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Types of research

Understanding dementia research

Research could be described as a systematic, organised attempt to find answers to worthwhile questions, using predefined methods or procedures which are clearly documented. It should be possible for other people to understand exactly what the researchers did to arrive at their conclusions. In this way, the results and conclusions can be assessed and analysed in terms of relevance and accuracy, bearing in mind any limitations or factors which the researchers may have highlighted.

Research is guided by theories. It builds on knowledge that has been acquired from previous studies with the aim of going one step further or responding to an observed lack of research into a particular issue. Theories, drugs and medical procedures are tested, people’s experiences are explored and new issues are uncovered and addressed. In the healthcare domain, the issues tend to be those which are important to the general population or to specific groups of people (e.g. patients, carers, healthcare professionals or policy makers).

A distinction may be made between the theoretical and empirical aspects of research. Theoretical research involves developing, exploring, testing and refining theories, whereas empirical research involves observing and measuring what actually happens.

This section provides:

  • details of philosophical assumptions behind research
  • description of differences between main types of research e.g. qualitative and quantitative
  • details about different methods used e.g. interviews, questionnaires, experiments, observation and long-term monitoring etc.



Last Updated: Friday 21 August 2009