So you think you can research?

Sina Babazadeh

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Dr. Sina Babazadeh
MBBS, Monash University (2006)
Third Year Doctorate of Medicine (MD), University of Melbourne

Prof. Peter Choong MBBS, MD
Sir Hugh Devine Chair of Surgery
Head, Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne, St. Vincent’s Hospital
Director of Orthopaedics, St. Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne)
Chair, Sarcoma Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Sina is simultaneously working towards an MD and working in the orthopaedics department at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne.

I had always considered myself an exceptional dancer. In my mind, my dance moves were unparalleled. However, in reflection, I must admit that the majority of my moves were employed to impress the scrub-nurses by turning my gown in tune to the bopping background beat of the theatre iPod. However, my delusions of dancing grandeur were shattered after watching a number of the popular dance-based shows on television. I realised it took far more than genetic talent, which I still choose to believe I have in abundance, to make a dancer. It requires hours of practice combined with fitness, good music, choreography and originality to succeed. Research, it appears, is not too dissimilar.

I had never been the most proactive student and my CV was barer than a middle-aged German tourist holidaying in Thailand. I had reached a stage in my career where it was time to contribute to medical research. Those who partake in evidence-based medicine know how important research is to the field of medicine.

If you have ever considered undertaking some formal research yourself, here are a few lessons I learnt the hard way:

What do you need?

So, you want to research? Not sure where to begin?

In dance, you need to start with either good music or a good choreographer. In research, your music is your idea, question or inspiration, and your choreographer is your supervisor.

The music (idea)

The chances are that someone, somewhere, has already attempted to adapt “the sprinkler” to your chosen music. As in research, if you think you have a good idea, someone else may have had it before you. To find out, the next step is to conduct a literature review. Medline is a good place to start.

Don’t be disheartened if someone has already researched your hypothesis. In medicine, most people can only answer very specific questions. So, if your good idea has already been partially covered, then read a few articles and find a more specific, unanswered question similar to your original one.

For example, if your question was “How effective is heparin in preventing DVT?” then refine your question to “How effective is low molecular weigh heparin in preventing DVT in male patients aged between 80 and 81 with a past history of smoking 22 cigarettes a day who have just undergone a knee replacement and whose favourite colour is light blue, when compared to Aspirin?” and believe you me, it is unlikely anyone else has researched that topic! Also, if someone has attempted to answer your question, it is worthwhile reading their article. If you find that their methodology is lacking, then you may decide to investigate that topic regardless, albeit with more watertight…