Tips for Staying on Track

By Philip M. Hahn, MSc

As you have no doubt already recognized, your biggest obstacle to successfully completing a research project wull likely be finding the time [1-3]. Here are some tips for staying on track to finish a research project.

1. Carving out one or more blocks of protected time is key [1]. Use this time to develop your research proposal and start off o the right foot. Additional blocks of time can be used for data collection, analysis or write-up.

2. If you are in a two or three year program, consider a study design that will allow you to finish on time, such as a medical record review or practice audit, for which data should be comparatively easy to access and for which an expedited ethics review might be feasible.

3. If you are in a longer program, such as a five year medical or surgical specialty, consider the following timelines and milestones.
  • In your first year, introduce yourself to the basic concepts of research methodology by taking a dedicated course or intensive workshop. Identify a research supervisor.
  • Identify a methodological specialist to help you develop your research question, study design and research protocol in your second year. Submit your study for ethics approval and funding opportunities. If you are conducting a clinical trial, register the trial before you begin.
  • Collect and analyze your data, and then present your findings locally, nationally, or beyond by the end of your third or fourth year.
  • Begin drafting your manuscript, aiming for completing in year four,
  • Submit your manuscript to a suitable journal early in year five, leaving your final term free to prepare for your certification exam and life after graduation.

1. Chan RK, Lockyer J. Hutchison C. Block to succeed: the Canadian orthopedic resident research experience. Can J Surg. 2009;52(3):187-95.
2. Silcox LC, Ashbury TL, VanDenKerkhof EG, Milne B. Residents' and program directors' attittudes toward research during anesthesiology training: a Canadian perspective. Anesth Analg. 2006;102(3):859-64.
3. Gill S, Levin A, Djurdjev O, Yoshida EM. Obstacles to residents' conducting research and predictors of publication. Acad Med. 2001;76(5):477.