Planning and study design

There are a number of sources of advice for designing research studies. Those in universities and NHS organisations should contact their local institutional research office.

In England, you may be able to obtain advice on research methodology, statistics and protocol design from the NIHR Research Design Services.

Whether your project has been developed within or outside the UK there are a few key things to make sure your project runs smoothly. These include:

Systematic review

The HRA recommends that researchers consult systematic reviews to assess the appropriateness of research ideas before embarking on new research projects; please see also our view on research transparency.

Public and Patient Involvement

Involving the public in your research design and development has been shown to have a positive effect on your project through making research more relevant and improving quality.

If you can demonstrate that you have involved the public in your research you are more likely to:

  1. Avoid requests for changes to participant information sheets
  2. Reassure the Research Ethics Committee that the research respects the rights, safety and dignity of participants
  3. Be able to recruit and retain participants

More information about the possible benefits of involving the public in research and the forms that this involvement make take is provided in our public involvement in research resource webpage  [internal link]

Study Title

The HRA recommends that you use the standard format for study titles to help improve transparency and consistency for health research.

Research summary

You should write a research summary of less than 300 words that is relevant and understandable to the public. This summary forms part of your application in the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) and should be used in research registers to describe your project. It is important that you refer to the available guidance when developing your research summary as it is a key point of reference during the review process, particularly for Research Ethics Committees, and it is this summary that will be published.

Specific research issues

Make sure you check the relevant guidance in our Resources for issues relevant to your study, e.g. ionising radiation, human tissue, gene therapy, phase I, use of confidential patient information without consent.


The research team should be appropriately trained for the research activities they are involved in. See our statement on research training.