Topic A: Reporting Results
There are three steps to reporting the results of a study. The first step is to interpret the findings. The second step is to draw conclusions and the final step is to determine the implications of your research.
Topic B: Interpreting Findings
Quantitative Data Analysis
- Consider the study context -A new diet drug on the market claims to be more effective than other drugs at helping with weight loss. Your research study shows that the new drug can help an obese adult lose 60lbs during the first six months of drug therapy. You want to know if this drug is more effective than other drugs on the market. The only way to determine if the new drug is more effective is to look at the context of the study. If the other drugs on the market helps an obese adult lose only 45lbs in the first six months, than the new drug is more effective and its claim is correct. If the other drugs on the market help you to lose 50lbs in one month then the new diet drug is less effective and its claim is incorrect. The only way that you are able to answer your research question is to look at your results within the study context. By looking at your original research question, you are able to organize and focus your results within the context of the situation.
- Clarify conceptual framework -it is essential for the researcher to come to some conclusions based on the findings of the research.
- Compile and organize data -Once you have your data and it has been statistically verified it is important to organize the data in a way that will be meaningful. Charts, tables, and graphs are a great way to visually look at the data in order to make conclusions.
- Explain results in light of statistical tests -Statistical tests are utilized in order to make conclusions about the data set. As important as statistics is to evaluating your results, it is still important to look for trends and differences that are not statistically significant. Note that their may be important differences that are not statistically significant because the sample size is too small or there is not enough power in the study. In relation to this, you need to really look at what was found to be statistically significant and evaluate whether the results make sense. You should be looking for both biases and confounding factors in order to evaluate the results of your study.
- Compare results to previous study findings -it is important to evaluate your results in the light of other research in the field. One of the primary functions of research is to re-examine previous work in light of new evidence. You want to see how your results fit into the larger body of work and if the data is contradictory or if it supports previous thought.
- Develop Meanings from Results -the last thing you should do with your data is to develop meanings from the results.
Qualitative Data Analysis
- Consider Study Context -In qualitative data analysis it is extremely important to consider the context in which you did your study. In order to consider the context of the study you need to go back to the research question and remind yourself what the study is really asking and how your results answer the questions.
- Code data and develop structures -With qualitative data it is important to recognize similar responses in participants' answers. Once common responses are identified you can code the response and record how many times it comes up in the participants' answers.
- Describe emerging themes -Once the data has been coded you can use this information to find themes within the data. For example, if you are doing a study on the stress levels of single mothers and you hear from 85% of the mother's in your sample that they spend on average four hours in traffic a day and the same mothers state they have very high stress levels, a theme may be that single mothers spend a lot of time in the car.
- Develop conceptual framework and narrative description -Once you have found themes and patterns within your data sets, you need to find out how it fits into the conceptual framework of your study. In other words, how do the themes fit in your original theory or hypothesis? From this information you can start to write a narrative description of your findings.
- Summarize key results and conceptual relationships -Lastly, after analyzing your data, finding themes, and relating theory to your results you should summarize the key results of the study. In the example above, the key result may be that spending time in traffic is related to maternal stress levels.
Topic C: Drawing Conclusions
Discussion and Conclusions
- Definition: The discussion and conclusion is where you take the data from your study and you are able to make conclusions and further hypotheses. The purpose of this section is to help the scientific community to interpret your results and answer the research question. It is important to note why the results came out the way they did instead of simply restating the results. It is also important to discuss the limitations of your study, as well as the strengths. You also should discuss the applicability of the data in this section.
- Necessary Components:
- Findings discussed in relationship to:
- Research objectives/questions
- Previous Literature
- Consistent or not consistent
- Suggestions for new ways to examine the problem
- Application -remember that research can be used in many ways other than the original intentions. When thinking about the applications of your research, try to think about other areas that might benefit from what you have done.
- Findings discussed in relationship to:
Topic D: Determining Implications
Research has the potential to make a great impact on people's lives and with this ability there is much significance that comes with it. The implications of research may include the study structure, context and even policies and procedures as results.
Implications of results in relation to:
- Specific research focus (the study itself) -the results of your research project will impact your study in many ways. The results may lead you to redesign your study structure, may lead to more experimentation in a subject, or even to a publication.
- Study context (research literature) -The results of a study may serve to validate or divide a study area. If your results are different than existing literature this may cause for heated debate within the field and more in depth questioning. If your results are the same as other studies in a particular field, they may help to validate certain theories or understanding within the field.
- Social Impact (policy and practice) -The results of your study may implicate public policy and practices. For example, when it was found that folic acid deficiency in the first trimester of pregnancy could cause neural tube defects, the government responded by fortifying grain products. The reason they decided to do this is because many people do not know they are pregnancy during the first few weeks of pregnancy when folate is absolutely necessary. This is just one example how the results of research can impact policies.
Topic E: Procedures for Writing
After you have completed your research, analyzed the results, made conclusions and thought about the implications of the research, the next step is to write up your research in a format that can be disseminated in many different ways.
Writing the Paper
- Title: The title of your paper should describe the subject matter of your research. It should be short, descriptive, and not overly technical. Remember to keep your audience in mind as you are writing your paper. You may want to summarize your results in the title in order to make it more effective.
- Abstract: This is the most important part of the research paper. Many people read the title and the abstract of a paper to decide if they want to read the rest of the article. The abstract is a summary of the entire research article. It should include the purpose, methods, results and conclusions in a succinct format. The abstract should be between 100-250 words and should not include any abbreviations or citations.
- Introduction: The introduction of your paper should tell the audience why you chose to do this research. It should also give the reader background information that is pertinent to understanding your research subject, methods and question. There are three things the introduction should include:
- Background information on the topic
- Your research question
- Your hypotheses
- Materials and Methods: This section should describe what you did to answer your research question in enough detail that the experiment could be repeated by someone reading your paper. Some examples of what should be in this section include; number of participants, selection requirements, sampling procedures used, survey questions, and lab procedures. The statistical measures used to analyze the data should also be described in this section.
- Results: The results section is where you present your results. Graphs and tables make it easier for readers to visually see and understand the results of your study. Tables and graph should have titles and the variables should be clearly labeled. Do not make conclusions in the results section. Conclusions will be discussed in the next section of your paper. You should present the significant results in this section.
- Discussion: The discussion should highlight the most significant results of your study. This is the section where you should draw your conclusions by explaining how your research results answer the original research question. In this section you can report how your results fit with the other literature in the subject area. It is also is important to point out study limitations in this section. You may want to conclude with ideas for what the 'next step' should be in the research field. In other words, how your data can be used as well as new questions that arise from your research.
- Acknowledgements: This is an optional section where you may want to thank members that have contributed to the success of the research or have provided funding for your research.
- References: In this section you should include all the references that you have cited throughout the article.
Tips for Writing the Paper
- Make sure your information is accurate
- Be simple, precise, and say what you mean.
- Write clearly
- Consider your audience and write at the appropriate level
- Write using the active voice
- Use strong verbs
- Proof read, proof read, proof read!!!
Topic F: Disseminating Results
Fig One: Methods to disseminate research. Modified from Hurd J.
There are two types of presentations that can be used to present research: poster and oral presentations. Both of these presentation styles may be used at professional conferences, meetings, or other venues as a means to disseminate information to the professional field.
Description: A poster presentation is a great way for a researcher to share information because it allows them to have interaction with their audience. A poster presentation will typically be at a professional organization meeting although there are other venues that this could occur. A poster typically includes a brief title, abstract, introduction, material and methods section, results and a conclusion. All of these sections are very brief. The poster is typically visually pleasing because of charts, graphs, and pictures are usually a focus point. The purpose of an effective poster is to be informative, summarize your work, and most importantly act as a conversation starter.
Strategies for preparation: In order to prepare for a poster presentation it is important to be comfortable with the topic information. You may want to re-read your research study the night before. Also when you are preparing you should try and anticipate questions that people might ask you and prepare answers ahead of time.
Description: In this method of disseminating research the speaker decides on the content and the style of the presentation. Oral presentations may occur at conferences, seminars, or workshops. The qualities of a good oral presentation include: its scientific content, the manner of the presentation, and the way one interacts with the audience.
Strategies for preparation (tips): Do not planning on telling the audience everything you know about a topic. You also do not need to present all the results of your study. Only present the results that pertain to the main conclusions you want to make. While presenting, try not to stand completely still, like a statue, or move around too much. You want to be conversational and normal while presenting. Also you want to respect the time constraints and only talk for the amount of time allotted to you.
Types of publications:
- Conference Proceedings -are the written record of the work that is presented at a professional conference. The purpose of publishing conference proceedings is to inform those unable to attend a conference, or those interested in what went on at a particular conference, with the material presented. Conference proceedings are typically a good source for learning what is new in a research field.
- Journals -are the primary way in which scientists publish their research. Different journals may have different impact factors. An impact factor refers to the number of times articles in a particular journal are cited by other journal articles. Impact factor is one way of ranking journal status.
- Tips to writing journal articles:
- When doing your research, keep in mind what aspects you will want to publish and how the data will be presented. This might help you to stay on track with your research design.
- When submitting research to journals, choose journals that fit your research.
- Be sure that the quality of your paper reflects the quality of your research. If you paper is not in the correct format or is poorly written the reviewers of the journal may reject it before they even have time to see the quality of your research.
- Tips to writing journal articles:
- Newsletters -are typically a more informal way of disseminating research. Newsletter articles tend to be shorter and use less scientific jargon. A newsletter format may be more like an abstract where you attempt to get the pertinent information into a concise easy to read format, focusing on the main points of the study.
- Reports -A report may describe a process, progress, or results of scientific research. Publishing reports is different than publishing in scientific journals because reports are not necessarily peer reviewed. A report may also be used in situations where there is too much information to be published in a journal article. The excess information may be published in report format and referenced in the journal article.
- Other Publications -There are many other ways to dispel the information from your research. Some may be targeted towards the scientific community and others toward the 'lay' population. Be sure to identify your target group before creating these resources.
- Fact Sheets
Topic G: Obtain Funding
Sources of Funding:
- Formal sources -formal sources of research funding include governmental and foundation grants. Governmental agencies that might provide support for your research are the NSF (National Science Foundation), NIH (National Institute of Health), and the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Examples of major grant foundations include: the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Heart Association and the William T. Grant Foundation. State agencies and local agencies may be another source of grants and funding.
- Informal sources -informal sources of research funding may include scholarships or awards.
Strategies for finding financial support:
There are many ways that you can find financial support for your research project. The internet may be a great place to start looking for financial support. There are many websites that provide links to different areas of funding; including governmental grants, foundation grants, state and local grants as well as scholarships and awards that are available. Another place to look for funding is at your university or college libraries. Libraries may also have some books on developing your proposal and being successful in applying for your grant.
The Grant Proposal
The Grant Process:
- Using Feedback
Preparing the Grant Proposal
- Components of the proposal:
- The Statement of Need or Opportunity: In this section you should outline the problem that your project will address. This is where you tell them why there is a need for your research or project.
- Goals and Objectives: This section will outline what you hope to achieve with your project. Remember that goals are more general plans of what you want to accomplish. Objectives are specific, measurable steps that you need to take to meet the goals of the project.
- Project Activities: In this section you should list out your intervention plan. This is where you tell the audience exactly how you plan on meeting your goals and objectives and solve the problem.
- Evaluation Plan: The evaluation plan is where you identify the ways in which you plan on testing the efficacy of your project. Evaluation may be tested by pre/post surveys or acceptance of research into a scientific journal.
- Organizational Information: This is the section in which you have the opportunity to tell the board why you are the most qualified group to do the research. Example of what information could be put in this section include: researcher background and credentials, the history and accomplishments of your organizations etc.
- Future Funding: You should always include information on how the project will be funded once the initial grant runs out. For most programs organizations like to see that a project has a sustainable means of funding and will be able to continue without the organization's help in the long run.
- Abstract: Just as you would formulate an abstract at the beginning of a research paper, you should have an abstract of your proposal. This should be the last thing you put together and should be a concise version of what you need the foundation to know.
- Project budget -what you anticipate the project is going to cost
- 501 (c) tax-exempt letter from the IRS
- List of your board of directors/ investigators
- Strategies for preparation (tips):
- Read all of the instructions on a grant application first!
- Follow the format the foundation has asked for when putting together the grant proposal. Follow instructions exactly!
- Don't chase the money when you are going for a grant, make sure your project answers a question you are interested in.
- Apply for grants from foundations that have given grants for similar research and have the same research goals or philosophies as you do.
- Use similar language on your proposal as on the grant application -tailor the proposal to the foundation.
- Don't be too ambitious with your research goals. Make sure that all your plans are feasible.
- Be concise -foundations have many applications to read.
- A catchy name might be a great way to stand out from other projects.
Submitting the grant proposal
- The submission process -once you have completed your proposal the submission process begins. This process may be different each place you submit, however the basic idea will remain the same. The first thing that happens is your proposal is submitted to a review group. The purpose of this group is to determine the score of the grant proposal. Scores may be based on:
- Significance of the problem
- Appropriateness of the approach
- Level of innovation
- Investigator experience
- Scientific environment and trends
The proposals with the highest scores will move on to a second group. This group will decide which proposals get funded and which do not. After the application is approved, decisions are made as to how much the program will be funded.
- The award process -Once the funding agency has approved your application, you will be notified of the approval and will receive a letter that details your award. In this letter any guidelines that govern your use of the award will be detailed as well as any stipulations involving the award. You must sign all documentation and adhere to any stipulations in order to accept the award.
Managing the project when funded
The steps to managing a funded project are the same as managing any successful project.
- Define the scope of the project -What are the major goals and objectives?
- Determine the availability of resources -How is your grant money being distributed?
- Establish a project timeline -When must the project be completed? What are the critical dates in the project completion process?
- Assemble your project team -Who will be working on the project? Will they be volunteers or paid? What is their level of expertise?
- Develop a plan of action -How are you going to get things done? Who is responsible for what?
- Monitor Monitor Monitor -It is important to monitor the progression of the project and make appropriate changes along the way.
- Keep records -it is important to keep records as the project progresses. By keeping records you are able to look back and see how the project has progressed and the changes you have had to make from the original plan. Also by keeping records it is easier to keep the entire team on the same track.
If your proposal is accepted or denied, you can expect some feedback about the proposal.
- Strengthening a new proposal submission: If the proposal is denied you may be able to ask the funding agency what the fundamental problems were in your submission. This information can then be used to strengthen your proposal. Depending on the feedback you receive you may be able to resubmit your proposal to the funding agency, or you may want to submit your proposal to a different funding agency that might be a better fit for your project.
- Developing a research agenda: Feedback can also be useful when trying to establish a research agenda. A research agenda refers how you structure or plan future research endeavors. Feedback from grant proposals may be extremely influential in deciding what areas to focus your research in. For example, if grant agencies are only funding grants related to bunny rabbits than most likely you will want to do your next study on bunny rabbits.