How is the research undertaken

'Getting started' can be quite difficult for the beginner. However, assistance that should be accessed is available from several sources including individual GPs with research experience, university departments of general practice and the RACGP research committee. It is appropriate to seek out a suitable supervisor for the study. A chronological method follows.

1. The idea. We start with an idea or question, which needs to be interesting, relevant, significant and answerable. 9 It may be appropriate to develop a hypothesis at this stage.

2. Floating the idea. The next step is to discuss the idea with colleagues or an appropriate accessible authority.

3. Literature search. This is a review of the literature, for example a Medline search or checking with a central research 'bank'.

4. Preparing a plan. This can be a short written plan outlining the methodology for the study.

5. Evaluation of the plan. The next step is to contact a supervisor or appropriate authority to evaluate the study plan, which may be referred to a reference group or research committee.

6. Development of a protocol:

a. Prepare background; outline objectives and develop a hypothesis.

b. Select target population using clear criteria and appropriate numbers.

c. Design the research:

qualitative or quantitative? questionnaire/s d. Assess internal validity e. Consider statistical implications early:

■ number of patients

■ method for data analysis f. Recruit subjects and assistants.

g. Assess the time frame.

h. Assess the ethical considerations ^ ethics approval committee.

7. Pilot study and timetable. Consider a preliminary pilot study and project timetable.

8. Seek funding. Solicit advice for appropriate funding bodies.

9. The study. Conduct the study.

10. Publication. Prepare for publication.

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