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About Research

Research – A Definition

In its simplest form, research is what we call the process and activities related to asking a question, and obtaining an answer. Research is about an investigation into something to which we do not know the answer. Scientific research, which is of interest to us here at Southlake, follows a very rigorous course. It is based in the scientific method that starts with generating a research question. “Is treatment A better than treatment B” From the question a theory or hypothesis is generated such as “Treatment A is superior to treatment B because treatment A has fewer side effects and therefore individuals are likely to use treatment A long enough to feel better” Scientific research also involves defining a ‘procedure or method” for conducting the research. The Method is a clearly written statement that outlines just exactly how the question will be answered, what materials will be needed to answer the question and the exact procedure that will be used to discover the answer. Often this is done in the form of an experiment where for example Treatment A and Treatment B are compared to each other with the researcher and subject unable to tell who is getting which treatment and the results evaluated. Scientific research also involves analysis of the data derived from the experiment using a variety of statistical measures. Finally scientific research involves discussing the results and demonstrating that the original hypothesis was either proven or not proven.

Why is Research Important?

Scientific research helps us understand how the human body works, how we can help it to work better and how we can help prevent it from breaking down. Through the development of medicines, equipment, practices and procedures, we can use the information received through the research process to improve our health, save lives, extend our lifespan and improve the quality of our lives.

Who Does Research?

In Canada, like most other places in the world, research is done by a host of individuals, governments, organizations and industries. At Southlake we participate in research sponsored by provincial governments, by the federal government, by research councils, by industry, through academic centres (colleges and universities and other learning institutions) and by individuals who work at Southlake or other hospitals or health care organizations.

How is Research Funded?

Some research is unfunded. This research is done often by individual health care providers who want to know about whether one of the treatments they provide is truly helping their clients. Most research however is funded, that is money is paid to the researcher to use the scientific method to conduct a study (research) to answer a question. Using the scientific method is usually expensive, particularly if one wants to do research with several thousand people across the country or around the world. Governments pay researchers to do this work. Industry (like pharmaceutical companies or equipment manufacturers) will pay researchers to do this work for them as well. Some research can take years to complete, such as a new medication which from the time it is first thought of to the time your physician can write a prescription for it, ten or more years and millions of dollars might well have been spent.

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