Medical Research

Medical research is crucial for the continuous advancement of medicine as well as to guide physicians and clinicians to help in their day-to-day clinical decision making. Some countries are well known for their advancement in research and having numerous publications on the web. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain are quickly climbing this ladder. Nowadays participating in research activities is mandatory as a part of some medical colleges curriculums and having participated in medical research or having it published gives extra points for the CV upon application to post graduated training in some countries such as Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS) has assigned 6 points out of 20 in total for research activity with 2 points for participation in a research activity and 4 points for publication in specified journals. The publications approved by the SCFHS include those which are published in PubMed indexed journals, journals that are indexed in the web of science platform or any official Saudi health related journal.

This focus on medical research in Saudi Arabia and UAE puts pressure on medical students and students of other healthcare specialties to start working on their research very early during college years. It is not uncommon to see students of the second year actively participating in summer research courses and be part of data collecting to familiarize themselves with the research world.

There are many well-known steps to follow in order to make a research paper. One must start by having a research question; a problem that needs to be solved for on which the research question is built, and the type of desired study design is chosen. Afterwards, based on which design will be more fitted to answer the research question as research studies can be either observational such as cross-sectional, retrospective, prospective, cohort, meta-analysis or systematic reviews or can be experimental such as clinical trials.

Afterwards, the data must be collected and a proper biostatistical analysis and statistical testing should be done where many students find it hard to determine the type of study they need to choose from. Moreover, the web search results which are gathered and arranged logically to form the literature review and references can sometimes be overwhelming and a lot to take in. After having a research question, a study design and a literature review ready, the approval of the ethical committee of the center or hospital which the research will be carried must be obtained. In order to get the approval, a proposal is made to show that this research idea in unique, helpful with the proper study design in place. The proposal usually includes research title, all the participating investigators, contact information, name of department, a brief introduction, literature review, methods and the references. Those sections can be shorter in the proposal than in the final paper and represent a primary version only, however, it will guide future writing.

The methods section includes the type of study, the time period, the location, the population that is being studies, the sample size, inclusion and exclusion criteria, the data collection method, the studied variables and the program\tests which are used for data analysis.

Once the approval is gained, the investigator shall proceed in data collection. Deciding which data to collect depend on which variables the investigator planned to consider and wants to present in the results. Upon reaching the sample size, which is calculated from the population size via specific equation, data analysis can be started. Data analysis can be done using specific programs, and the investigator needs to carefully choose the suitable equation\test for each variable. Many investigators ask for the help of a statistician. After the analysis is done and its results are arranged in tables, the data will make much more sense, and the investigator will be able to write the results section, which includes a thorough description of the sample and comparison of the variables. This is followed by the discussion, which is a section dedicated to presenting the answer to the research questions and comparing the current results to the results of previous studies. Finally, the conclusion concludes the main result of the study and needs to include the study limitations and advise for future research. Now the paper is ready for finalization, review and publication which is also a skill set of its own.

Many medical, dental, nursing and healthcare students find it very difficult to understand the basic concepts of research and the epidemiological concept behind each study design. Better Mentors have recruited the best clinical researchers in the field to guide students, residents and clinical researchers in their road to achieve their research questions from the study question all the way to the publication of their results.