The nuts & bolts to get started on a research project
What is research?
In the Code of Federal Regulations (45 CFR 46.102(d)) pertaining to the protection of human subjects, research is defined as: “A systematic investigation (i.e., the gathering and analysis of information) designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.”
The National Academy of Sciences states that the objective of research is to “extend human knowledge of the physical, biological, or social world beyond what is already known.”
How do I start thinking about a research project?
A research project may arise from a question or idea you have, or you may have the opportunity to participate in research that a faculty member has already started. Most research projects have at their core a hypothesis, a proposal that serves as a starting point for an investigation made on the basis of limited prior evidence. To start a project, you should (a) have a thorough knowledge of the subject, (b) have read prior information, especially research studies, on the topic, and (c) come up with a question whose answer will improve upon this knowledge.
Research projects require a faculty mentor from Radiology or another department. You may find a topic of interest from among those posted by the Radiology faculty. If you have your own hypothesis to propose, it is best to find a faculty member in the appropriate content area to act as a mentor.
What steps do I take to start a research project at Dartmouth Hitchcock?
- Review prior research on the topic
- Develop a hypothesis for the study
- Determine what resources you will need for the study
- Mentors & other key personnel
- Database access
- Draft your research proposal using this Research Template
- Consult with Radiology Research Coordinator (Tracy Frazee)
- If funding or access to Radiology Clinical equipment is needed, consult with Supervisor of Clinical Research Programs (Karen Ness).
- Complete the Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) training requirements. Options include:
- LCPHS conducts in person training sessions monthly (see website)
- Online training available through CITI (Collaborative IRB Training Initiative)- Select the Group 1 Biomedical Basic Course (see website)
- Dartmouth CPHS Website
- Consider consulting expert help for project design and statistics (see Vice Chair of Research)
- Submit project proposal to CPHS
- Pursue the necessary funding.
The CPHS process
All research that involves human subjects or animals, including retrospective use of data from human subjects, requires review and approval from our Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB for Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock is the Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS).
Some quality improvement (QI) projects do not have to be submitted to the CPHS, particularly if the project is just for internal quality improvement and you are never going to present or publish the results outside of Dartmouth Hitchcock. If you are uncertain, click the worksheet below and answer the questions that will help to determine if your project should be considered research or QI. Even if you determine that you are working on a QI project, please check with the departmental research coordinator (Tracy Frazee) before proceeding.
For projects that have to be submitted to CPHS, there are different categories of IRB review:
- Exempt from further CPHS review: Survey and interviews to which the identity of the participant can be linked but the information obtained is innocuous. Disclosure of this information would NOT reasonably place the participant at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the participant's financial standing, employability, or reputation. Determination that a research project is exempt from review is made by the CPHS.
- Expedited review: This level of review applies to research involving only minimal risk. Minimal risk is defined as a risk level similar to risks encountered in daily life.
- Full Committee Review: Any study that does not meet criteria for exempt or expedited review
Most retrospective data review studies fall into the expedited review category.
After planning your research project and writing out a brief proposal, the next step is to contact the Radiology Research Coordinator Tracy Frazee (firstname.lastname@example.org). She can answer most questions, help you to determine what type of review you need, provide guidance on research design, and will prepare and submit the regulatory documents.
Many research projects require funding to pay for equipment, software, imaging time, and personnel. There are many sources of funding.
Small amounts of funding may be obtained from the Radiology Department. In general, this money is intended to act as seed funding to get projects started and is usually in amounts of 5K or less. To access this funding submit your IRB-approved proposal along with a line item account of specific funding requests to the Vice Chair for Radiology Research. These requests are reviewed by the Radiology Research Committee and sent to the Department Chair for final approval.
Somewhat larger amounts of money are available through institutional grants. These include:
- Hitchcock Foundation Grants: Intended to fund pilot projects. Usually <30K.
- Synergy Pilot Grants: Innovative interdisciplinary projects with clinical potential. 20-50K
- Norris Cotton Cancer Center Grants: Funding of various types available for oncology projects.
National organizations offer funding for larger projects. These include disease-specific organizations like the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and the federal government.
Research Resources & Contacts
Radiology Department Contacts
- Tracy E. Frazee, Research Coordinator: Tracy.E.Frazee@hitchcock.org
- Karen Ness, Supervisor, Clinical Research Programs: Karen.S.Ness@dartmouth.edu
- Clifford J. Eskey, MD, PhD: Vice Chair, Research: Clifford.J.Eskey@hitchcock.org
- Synergy is Dartmouth’s primary organization to provide assistance to researchers. They provide consultation services in biostatistics, bioinformatics, study design, epidemiology, and ethics. https://synergy.dartmouth.edu
Clinically Oriented Academic Radiology Department Research Initiative (COARDRI)
- COARDRI is a multi-institutional effort to promote academic productivity among clinically-oriented radiology departments. They offer a mechanism to pair researchers with mentors at other institutions and foster collaborative research efforts. https://www.coardri.org