Review Article

Taking an idea to a research protocol

DOI: 10.1080/22201173.2014.10844558
Author(s): BM BiccardPerioperative Research Group, Department of Anaesthetics,, RN RodsethPerioperative Research Group, Department of Anaesthetics,


We present a nine-step process to assist with developing an idea into a research protocol. This process ensures that evidence-based medicine practice is followed to prevent redundant research questions. The first step is to identify broad research ideas with a potentially "weak" evidence base, rather than starting with a specific research question. The second step is to identify the knowledge gap within the intended field of research by examining the background literature. Thirdly, the focus will be on the "foreground knowledge" needed to frame a potential research question. The fourth step uses this potential research question to conduct a comprehensive literature research, and aims to determine whether or not the question has been asked before. The fifth step entails writing a study one-page summary which provides a succinct summary of what is intended. The sixth step involves writing the protocol. The rigid process of protocol writing will ensure that a number of important practical study issues are dealt with timeously. The seventh step is to discuss the protocol with experts. Their input will make the protocol more robust. The eighth step necessitates making a "social contract" that requires public commitment to the project. The final step is to write a grant application for the study. This serves to allow the researcher to identify the funding priorities of potential grant-funding agencies, thereby allowing the researcher to frame his or her research in such a manner that the financial support necessary for the success of the project will hopefully be ensured.

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