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September 2019

Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 1995 Jun; 1(3): 85-8.

A basic introduction to medical research. Part I: What is research and why do it?

Vickers A.

Research Council for Complementary Medicine, London, UK

Our beliefs about health come from many sources, most of which come down to personal experience. This is often an unreliable way of finding out about health as it can be affected by the individual practitioner's own biases and beliefs. Moreover, changes observed in patients cannot always be ascribed to any treatments given. Research attempts to generate more reliable beliefs by carefully controlling for those factors likely to influence us incorrectly. Good research always starts by focusing on a question: what is the question which the researcher wants to answer? Questions enable the development of research designs. There is a particularly pressing need for good quality research in the complementary therapies typically used by nurses and midwives. We need to know: do the complementary therapies have specific effects on health? How should the therapies be used so that their effects are optimised? How should the therapies be used in health service settings? Unless these questions are answered, the use of complementary therapies by nurses and midwives is likely to remain sub-optimal.

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