Are you struggling to wrap your head around the concept of a research protocol and its format?
Don’t worry. You’re not alone.
Every researcher has had to go through the same process at some point in their academic career – discover what a research protocol is, explore all its vital elements, and learn the format basics.
And that’s where this article comes in.
Today, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about the research protocol format in a Q&A form, which means you can easily scroll through the article and read about the questions that pique your interest.
100% value, 0% fluff.
Let’s get the ball rolling with the first question!
What is a research protocol?
A research protocol is essentially a manual that researchers can refer to during their research.
It describes the objectives of the study as well as the methodology, helping researchers stay on track and use the same means to obtain their results. This is especially important if the research is conducted at multiple sites.
Not only that but a research protocol also includes all important safety rules and ethical considerations, ensuring the study is safe for both investigators and participants.
This is why research protocols are very important in clinical trials.
What information needs to be included in a research protocol?
Overall, a research protocol should include these 15 elements:
- Project summary (similar to the research abstract)
- General information (Title, date, names of researchers, names and addresses of research sites, names and addresses of clinical laboratories)
- Rationale and context (how the study contributes to existing knowledge in the field)
- Goals and objectives (what the study is trying to accomplish)
- Study design (the type of study, sampling frame, participation criteria, etc.)
- Methodology (clear instructions on procedures, measurements, observations, and data collection methods)
- Safety considerations (preventive measures and potential risks)
- Follow-up (an investigation on the aftereffects of the study once the participants have completed it)
- Data management (data analysis tools and programs)
- Expected outcomes (the solutions the results of your study may offer)
- Publication responsibilities (researchers’ responsibilities and publication rights)
- Ethical considerations (addressing ethical concerns)
- Budget (distribution of funds and sources of funding)
- Investigator information (background and CVs of all participating investigators)
- References (all secondary sources referenced in the research protocol)
How long should a research protocol be?
It depends on your field of research and the individual circumstances surrounding your study. In general, research protocols tend to be longer than 5,000 words.
Since you’re covering a lot of information in your research protocol, no one expects it to fit within two pages. However, remember that it should also be as clear and concise as possible because one of its main purposes is practical guidance.
What are some common formatting mistakes to avoid?
Similarly to research proposals and research papers, the research protocol format ought to be simple and clear. Unless specified otherwise, use a common font and size (such as Times New Roman, 12), as well as regular spacing.
Here are some common formatting mistakes to avoid:
- Inconsistent formatting throughout the document (stick to the same heading styles and sizes)
- Not using headings and subheadings to organize information
- Incorrect citation style (make sure to use one citation style only)
- Grammatical mistakes and spelling errors (if you need help editing and proofreading your research protocol, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional editing service such as FirstEditing)
- Not including all relevant sections
What makes a good research protocol?
A high-quality research protocol checks off the following requirements:
- It serves as a clear manual that allows researchers to conduct their study in a safe and productive way that is free of any confusion
- It outlines all ethical considerations and safety rules
- It is organized into clear sections
- It focuses on practicality
- The language is concise, clear, and to the point
- It includes all important information as per question 2 of this Q&A
- It is free of grammatical mistakes and spelling errors
- The research protocol format is consistent and simple
Where can I find resources for further guidance?
Apart from the FirstEditing blog, you can also reach out to the FirstEditing team and inquire about their editing and proofreading services regarding research protocols.
If you’d like to read more about the research protocol format and all the different sections that research protocols ought to include, the National Health Service (UK) website points you to specific protocol templates while the World Health Organization website outlines all the vital components of a good research protocol.
Here is also a practical guide for health researchers if you’d like to familiarize yourself with the basics of crafting research papers and conducting research studies.
The word “research protocol format” may sound daunting, but once you learn the basics of what a research protocol is and what purposes it serves, you’ll find that you can absolutely understand the concept and even write a research protocol yourself if necessary.
When crafting your protocol, make sure it ticks off the following:
- Formatting consistency
- Organization of sections
- Clear and concise language
- References and correct citation style
- All relevant information
- Focus on safety, ethical considerations, and practicality
- Clearly explained methodology (that can be replicated at different research sites)
- No grammatical mistakes and typos
Have you ticked off all eight? If so, congratulations! It is very likely you’ve just nailed the basics of the research protocol format.