Three types of research involved in the process of developing new drugs are safe and effective for patients. These different types of research range from scientific experiments in the laboratory to studying long-term effects of a medication in patients.

  • Basic science research collects data to develop knowledge, theories or predictions. The focus is to expand knowledge. This provides the basis for improving our understanding of diseases at the molecular, cellular and organ levels. It is also a source for developing new research tools, models and techniques. Basic science research involves laboratory studies often with chemicals, cell cultures or animal models.
  • Clinical research is patient-oriented research in humans. Patient-oriented research may include studying mechanisms of human disease, therapeutic interventions, clinical trials, epidemiology and behavioral studies, and health outcomes research including patient registry studies. This research looks at people, patient data, or biological biospecimens to understand health and disease and address critical medical needs that can impact human health and improve the lives of pateints.  Learn more about clinical trials and how they work. 
  • Translational research bridges the gap between basic science research and clinical research by taking discoveries from the laboratory and applying it to solve a real-world problem. Translational research transforms basic research results into new potential diagnostic tools, procedures or therapies that can then studied in humans in a clinical setting. For example, it may involve animal models to test the effectiveness and safety of a potential new therapy before it is tested in humans. Translational research may also involve studies to adopt best practice guidelines within the community such as cost-effectiveness studies between different treatment strategies.

Types of Research Data

  • Primary: Primary data is generated first-hand by researchers through direct experiments, interviews, surveys or other resources.
  • Secondary: Secondary data is information previously collected by someone else for other purposes and available through other sources.
  • Descriptive or observational: Descriptive or observational data describes and expands knowledge about a topic. Descriptive research observes and measures data about a topic to identify characteristics, trends or correlations.
  • Experimental: Experimental data is generated in a controlled setting where variables are manipulated to determine cause and effect.
  • Qualitative: Qualitative data is collected through a process of questioning to gather more information about a problem or issue in a natural setting through conversation and non-numerical and non-statistical means. These often involve researchers asking participants open-ending questions of a small sample size of 10 or fewer people.

Methods used in qualitative research include:

  • One-to-one interview. The researcher conducts the interview with one participant at a given point in time asking questions prepared in advance.
  • Focus groups. Focus groups are small groups usually of 6-10 participants who are knowledgeable in a specific subject area. The group discussion is led by a moderator.
  • Ethnographic research. This research method involves observing people in their natural environment instead of conducting interviews.
  • Case study. A case study in an in-depth intensive, systematic study about an individual or a group over a specific time. It may be presented as a subjective narrative or include more objective measurements. Results of a case study, while useful for generating/testing hypotheses and sharing information on a novel approach or patient diagnosis, cannot be generalized to a broader population.
  • Quantitative: Quantitative data is collected in a structured way through measured variables to draw conclusions to explain or predict an observation. Quantitative research methods use computational and statistical processes to collect and analyze data. Quantitative research involves larger populations to get more detailed and accurate results. This research message uses closed-ended questions to get statistical results. Since data is collected and analyzed statistically, the results are more objective and accurate.

Methods used in quantitative research include:

  • Survey research. Surveys, questionnaires and polls, often online, are used for data collection as an approach to reach a large group of people.
  • Correlation research. Correlation research looks at the relationship between two or more variables using mathematical analysis methods. Patterns, relationships and trends between variables can be observed. However, variables do not need to be interdependent to be correlative.
  • Experimental research. Experimental research involves directly generating data through experimentation to prove or disprove a proposed theory that has not been tested in the past.