Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Research 101

One of the classes that ended last week was my Research class. This was a 2 semester class that required that we find a research topic that relates to OT and go through the entire research process process, just short of actually completing the research. The only reason we did not carry out the procedures is because receiving approval from the school's IRB takes too long and we wouldn't finish the projects in a timely manner.

The purpose of this class was to encourage us to contribute to the evidence based body of OT knowledge by choosing, researching and creating a research study. This class was VERY detailed and we had to go through all the steps of deciding on a research question, to writing procedures to finding a grant that would possibly fund our study (if we were to actually continue to the study). It was a very long, tedious process. I learned quite a bit about the research process and research terminology. I also now have a greater appreciation for the research that currently exists, both within and outside of OT. Research is hard, but rewarding, work!

My topic was 'Factors that Influence Participation in a Sport or Exercise, Despite Chronic Pain." I wanted to find out why athletes continue to play sports and/or exercise even though they are in serious pain. I also wanted to find out if the environment in which they play sports influences their participation.

I learned a LOT about research and it certainly gave me something to look forward to if I continue with a PhD. However, I would not continue with this particular topic. In the beginning I was so excited with this topic. But, by the end of the second semester, with all the revisions and changes, I found my topic boring and uninteresting. I have a new topic in mind but if I tell you then I'll have to kill you. :-)

Nevertheless, if you're going into OT school here are just a few tips for research. This list is in no way comprehensive. It's just a few things off the top of my head:

1. Choose a topic that interests you greatly. However, be careful that it's not too personal. Some people had topics about disabilities of their kids and loved ones. When you're this close to the topic sometimes you're unwilling or unable to listen to suggestions or corrections to your paper. And sometimes, the topic is just too overwhelming to continue.

2. Try to choose topics that are non-existent or have very few research articles. This will give you a strong reason for the purpose of your study.

3. Decide how your topic is relevant to occupational therapy. This is so important because other OTs will read your work and use your information in their practice.

4. Look for articles that support and negate your premise. It will give you a balanced view of the topic.

5. Look at literature outside of OT literature. Other professions have awesome things to say and perform great research studies that OTs can use. Also, it's just downright interesting.

6. Once you have all your literature read the research articles several times and highlight things that stand out to you. Then, find three or four themes that the articles all have in common. Finally, decide the 'hole' that you are going to plug with your research. What is the one thing that's missing in those articles that your research will cover? How is your research different from what is already available?

7. ASK
9. OF
10. QUESTIONS!!! Research is a VERY involved, demanding, yet interesting process. If there is something you do not understand or need clarification on, please ask your instructor. I would suggest you choose one instructor, if one was not assigned to you for your project, and stick with the instructor for the length of your project. I say this because I noticed that every instructor has a different idea on how the research should be carried out. If you ask multiple instructors you'll get inconsistent guidance. And trust me, that's NO fun.


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