The Strengths and Weaknesses of Common Studies Techniques in Medical Research

Medical research is conducted using a variety of approaches and techniques for which studies and experiments are executed. Each approach has its own purpose along with some unique, and common, strengths and weaknesses which include benefits and risks for the medical field and for patients. Four common studies techniques will be identified in this paper to assess the strength and weaknesses of each, asses the retrospective or prospective properties of each, and an evaluation of six research article abstracts to identify the type of study utilized in each.

The first study is the randomized clinical trial, also called a randomized controlled study, commonly abbreviated as RCT It has prospective qualities based on its comparison of a condition and a variable followed from present into the future. It is a quantitative research experiment, which uses measurement in the usual sense consisting of numbers, and is conducted in healthcare settings as clinical trials.

When using this setting several different detailed experimental designs can be used, but in RCT research, six characteristics are commonly identified.

These include involving a large number of diverse subjects, strict guidelines to be followed during the experiment, subjects are randomly designated to control groups, groups have comparable baseline characteristics, consistent intervention implementation is observed, and both groups are measured on the same dependent variable using the same method and time. Many benefits are offered by this study technique, and it is even required to be conducted in order for approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), before physicians are allowed to prescribe a medication.

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One of the reasons this type of study was created was to prevent any bias during experimentation, it is also one of the most reliable forms of scientific evidence, and is increasingly used in evidence-based research.

It forces balance in the study, and offers an organized plan regarding treatment administration and follow-up. Some of the drawbacks to this study include the potential extended length of time taken to conduct this study, the expense related to performing a study, possible inconclusive results from differing factors, and difficulty studying rare diseases using this format. The second study reviewed is the case control study which is used to compare two groups: those who have a specific condition and those who do not have the condition. This study is often used in epidemiology and has retrospective qualities because it looks back at information from the past to identifying condition origins and outcomes. It assesses relationships between risk and disease, and was designed to estimate outcome odds.

The strengths related to this study include it ability to use smaller control groups, it can observe and gain information of rare diseases, less time is needed to complete this type of study because conditions under review already exist and reflection on them is utilized, it can answer questions regarding associations between factors and risks, while looking at multiple factors simultaneously. Associated weaknesses include potential bias; trouble evaluating tests because it is already clear who has a disease or condition and who does not, and difficulty selecting a control group the third study type under review is the cohort study. This is similar to the RCT study because both methods observe changes in characteristics over time. Cohorts refer to the groups examined who have similar characteristics.

It is often a large population group being studied, and consists of monitoring characteristic changes over time, or watching the effects of medication; this study is less rigorous than the RCT study, and not randomly assigned. Because this study has characteristics similar to the previous two studies reviewed, it can have either prospective or retrospective properties based on the different components used in the study, its use of new or existing information, and the specific evaluation methods. These varying components in the cohort study give if specific strength when utilized in experiments subjects involved in cohorts can be matched, limiting the effect of confounding variables and standardization of criteria and outcomes are possible. It is easy and less expensive to perform than RCT, it can help identify risk factors in subjects to increase effective directions of care, and is highly effective because it actually follows its studies through observation and does not rely on their relayed information.

The weaknesses consist of cohorts being difficult to identify due to confounding variables, the lack of randomizations that can lead to imbalances in characteristics, the difficulty of blind studies using cohort technique, and results and outcomes can take a long time leading to high expenses. The fourth and last research design under review is the longitudinal study This study has a unique component of gathering data at different points in time.. These studies may be experimental or observational in design, and is prospective in nature because it starts its work at present time and ends in the future. The uniqueness of this design gives it matchless strengths and benefits when used. Because it is able to track the same people it decreases the chance that differences observed are likely due to cultural differences across generations, which increases the accuracy of this method.

This format can be used to uncover disease predictors, and it can identify trends and changes while distinguishing between short and long term phenomena. Kendra Cherry notes it usefulness when used study development issues that span a lifetime (2012). Some of the weakness and drawbacks include the colossal amount of time needed, and the expense that is then associated with the study. It also utilized a small group of subjects which makes it difficult to apply any conclusive evidence to a larger population because there is less validity in small sample groups, and participants are more likely to drop out of the study because of the length of time needed to collect data. Many of the reviewed research study designs have similar risks and benefits for patients regardless of the method utilized. Some patients involved in clinical trials get to benefit from the active role they are playing in their own health care and the ability to access new treatment technologies.

They are also able to obtain expert medical care, and the ability to help others by contributing to medical research; however, there could be unpleasant side effects related to medications taken or treatments provided and subjects may not experience effective results from these treatments The course of these treatments could include complex self-treatment regimens and several trips to the hospital or research site, creating troublesome routines and excessive time spent related to the study. After researching the four previous types of studies) I assessed six abstracts from research studies conducted, and identified and explained the study type utilized in each research article. The six articles are labels as a-f to correspond with the abstract identified in the outline and identified by title as the summary may not describe the whole study performed.

The research type used in the study outlined by the first abstract was a cohort study. There are identifiable cohort guidelines used that can be seen in the description of large subject group used with similar characteristics, and monitoring of a certain treatment effect on a specific disease process into the future. They looked at a few different types of cancer and the impact of aspirin, but did not follow the strict guidelines that RCT utilize It also used information provided by the subject reporting the use their own historical medication use, making the researchers rely on the participants to provide past aspirin use information. It also used epidemiologic evidence to start the study, which is retrospective in nature. This abstract identified a research study that used randomized clinical trial, as shown in the title of the article.

This research project used a very specific group of subjects, all the women involved were at a very specific point in labor, and the same characteristics related to the delivery method and fetal well—being were being tested. The control groups to study were randomly chosen to study two different interventions. This study was conducted in in the clinical setting and followed many of the common six characteristics identifying RCT.  An Intervention to Increase Safety Behaviors of Abused Women, This experiment utilized the longitudinal study design. The experiment implemented an intervention to part of the control group using six telephone interventions to improve safety behaviors. Follow-up was conducted at two different time intervals, interviews at three and six months after the intervention, not continuous monitoring; making it a longitudinal study.

This abstract reflects another study performed using the longitudinal study design, This study identified three different coronary artery disease (CAD) interventions to assess improved long term quality of life, This follow-up after the intervention occurred at one year and eight years assessment periods, making this a longitudinal study type. Caregiving Experiences after Stroke, The research technique used in this study appears to be a prospective cohort study. The study assessed relationships between patient characteristics, caregiver characteristics, and coping strategies in a prospective approach by starting in the present and monitoring into the future. The study looked at groups with similar characteristics and assessed them at intervals over time to monitor the effectiveness of coping interventions. Many aspects related to caregiver health were analyzed and the groups were not picked randomly, nor was any historical information used.

This study was a case control study, it used patient self-reporting of assessed information and followed existing medical conditions. It observed people who already had irritable bowel syndrome and tried to identify aggravating factors and symptoms the results were compared to those without the medical condition. They identified and monitored aggravating factors and discovered effective methods to help control those factors.  The review of four common types of medical studies allowed for better identification of the method used in current research articles it provided a more clear understanding of which type of research would be chosen to perform each study or experiment, and why it was chosen to produce the greatest results Better comprehension of the methods used to conduct research results in a better understanding and utilization of the material under review.

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The Strengths and Weaknesses of Common Studies Techniques in Medical Research. (2023, Jan 11). Retrieved from

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