Protocol development: structuring your ideas

Ultimately this will be an assessed piece of work.

There is a compulsory Tuesday workshop to help you to understand what is required and to enable you to develop the skills you need to meet the requirement.
Before putting pen to paper, make sure that you have read adequately and discussed ideas with staff.

Work out exactly what you are aiming for and “own” the work. You can only do this if your protocol is based on an explicit and clear aim and set of realistic objectives. There is a tendency for people to be far too ambitious in what they can achieve. It is better to do a smaller in-depth study rather than a larger superficial one. These must be important in a public health or epidemiological context. The aim and objectives you develop will give you a framework to work to, and will shape the whole dissertation.

Step 1: decide on your general area of study and then develop ... 

  • a very specific aim – the overall question you will set out to answer

Step 2: is based on your aim, and goes on to list ...

  • a very specific set of objectives – what you need to find out to answer the question. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not always easy to sort these out, but time spent doing so will be well spent. Rigorous planning of these key elements at this very early stage can prevent much wasted time later.

Step 3: decide on the methods you will use to meet your aim and objectives. 

  • The best method to use is always the one (or more) that helps you to meet your aim and objectives. Therefore, you will not be able to decide on the method you will adopt until you have a clear aim and associated objectives. At this point you will need to read much more around your chosen method to ensure that you apply it rigorously and are familiar with terminology.
  • If you are planning to collect your own data studies you can use just one in-depth method. Using 2 may be feasible, but more than this may well be beyond the scope of what is needed.

You are now ready to write a protocol (or plan) for your project.