Introduction to Research

Basic steps in starting a research project:

  1.  Decide which topic interests you. A good way to start is by skimming recent medical journals. Print out the abstracts that pique your interest and save them in a file. After a few months look back through your file and see what topics seem to catch your attention the most.

  2. Investigate current research on your topic. Start reading through the literature to find out what the current issues are in your area of interest. Many articles include suggestions for future research, which may give you an idea of what kind of project you should do.

  3. Identify a faculty mentor. Ask your college adviser, preceptor or members of the department that interests you if they know of any faculty currently performing research in your area of interest. You may be able to join in an existing research project or start your own project under the supervision of your mentor. Ideally this person will have experience in conducting and publishing research as well as expertise in your area of interest.

  4. Develop a research question and plan. Work with your mentor to narrow down your research question into something manageable. Decide what kind of project you will conduct.

  5. Write your research proposal and apply for funding. A list of funding resources related to Global Health research at UC Davis is located in the column to the left. For most funding sources you will need to submit a proposal with details of your project including a literature review/background information, research question, study design, a description of the population to be studied, a timeline, expense budget, etc.

  6. If your research includes human subjects, obtain IRB approval. All research involving human subjects must be approved by an ethics review committee called the Institutional Review Board. The application must be completed meticulously. It is helpful to have a faculty mentor who knows someone on the IRB committee who might be able to usher your project along. Either way it can take several months to gain IRB approval. The IRB will often request revisions, which take several weeks to be approved. There are different levels of IRB approval depending on the level of risk involved in your project. Low risk projects with non-vulnerable populations, such as a series of interviews with physicians, can be submitted as "expedited" or even "exempt" which means that they can be approved by one IRB member instead of the entire board. Projects that involve risk to subjects or vulnerable populations are considered "full" approval applications, which require the entire IRB committee to meet and discuss the project before giving approval. You will have to complete CITI Ethics training certification before receiving IRB approval.

  7. Obtain ethics review committee approval in the country where you will be conducting research.  You should contact a medical school in the country where you will be conducting research to determine if you can apply for ethics committee approval. Ideally you should plan to include local students or faculty in your project. Allow several months for this process! You may be able to complete the final stages of the process in person when you arrive at your host country, particularly if email or phone communication is limited.

  8. Carry out the research. Notify the IRB of any major changes, particularly changes to the study design or complications that alter the risk to the study subjects. Keep track of any and all expenses if you are planning to be reimbursed. Make sure to back up your data.

  9. Analyze your data. You faculty mentor may need to help you determine the best way to analyze your information in order to determine the results of your study.

  10. Submit your abstract to a conference or poster presentation. MSRF recipients are required to present their research during the poster presentation that occurs ever March. It is okay to publish an abstract in a conference or journal even if you will be submitting the full article to a different journal later on.

  11. Identify journals that publish research similar to yours, and submit a manuscript. See the link for JANE under "Research Tools" to the left to help you start locating journals. Pay attention to a journal's acceptance rate, time to decision and time to publication if you want to get published quickly. If you want your research to be made publicly available, you can opt to submit to an open source journal. Typically these journals charge a fee between $1500-$3000 for publication. UC Davis offers discounts on these fees with some publishers but does not pay for the fee itself. If you are working with authors from a developing country, they may be able to get a fee waiver.