Research Paper Level Of Evidence Of Research

Case report / Case series: A report on a series of patients with an outcome of interest. No control group is involved.

Case control study: A study which involves identifying patients who have the outcome of interest (cases) and patients without the same outcome (controls), and looking back to see if they had the exposure of interest.

Cohort study: Involves identification of two groups (cohorts) of patients, one which received the exposure of interest, and one which did not, and following these cohorts forward for the outcome of interest.

Randomized controlled clinical trial: Participants are randomly allocated into an experimental group or a control group and followed over time for the variables/outcomes of interest.

Systematic review: A summary of the medical literature that uses explicit methods to perform a comprehensive literature search and critical appraisal of individual studies and that uses appropriate statistical techniques to combine these valid studies.

Meta-analysis: A systematic review that uses quantitative methods to synthesize and summarize the results.

Meta-synthesis: A systematic approach to the analysis of data across qualitative studies. -- EJ Erwin, MJ Brotherson, JA Summers. Understanding Qualitative Meta-synthesis. Issues and Opportunities in Early Childhood Intervention Research, 33(3) 186-200.

Cross sectional study: The observation of a defined population at a single point in time or time interval. Exposure and outcome are determined simultaneously.

Prospective, blind comparison to a gold standard: Studies that show the efficacy of a diagnostic test are also called prospective, blind comparison to a gold standard study. This is a controlled trial that looks at patients with varying degrees of an illness and administers both diagnostic tests — the test under investigation and the “gold standard” test — to all of the patients in the study group. The sensitivity and specificity of the new test are compared to that of the gold standard to determine potential usefulness.

Qualitative research: answers a wide variety of questions related to human responses to actual or potential health problems.The purpose of qualitative research is to describe, explore and explain the health-related phenomena being studied.

Retrospective cohort: follows the same direction of inquiry as a cohort study.  Subjects begin with the presence or absence of an exposure or risk factor and are followed until the outcome of interest is observed.  However, this study design uses information that has been collected in the past and kept in files or databases.  Patients are identified for exposure or non-exposures and the data is followed forward to an effect or outcome of interest.

(Adapted from CEBM's Glossary and Duke Libraries' Intro to Evidence-Based Practice)

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