  • Helps to identify the minimum searchable concepts in order to answer the question
  • Allows searchers to isolate relevant literature

Literature search questions can be structured in many ways depending upon the type of question and what the searcher hopes to identify in the existing literature.


Research Process:  a general strategy for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data to answer a question.

Research Strategy Schema

  • Quantitative researchinvolves measurement of outcomes using numerical data under standardized conditions.
    • may be used all along the continuum of research
    • may be obtained using formal instruments which address physical or physiological parameters or by putting subjective information into an objective numerical scale.
  • Qualitative researchmore concerned with a deep understanding of a phenomenon through narrative description – typically obtained under less structured conditions.
    • generally applied to descriptive or exploratory research
    • based on open-ended questions, interviews, and observations

Research classifications (based on objective of research):

  • Basic research:  done to obtain empirical data that can be used to develop, refine, or test theory.
    • directed toward the acquisition of new knowledge
    • typically done in laboratory – “bench research”
  • Applied research:  directed toward solving immediate practical problems and testing theories that direct practice
    • usually carried out under actual practice conditions – “clinical research”

*Clinical research is often a hybrid of both basic and applied science.

  • Translational research: application of basic scientific findings to clinically relevant issues, and simultaneously, the generation of scientific questions based on clinical dilemmas.
    • taking knowledge from "bench to bedside"


The Research Question: Purpose

The research question dictates:

  • The goal of the study
  • A summary of what is to be achieved
  • The methodology
  • The who, what, when, why, how, where, condition, intervention questions
  • The type of analysis

Davidson, M. Where to Start When Designing a Research Project: Part I