Your Research Project

We provide services and information for obtaining ethics approval and local institutional approval for your research project.

Search the Literature

Use the UBC on-line library or the Electronic Health Library of BC to find the information you need. If you are not familiar with these resources, ask a librarian for help. You can also go to the list of subject guides, compiled by UBC librarians, classified by subject. Choose your area of interest from the list.

Other Resources

What should you read?

Read the most recent review you can find. Use OVID or Pubmed to do a thorough literature search on your topic of interest and read as much of the recent material as you can. Find the recent publications of authors of work directly relevant to you, and scan the recent issues of the journals that publish work in your area. Keep up to date with those authors and journals throughout the preparation of your project proposal and beyond.

What's the Research Question?

You've made a clinical observation that leads to a question you would like to answer. Formulate the question as clearly as you can, making sure you understand exactly what patient population you are interested in and what result(s) are important. Your question will help you choose the type of method you will use.

Criteria for a good research question.

After you have determined your question, do a literature search again to verify your question. Consider the ethical implications of your question before you go too far. Be sure you aren't proposing something for which ethics approval will be difficult to obtain.

'Finer' Criteria for a Good Research Question

  • Feasible
    • Adequate technical expertise.
    • Affordable in time and money
    • Manageable in scope.
  • Interesting
  • Novel
    • Extends previous findings.
    • Provides new findings.
  • Ethical
  • Relevant
    • To clinical and health policy.
    • To future research directions.
Build a Research Team

You will probably need a team of colleagues to undertake a research project. You can build your team at any point during the planning stage of your project, but it is better to start early. Here are some tips on teambuilding:

Teambuilding Tips

  • Find an experienced researcher who shares your interests. As a novice, you will certainly need someone to guide you and lend credibility to the process.
  • Look for colleagues from several disciplines, if possible. Although not mandatory, working with other disciplines can enrich the project. Further, funding opportunities may be better.
  • Every team needs a leader. Be sure everyone on the team is clear on who that is, but be sure to listen to the ideas and suggestions of everyone on the team.
  • Document the responsibilities of each member of the team.
  • Early in the process, decide on authorship of publication(s) that will result from your work. Arguments about authorship afterward can leave lasting animosities.
  • Even if some people you approach aren't able to be part of your team, ask them if they could be consultants on your project. If they have expertise that is important to your success, they may be willing to offer advice and serve as a knowledgeable reader of your proposal. Get any commitments in writing.
  • Make sure the size of your team and the locations and working schedules of the members makes meetings practical.
  • After the team is established, you may want to revisit the research question.


The Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation has consultants to help with your research projects. Here are other resources for Methodology / Statistics support:

Meet with a Consultant

After you are thoroughly versed in the relevant literature and you have a clear research question, you should meet with a consultant. Research Consulting Services are available for investigators at VCH. Ask a methodologist or statistician to help you with your project.

Guidelines for Being a Good Client

  • Know your question. When you begin to think about a research problem, it is useful to construct your question as a hypothesis. State the research question in as exact terms as you can. Be very specific about your outcome measures, and understand the clinical significance of the result: What result would make you (and your colleagues) change your clinical practice?
  • Seek the help you need right at the beginning of your project. Never gather data and then expect help from a statistician and/or methodologist to make sense of it all, or tell you whether the result is 'significant' or not.
Obtain Grant Funding

Begin to prepare your grant at least 3 months in advance of the deadline date. Give yourself 6 months if you are a novice and/or there are many people who will contribute to the proposal. Note that CIHR applications require submission of an Intent to Apply one month in advance of the grant deadline.

Write a two page outline of your project.

Circulate it among all team members, as well as an expert in the field who is not involved. This should be straightforward as you have already clearly defined your question and done your literature search. Make sure the methods and significance of your project are very clear.

Ethics Approval and Approval to Conduct Research

In order to start your research project you will need Ethics Approval and VCH Approvals to Conduct Research. The UBC Office of Research Ethics provides you with all of the information you will need to understand the Ethics Process.

In addition, the Clinical Research Unit at VCH Research Institute can assist you with your approval process.

VCH Approval to Conduct Research

Everything you need to know to obtain VCH Operational Approval of Research is explained in this section. All of the required forms are also linked here.

Have Your Grant Pre-Reviewed Before it Goes to the Agency

Ask someone who is not an expert in the field to read it and comment. Give them plenty of time to do it, and give yourself time to revise before the deadline.

REDCap system

An electronic data capture and survey tool (REDCap) is available for VCHRI researchers at no cost. Click here for more information.

Other Useful Resources

Research Resources

  • Clinical Research Professional Development (CRPD) Program. The CRPD is an education initiative led by a group of individuals committed to developing a program that supports the professional development of clinical research coordinators from the Lower Mainland's teaching hospitals' research institutes.  For information on upcoming CRPD events see the VCH Research Education Workshops webpage or page 5 in the CRPD Resources.
  • Nursing Research Facilitator. VCH and PHC welcome Aggie Black, RN, MPH, our new Nursing Research Facilitator. Please click here to read more about this new role.
  • CIHR has three knowledge translation online learning modules that are now freely available on the CIHR knowledge translation website. The three modules: A Guide to Researcher and Knowledge User Collaboration in Health Research, Introduction to Evidence-Informed Decision Making and Critical Appraisal of Intervention Studies.
  • Free e-books for doctors and others.
  • CIHR's homepage. A link to everything a Researcher needs from "what to apply for" to "final decisions" all on one page. Visit CIHR homepage now!
  • Resources for nursing and other health disciplines.