How to do research?

As soon as we take up the master’s degree course in any field of dentistry, research work is an important part of the curriculum. One of my teachers used to say that “research is what you are giving back to the subject”. This statement is exactly correct. This is because research work starts when we understand the fundamentals of our subject and there remain some questions in our mind which still need to be answered. Personally you can treat only one patient but with your research work you can indirectly treat many patients. Delivering the best of dental treatment to our patients is our duty.  Mostly Randomized controlled trials are used in clinical studies. An informative and detailed description regarding Randomized controlled trials has been given by Pihlstrom et al 1 recently. Here are some guidelines, which shall help you out with your research work

Finding out the research topic:

It is most important step while going for research work. In periodontics there is a lot of research work going on. So, first step is a lot of reading. Take all the recent journals and note down all the fields where current research is going on. But, it does not mean that you cannot do research on an entirely new topic. There are many research topics which require a pioneer work. You can also take help of your senior colleagues who are already into the field of research. In the section of “recent research” i have tried to provide you the information regarding recent research topics.

Feasibility of research:

Second step after choosing the research topic is to make a study design in your mind and check out if the materials are available to you and method can be practically executed. Various studies require biochemical, microbiological and immunological techniques. Presently our research work has done to the molecular levels. So, you should inquire first about whether all the equipment required for study is available to you.

Designing a study:

A study should be scientifically sound. What i mean to say is that you should check out all the flaws that might lead to incorrect results. Most of the clinical studies have a split mouth design in which in the same patient one quadrant is treated with standard procedure and other quadrant with experimental procedure. Try to make as many as variables constant, for example periodontal condition of patients enrolled into the study, age of the patients, systemic condition of the patients etc.

Another popular study design is randomized controlled trials (RCT’s). Here, one patient group acts as a control and other as experimental. The patients are matched to make variables like age, sex, systemic condition, smoking etc. constant. A cross over design can be used to make experimental group control and vice versa.

Many studies utilize molecular methods like DNA based tests and immunological tests. These studies require high end laboratories which can accurately perform the procedure.  Usually, these tests are done to find out presence or absence of pathogenic micro-organisms in the subgingival microbiota from a diseased patient.

It must be remembered that most of the clinical studies require follow up of the patient for duration of time ranging from 3 months to 1 year or longer. Therefore, patient must be kept on scheduled visits for re assessment.

Collecting the data:

After the study has been carried out the findings should be recorded accurately. Sometimes we get a significant difference between control and experimental group results and sometimes not. Here it is important to understand the difference between statistically significant and clinically significant results. Clinically significant results are appreciable clinically in the patient whereas statistically significant are not always clinically appreciable in the patient. Statistics is an inseparable part of data analysis. All the results are then subjected to statistical analysis and the results are compiled.

Publishing research: 

Next step is to publish your research work so that it is available for reading. Research papers are written according to the requirements of different journals. Usually, journals have different methods of putting references in the research paper. It may be in alphabetical manner or according to the occurrence from starting till the end of the paper. Along with this the prescribed word limit should be met.

Keeping in mind all the above factors, a research can be designed. Many recent research topics have been discussed briefly in the “Recent research” section. 


  1. Pihlstrom BL, Curran AE, Voelker HT, Kingman A. Randomized controlled trials: what are they and who needs them? Periodontol 2000 2012: 59: 14–31.

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