Issues in methodological research: Perspectives from researchers and commissioners

  • Lilford R
  • Richardson A
  • Stevens A
 et al. 
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OBJECTIVES (1) Methodological research has few well-defined tools and processes analogous to those available for reviews and data collection in substantive health technology assessment. (2) This project was set up to obtain researchers' and others' views on the innovative projects on research methodology under the NHS Health Technology Assessment Programme and the usefulness of the research. (3) The study was intended to span both epistemological and management issues. (4) The following issues were explored: (a) the degree to which researchers would feel constrained by the "Cochrane" approach to systematic reviews when undertaking reviews of a methodological nature; (b) whether methodological projects may require exceptional design and management arrangements, in view of their novelty, subjectivity and complexity; (c) whether researchers would seek out other methods, in addition to undertaking reviews of argument, as a means of extending their understanding of methodological issues (there may be three categories of research methods in methodology: reviews of methodological argument, studies that use the literature as a source of data, and research that collects new primary data); (d) whether the Methodology Programme overall can be considered a "success". METHODS (1) Telephone interviews were carried out on researchers (one senior and one junior per project), resulting in 35 interviews from 19 of the 20 target projects. (2) A qualitative postal survey was sent to 12 people who had played a key role in the development of the Methodology Programme; replies were received from six of them. (3) Analysis was undertaken of the hit rates for 29 projects on the NCCHTA website by the end of February and the end of May 1999, comparing those concerned with methodology (n = 10) and those concerned with other issues (n = 19). RESULTS UNDERTAKING METHODOLOGICAL RESEARCH: VIEWS OF RESEARCHERS: This section summarises the views of 35 researchers who were interviewed by telephone. RESULTS UNDERTAKING METHODOLOGICAL RESEARCH: VIEWS OF RESEARCHERS: (THE NATURE OF METHODOLOGICAL REVIEWS): (1) There was a reluctance among researchers to use the term "systematic review" in the methodological context. (2) Practical problems in undertaking methodological reviews were found at every stage of the research process. (a) In the initial search stage, preplanned strategies were difficult to maintain, owing to the need to respond to the problems of too few or too many references. (b) A…

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  • R. J. Lilford

  • A. Richardson

  • A. Stevens

  • R. Fitzpatrick

  • S. Edwards

  • F. Rock

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