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Effective Health Care Program

Framework for Considering Study Designs for Future Research Needs

Research Report

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This report is from AHRQ's Future Research Needs – Methods Research Series.

Scope of this Paper

This paper is one of a series of papers that provides recommendations and best practices on the steps in identifying and prioritizing FRNs. Other papers that address other steps in the FRN process will be posted as they are completed at www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/futureresearchneedsmethods.cfm.

Our paper proposes a method for composing the study design considerations portion of FRN reports. This portion discusses proposed research designs for addressing the high-priority research needs as determined using stakeholder input. Each proposed research design is accompanied by a discussion of advantages and disadvantages for using the approach. Here we present:

  • a framework based on a standard taxonomy for study designs and criteria for evaluating the appropriateness of a study design to address a particular research need and
  • criteria for evaluating each design: the advantages of the study design for producing a valid result; the resources needed and duration of the proposed study; the availability of data or ability to recruit; and ethical, legal, or social issues.

The study design discussions are intended to be considerations and not prescriptive to researchers or funders. This framework is intended to help FRN project teams consistently apply criteria to determine which study design may be most appropriate for each research question and provide suggestions for their rationale and presentation.