Form and Refine the Research Question

This section provides resources on the different types of research questions and tools for forming a good research question. A research question guides an inquiry to create knowledge, whereas a clinical question guides the search for existing knowledge that can be applied to practice. Your research question might arise from a clinical question. 

After skimming the literature, you may find that this area has been well investigated.  You might then shift your question and literature search again. The next step will be to further focus your question and consider a pilot and feasibility study to help you refine your main research question for your full-scale research project.

Recommended Resources

Feasibility and Pilot Studies

Pilot studies are an excellent way to assess the feasibility of a large, expensive full-scale study by providing preliminary evidence on the clinical efficacy of a drug or intervention. Conducting a pilot study prior to the main study can enhance the likelihood of success of the main study and avoid unsuccessful ones.  

  • Presentation: Moving your research from idea to action: A hands-on exercise to map out a pilot study by Drs. Dee Mangin and Michelle Howard, Spring Retreat [Slides | Video]
  • Journal Article: Thabane, L., Ma, J., Chu, R., Cheng, J., Ismaila, A., Rios, L. P., … & Goldsmith, C. H. (2010). A tutorial on pilot studies: the what, why and howBMC medical research methodology10(1), 1-10.

Quality Improvement Studies

Implementation and Evaluation

*DFM faculty members can access full text articles from the McMaster Health Sciences Library using your MacID. To request your MacID, or if you’re having issues, please email Faculty Relations at

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