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Medical Research Design: Selection and Comparison

Selecting a proper study design is very important in medical and scientific research. It can affect the quality, reliability, and usability of a study. Specifying the design is a requirement in all medical research papers (“Study designs,” 2016). Typically, the research topic determines what type of study is going to be applied to it. The researcher chooses a question to answer in their study, decides on how useful the research would be, and how the results are going to be interpreted. This paper will offer proper study designs for three example cases, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and provide a rationale for the designs selected.

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Is the use of soap and water or alcohol-based rubs more effective in preventing nosocomial infections?

Appropriate research design

For this study, the appropriate research design would be a randomized controlled trial. This kind of study design splits the participants into two or more groups – the control group and the experimental groups. To identify the outcome, the results of the experimental groups have to be compared with the results of the control group. Randomized controlled trials are the backbone of most medical researches (“Gold standard of evidence,” 2016).

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Design Type

Randomized controlled trials are very popular in medicine for their reliability and efficiency. If the process of randomization was done properly, the research would not have any population bias. RCTs are much easier to mask than observational studies, which plays an important part in much scientific research (Pandis, 2012). The process of masking ensures that all participants are reasonably unaware of when the experimentation starts. This is done to eliminate potential bias in patients or any personnel taking part in the research. As practice showed, this bias can negatively influence the research, induce an additional placebo effect, affect natural reactions to the procedures, and distort the results. RTCs are very easy to understand and analyze using standard statistical methods, which are less prone to interpretation. Lastly, it is easy to identify target populations and compile lists of patients participating in the research (“Randomized controlled trial,” 2016).

Randomized controlled trials have several negative aspects to them. They are time-consuming and require money and resources. Another downside is the so-called volunteer bias. Modern medical laws forbid any experiments from taking place without the participant’s consent. The physical and social characteristics of volunteers may be different from actual reality the experiment tries to emulate, thus creating volunteer bias (“Volunteer bias,” 2010). Lastly, while RCTs are good at providing results, they do not reveal the causation of certain developments. In addition to that, any information about follow-up treatment is typically lost after the experiment is over (“Randomized controlled trial,” 2016).

The Rationale for the Particular Design Type

This research would be relatively easy to organize in the form of a randomized controlled trial. The participants could be split into two groups – the first group could be using alcohol-based rubs, the second – soap, and water in a standard hospital setting. The results of the experiment would be easy to compare to one another, and the level of randomization would ensure that the results provided are accurate and statistically reliable.

What is the relationship between alcohol and breast cancer?

Appropriate Research Design

The appropriate research design for this question would be a systematic review. This type of design relies greatly on the analysis of existing sources of information, be that peer-reviewed articles, journals, randomized controlled trials, and other studies on the topic of research. The data is then compiled into a comprehensive study, the findings are summarized, and references to particular sources are made to provide a basis for statements and conclusions made in the research (“Systematic review,” 2016).

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Design Type

This design method is very widespread in all sciences, not just in medical practice. It allows for an exhaustive review of all information sources available on the subject, meaning that the researcher can rely on summaries and findings made by other specialists in the field (“Systematic review,” 2016). This method is very cost-efficient for this reason – it is much cheaper to review the results of previous researches than to conduct experiments using real equipment and test subjects. It is also less time-consuming, as all the relevant data has already been compiled and presented in an easy-to-comprehend format. The results of such studies are typically easy to extrapolate. Lastly, the results of such studies are considered an evidence-based resource and are typically more accurate than individual studies, as the researcher can compare the results of similar studies to determine the cause and effect (“Systematic review,” 2016).

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The weaknesses of this type of research are few. The research itself can be time-consuming if many sources have to be read through and analyzed. Also, the sources itself could present difficulty when combining them. Lastly, depending on the subject, a lack of relevant data may render the systematic review unfeasible to perform (“Systematic review,” 2016).

The Rationale for the Particular Design Type

The relationship between alcohol and breast cancer has been the subject of many studies. There is no need to conduct any sorts of experiments or raw data collection, as these would take too much time and resources. Instead, the researcher could rely on previous studies to compile a new article and summarize the findings of all relevant researches in it.

What is the difference in attitudes of male and female college students toward condoms?

Appropriate Research Design

The appropriate research design for this study would be survey research, conducted via a questionnaire. Survey researches are frequently used as a noninvasive way of gathering data about or from a particular population group. There are many types of surveys, sampling methods, and ways of offering them to the general populace. Questionnaires are lists of questions, which the participants are expected to answer (“Survey research and questionnaires,” 2016). Depending on the nature of questions the research seeks to answer, the questionnaires could be close-ended or open-ended.

Close-ended questionnaires typically have a list of predetermined answers, from which the respondent gets to choose. These types of questionnaires are easy to process and analyze, as the answers given by the respondents are not open to interpretation. This type of questionnaire is often used to gather statistical data (Advantages of close-ended questions,” 2016). Open-ended questionnaires do not have a list of predetermined answers and require the respondents to fill the box with their thoughts. This type of questionnaire is used when the questions are complicated and have a multitude of possible answers (Sincero, 2012). Surveys could be administered via mail, by telephone, or face-to-face.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Design Type

Survey research is a very cost-efficient method of gathering data. This type of research does not require any material backup and can be conducted by anyone, through multiple communication channels. Distributing questionnaires allow us to quickly gather a large and randomized database for planned or ongoing research. The format enables the researcher to accurately estimate the characteristics of the target group without having to spend time and energy on personally interviewing every single representative (“Survey research and questionnaires,” 2016).

However, the survey method has several flaws to it, which is why it is never used for in-depth research. The data gathered from surveys is often superficial, as the respondents tend to avoid sharing personal and sensitive information via a survey format. Some respondents may purposefully mislead the researchers with their responses, for various reasons. Another issue that needs to be considered is the worldwide response rates decline. Many potential respondents are disinterested in spending time on completing the surveys (“The growing problem of nonresponse,” 2016).

The Rationale for the Particular Design Type

This study design would be very effective for this particular research due to its quickness and cost-efficiency. The data required for this research does not need to be particularly in-depth. This method will allow the researcher to gather information from as many respondents as possible, which would ensure an accurate representation of the target group.

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Choosing the right design for the research could have a great impact on the project. Every type of design has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The researcher must weigh in all the pros and cons before deciding which method to apply.


Advantages of close-ended questions. (2016). Web.

Gold standard of evidence: The randomized controlled trial. (2016).

Pandis, N. (2012). Statistics and research design: Blinding and masking. Web.

Randomized controlled trial. (2016).

Sincero, S.M. (2012). Types of survey questions. 

Study designs. (2016).

Survey research and questionnaires. (2016). Web.

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Systematic review. (2016).

The growing problem of nonresponse. (2013).

Volunteer bias. (2010).

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