Research Design Service South East

Specialist advice

Specialist advice

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RDS advisers have expertise across a range of disciplines and methodologies relevant to health and social care. The lead adviser we assign to help you has access to a wider range of expertise within the RDS team to help develop your research proposal.

We offer specific expertise in:

Epidemiology – helps gain an understanding of disease by comparing population disease patterns over time, between places and in different types of people. We can help with study design (case-series, cross-sectional studies, case-control studies, cohort studies, and trials), size of study, methods to measure disease frequency, presenting epidemiological data on risk, and proposed data analysis and interpretation.

Statistics and quantitative methods – when your research involves collecting quantitative outcome measures, you must include a detailed description of your study design and methodology, including justification of sample size and selection and randomisation of study participants. Our statisticians can advise on all these aspects, along with proposed methodology for analysis of the data collected during the trial. RDS advisers also have expertise in univariate and multivariate statistics, scale development and other quantitative methods.

Health economics – most health services research questions have resource implications and proposals need to reflect this. The extent of the economics component needed varies with each project. For some, recognising resource issues or a simple costing exercise may suffice. However, intervention trials may need cost-effectiveness analysis, calculation of QALY gains, or modelling of outcomes.

Qualitative research methods – research funders expect a clear outline of overall research design, with strong justification of sampling strategies, and methods of data collection and analysis. Qualitative research requires employment of methodologies and techniques for sampling, conducting and analysing data. We can advise on many qualitative techniques including interviewing and focus groups, consensus methods (Delphi method, Nominal Group Technique), participant/non-participant observation and ethnography and documentary research.

Public Health – Public health research is about health and disease at a societal or community level, involving a range of disciplines including statistics; behavioural, social and environmental science; economics; and laboratory and clinical medicine. It encompasses research around:

  • the burden of disease or health risks (including epidemiology) e.g. incidence/prevalence of disease and need for/use of health services
  • risk factors for developing disease
  • interventions to promote health and prevent/control disease or reduce inequalities in health. These interventions may be led by health services e.g. screening or immunisations, or tackle the societal determinants of health including housing and air quality; or behaviours such as smoking, diet or sexual activity
  • health policy and health system organisation.

Health Psychology – Our team includes specialists in health psychology who advise on appropriate methods for researching areas such as health behaviour-change and self-management of long-term conditions. They can provide expert advice on health psychology theory and research evidence.

Social care – Research questions on needs, resources and outcomes in social care research are important and can influence policy, theory and practice. They often relate to economic aspects of community care, residential /nursing home provision or long-term care finance and mental health policy. Examples include costing social care services, exploring the workforce indicators/quality of care outcomes relationship, measuring social care-related quality of life and subsequently calculating QALYs in social care terms.

Public involvement (PI) – Public involvement (also known as user/lay involvement) is the formation of a partnership of patients and/or public with researchers. A significant PI component is appropriate for most projects. It enables prioritisation of research questions, design and management of studies, data collection and analysis and dissemination of findings. Our specialist RDS PI advisers can help you identify and approach members of the public, choose the ideal type of involvement for individual projects, and apply for funding to help you embed public involvement at the earliest – and through all – the stages of your research.

Dissemination – all research programmes require a statement on how you will share outcomes across the NHS, the wider health and social care community and to patient groups and the public. This could include plans to submit papers to peer-reviewed journals or conferences. It is also particularly important to identify forms of presentation to maximise impact on policy-makers, practitioners and managers. We can help you design cost effective dissemination strategies to fit your research, the developmental stage of the project/programme, key stakeholders and target audience. Read more on the NIHR dissemination webpage.




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