The Healthcare Professional’s Guide to Human Research

The Healthcare Professional’s Guide to Human Research

RATING: (5 of 5 ears)
AUTHOR: Jerry L. Cranford
PUBLISHER: Plural Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-59756-200-3 (softcover)
COST: $49.95

REVIEWER: Harvey B. Abrams, PhD, Director of Research, Army Audiology and Speech Center, Walter Reed Army Medical Center

SYNOPSIS: The Healthcare Professional’s Guide to Human Research by Jerry L. Cranford is a general introduction to the research world. This book is appropriate for those who are interested in becoming involved in research, those who are just starting out in research, or those who simply want to become a more informed consumer of the research literature.

In a concise yet comprehensive treatment of the subject and assuming no prior knowledge of research methodology or terminology, the author effectively covers a broad scope of research topics ranging from how to get started to finding the funds. Along the way, the author offers up excellent practical advice such as surviving the tedium of data collection, combining research with clinical practice, and avoiding the most common mistakes associated with human research.

REVIEW: When most audiologists think of research books, they likely envision large textbooks with chapters filled with complex discussions of various research designs, calculations, graphs, and statistics. The Healthcare Professional’s Guide to Human Research by Jerry L. Cranford is not one of those books. It is, instead, an introduction to the world of research in which the reader is taken on a journey starting with the process of developing a research idea to writing up the results. Along the way, Cranford, who is currently Professor of Audiology and Hearing Science at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, stops to offer the reader practical advice in such areas as seeking help with the project and combining research with a busy clinical practice. Prior to serving on the faculty of speech and hearing programs, Cranford completed a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship in the neurosciences at Duke University followed by additional neuroscience training at the Center for Neural Sciences at Indiana University. He is eminently qualified to write on the topic of research.

The nine chapters of this relatively small softcover book (126 pages including references) are organized logically and generally represent the flow of a research project from the conception of an idea to the submission of the results for publication. The author assumes no prior knowledge concerning research methodology or terminology; as a result those with little training or experience in research design or statistics will find the book easy to read and follow. Because the book assumes no prior research experience, its strength is in the practical advice provided to the reader. For example, in the second chapter, entitled “Getting Started,” Cranford offers suggestions for those wanting to begin the research process, including how to collaborate with experienced researchers through a mentoring process.

The practical nature of the book is revealed in the chapter titles themselves, which further support the purpose of this book as an introduction to research rather than an exhaustive treatment of research design and analysis. In a conventional research textbook, one might expect to see a chapter titled “Study Designs,” or perhaps several chapters, each dealing with a specific type of design. Cranford deals with the topic of research methodology in a chapter entitled “Developing a Plan of Action.” Instead of a chapter titled “Statistics,” there is one called “What Did I Find? Is It Real?,” in which Cranford introduces the reader to the types of statistical approaches most commonly used in audiological research designs and reported in literature. For the reader who is interested in a more advanced treatment of research methodology, statistical analyses, funding, and publishing, Cranford provides two pages of additional references and suggested readings.

Cranford recognizes the challenges faced by clinicians in terms of time and resources when contemplating initiating a research study. To this end, he offers advice in chapters entitled “Some Tips on How to Combine Research with a Busy Clinical Practice” and “Finding Monies to Help Pay the Bills.” As an example, in the chapter on combining research with clinical practice, Cranford discusses strategies associated with how to add research protocols to the routine testing of patients, and how to make outcomes studies (i.e., treatment efficacy) a part of the routine clinical protocol. One of the most interesting and useful chapters in the book is “Pitfalls to Avoid in Research in Humans.” Here, Cranford comments on issues related to the effect of experimenter bias on the integrity of the data, the pressures associated with publish-or-perish policies, and the search for statistical significance as well as larger issues such as the “very fragile nature of the research enterprise.”

CRITIQUE: The world of research can be an enigma for many looking in from the outside. It’s a world of people in white coats spending hours looking through a microscope or placing specimens in a petri dish. Even those in health-care professions, whose patients are direct beneficiaries of the research enterprise, do not fully understand this world. The research mystique is made even more impenetrable by textbooks that, for most clinicians, offer little insight into the practical nature of conducting research. The Healthcare Professional’s Guide to Human Research by Jerry L. Cranford goes a long way (in relatively few pages) to demystifying the process of conducting human research. Much useful information is packed into this small book. The chapters flow logically following the research process itself—from how to get started formulating a research question to how to write up the results. Throughout this journey, the author provides useful and practical tips in the area of human research. While the author uses examples from the speech and hearing literature to explain specific research concepts, the book is designed for a general health-care audience and will be of considerable benefit to professionals throughout the health-care industry. This book is interesting, readable, practical, educational, and will be of considerable value to the graduate student taking a research course or to the health-care provider who just wants to better understand the methodology behind the studies published in professional journals. Perhaps the most significant value of this book lies in its potential to inspire audiologists to answer the interesting clinical questions they ask each day through the processes associated with human research.