Clear, Crisp and pellucid explanation of general Research Methodology with a sample project analysis. Very helpful to beginners like me doing MPhil programme. Thanks to the author for making it in public domain. - Kalivaradhan
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RESEARCH METHODS Dr. Shamanthakamani Narendran M.D.(Pead), Ph.D. (Yoga Science) How What Why ?
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INTRODUCTION Nowadays there is an increasing interest in using non pharmacological (alternative) modes for ailments which are known to be caused by stress induced changes in the mental state. However, though there are not yet accepted by the medical community, in India or elsewhere. For this reason the clinical progress has to be systematically monitored, using methods which are acceptable the world over.
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Research into the therapeutic efficacy of alternative medical treatments is a very new field. This means that there is a great deal to be done. Broadly, there are three types of research projects: <ul><li>Understanding the physiological effects of a treatment by carrying out tests on normal, healthy volunteers. </li></ul><ul><li>Monitoring the clinical progress of two matched groups of patients, where one group would be given a conventional treatment and the other group would receive the unconventional treatment under investigation. </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding the way in which the treatment acts, again by carrying out tests on normal, healthy volunteers. </li></ul>
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PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS ON NORMAL VOLUNTEERS <ul><li>What effects non conventional treatments? </li></ul><ul><li>Many treatments have been systematically described in ancient texts. </li></ul><ul><li>This is specially true for yoga practices; however, many of the reported effects have not been verified by present day scientific methods. </li></ul><ul><li>It would be ideal to know how these techniques modify normal physiology, before using any of these technique for therapeutic benefit. </li></ul>
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MONITORING THE CLINICAL PROGRESS <ul><li>All patients receiving non conventional treatment have to be carefully monitored. </li></ul><ul><li>The assessments should be done on a parallel group of patients receiving conventional treatment. </li></ul><ul><li>The parameters should be recorded using standard methods and under controlled conditions. </li></ul><ul><li>It is also important to remember that the treatments should also be standardized so that all patients receive exactly the same of treatment. </li></ul><ul><li>Eg: If a specific pranayama is ‘prescribed’ for a particular disease, all patients should practice the pranayama with the same counts for the same amount of time. </li></ul>
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UNDERSTANDING “HOW” A PARTICULAR TREATMENT ACTS <ul><li>For any unconventional treatment to be accepted by the medical community the world over, the exact change brought about by the treatment has to be known. </li></ul><ul><li>In this report the way in which a research project is planned and the parameters which are conventionally employed to assess psychosomatic ailments are discussed. </li></ul><ul><li>* = here, ‘treatment’ is used to convey unconventional or alternative treatment. </li></ul>
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PLANNING A RESEARCH PROJECT Most research projects begin with an idea or a question about something. <ul><li>From the question a hypothesis should be framed. Eg., if the question is does smoking influence memory? The hypothesis may be that the smoking improves the ability to remember . </li></ul><ul><li>Once the hypothesis has been framed, we should determine whether anyone else has conducted a study earlier, to answer the same question. </li></ul><ul><li>For this, a thorough review of the existing scientific literature has to be carried out. Nowadays, computer networks make this quick and thorough. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>In case such facilities are not available, another source is compilations of all publications in scientific journals, indexed under appropriate ‘key words.’ these compilations include publications such as Cumulated Index Medicus, Psychological Abstracts, Dissertation Abstracts. </li></ul><ul><li>In case we find out that someone else has carried out the same study and found an answer to the question, it may turn out that a new question arisen. This new question may then form the basis of the research project and once more a thorough literature survey has to be carried out. In case no earlier study has been conducted, then this is the GO AHEAD signal for the project to begin. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>Usually it is best to begin with exploratory studies . For this we may rely on observation. In the example given above (smoking versus memory), we may find that smokers say that they are able to remember things better just after having a cigarette. They may also say that they have noticed a deterioration in their overall ability to remember ever since they started smoking. With this suggestion of short term benefits and long term harm to the memory with smoking we would be ready to begin the next stage. </li></ul><ul><li>Pilot studies use objective quantifiable data to test the hypothesis in small numbers of persons. A pilot study often gives important insights into the modifications which may be needed in the actual project, to be carried out on large numbers of person. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>To begin with the sample to be studied has to be decided upon. As far as possible bias should be avoided. I.e., the study should not exclude certain subjects, unless there exclusion forms part of the criteria for selection. This is better understood with an example. If a study is conducted to find out the physiological effects of exercise on ‘white collar workers.’ hence ‘white collar workers’ is an unbiased criterion for selection. The findings of such a study would possibly be inapplicable to manual laborers. If only those white collar workers who enjoy physical activity are selected, then this becomes a biased sample. The various factors which may influence the selection of the sample (i.e., unbiased criteria for selection) differ from one study to another. They also have to be mentioned when reporting the study. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>E.g., if a study is conducted on the memory in a sample of school children, one of the criteria for selection may be children who speak English , if the test material is written in English. </li></ul><ul><li>Another important point is the DESIGN OF THE STUDY . This has been described further on, in detail. Briefly, the study design includes factors such as the controls used, as well as the type and number of followup assessments to be done. </li></ul><ul><li>The conditions under which assessments should be made have to be clearly understood. E.g., in the case of a recording of the BMR, the required conditions are already clearly specified (i.e. 12 hours after a meal, after 6-8 hours of rest, etc.). It is also equally important that if two BMR recordings have to be compared, the environmental conditions should also be comparable. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>The project has to be periodically (in the beginning perhaps everyday) reviewed. This will allow modifications to be made if needed – in the very beginning. </li></ul><ul><li>After data collection is complete, the analysis has to carried out. Statistical tests – and their basis for selection, have been discussed further on. </li></ul><ul><li>With the statistical analysis of the data complete, we are able to know whether the hypothesis has been proved or not. At this stage we can also make inferences about how the changes or lack of them – may have occurred. </li></ul><ul><li>The final stage is compiling a report/paper so that our findings can be read and understood by the scientific community, in general. </li></ul>
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Planning a research project Ask a question? Literature FREQUENT REVIEW Data taking Design Parameters available /not Data analysis Question answered Report/ Ask next question Y N Y N
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DESIGN OF THE STUDY <ul><li>It is essential to first plan exactly when the monitoring will take place. Of course it is obvious that patients should be monitored before beginning the treatment, so that we have a clear picture of how they were to begin with. This is called the baseline data . </li></ul><ul><li>The next question is after how much time of receiving treatment should we carry out a second assessment, to determine the effects of treatment. There is no fixed answer for this. Sometimes we may want to see the immediate or early effects of a treatment – a relief measure for pain should produce results soon, if it is to be of any use. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>In such cases, we may check the ‘pain level’ immediately before given treatment X and also carry on monitoring immediately after. In may cases we are concerned with long term effects. Hence in the example given above, we may be more concerned to know whether after giving treatment X to a patient, the patient’s ability to tolerate pain improves over a period of time. This would involve noting the pain tolerance before treatment and then following the progress of the patient closely, over a long period of time. Most studies on patients receiving alternative therapies require this type of follow up. The duration of follow up varies according to the type of treatment begin assessed, the disease, parameters of assessment, and particular difficulties. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>All researches know that following up patients is often a very difficult part of the study. It is specially difficult if patients meet the doctor at an outpatient clinic rather than being admitted to the hospital. Often assessments are made several times, at varying followup intervals . </li></ul><ul><li>Suppose an asthma patient shows a dramatic improvement in lung functions after a particular treatment given for a fixed period. While this seems to be encouraging, there are possibilities that the followup assessment was made during a season which is usually ‘good’ for that patient. This would mean that it was the change in season, and not the treatment which has caused the change. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>For this reason assessments have to be done simultaneously on the patients who are receiving the treatment as well as on another group of patients who are not receiving treatment, but in other ways (age, sex, duration and severity of illness) are the same as the ‘treatment’ group. </li></ul><ul><li>Choosing a ‘ control’ group is not easy. Sometimes, the ‘self as control’ design is chosen. In these studies the subject is studied in two situations, duing an experimental period and also during a comparable control period. </li></ul><ul><li>An example makes this easy to understand. A subject may be assessed during the practice of meditation (experimental period) and also during quiet rest (control period) </li></ul>
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Design <ul><li>More often two separate groups of subjects (experimental and control) are followed up at the same time. </li></ul><ul><li>Parallel controls </li></ul><ul><li>Self as control </li></ul><ul><li>Cross over </li></ul>e c e 1 2 3 1 2 3 e group c group 3 assessments 2 * cross over
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A Random Matched Controlled Study First Method <ul><li>Ideally the two groups should match very closely, with regard to age, sex, duration and severity of illness, and treatment already taken. Sometimes patients are carefully matched for the selected criteria and then randomly assigned to the two – experimental and control – groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Matched patients to form pairs </li></ul>2. Randomly assign one of each pair to either group 3. Carry out assessments
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Otherwise data may be collected on large groups of patients, who are randomly assigned to the groups without first finding an exact match for them. A Random Matched Controlled Study Second Method <ul><li>Randomly assign patients to either group </li></ul>2. Carry out assessments 3. Based on selected criteria, match patients to form pairs – one of each group Experimental Control Experimental Control Cannot be matched (leftover)
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In this way at the end of the study you have data collected on large numbers of patients in two groups, who have not been ‘matched’ already. At this stage, keeping the selected criteria in mind, patients in the groups may be matched and the data used for analysis. Of course there will be patients in both groups whose age/duration of illness, etc., does not exactly match that of any patient in the other group. These data cannot be used for analysis. The first method – of matching patients first and then randomly assigning one of the pair to either group, is best suited to a situation wherein a fixed number of patients are beginning treatment at the same time.
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<ul><li>In the second method, patients are randomly assigned to either group, data taking is completed, and the experimenter – retrospectively, in a sense – checks the details (age, etc.) of the patients, and finds matched pairs in the two groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Where the patients of one group cannot be matched with any patient of the other group, the data cannot be included in the ‘controlled’ study. </li></ul><ul><li>This second method is generally used when the patients come at different times to the doctor or to the treatment center. </li></ul><ul><li>Hence the first method may be used when assessing patient who come for a ‘therapy camp’, while the second method is appropriate for the usual situation in a hospital. </li></ul>
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In studies making use of ‘alternative’ therapies, another question becomes important. Most of these treatments are thought to bring about their therapeutic benefit by modifying the functioning of the mind. For this reason a very important factor is motivation . In psychosomatic ailments especially, feeling optimistic would definitely, hasten recovery. It is obvious that patients in the ‘treatment’ group would have motivation. The main difficulty with the control group is that it is difficult to have subjects who are motivated to receive alternative therapy, but who are not actually receiving the treatment.
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A possible solution is to design a study to compare the effects of two alternative therapies, so that – for example – one group receives yoga therapy, while the other group receives naturopathy treatments. Sometimes this may not be possible. Another alternative may be to compare two types of yoga (or naturopathy) treatments. In such a study, one group of patients may be given relaxing and slowing down practices, while the other group practices ‘stimulating’ practices. In all cases an important issue is assigning subjects to either group . This is best done randomly .
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<ul><li>This is done in very simple ways - </li></ul><ul><li>The experimenter writes the words ‘experimental’ and ‘control’ on two different pieces of paper. Then, when a fresh patient comes for treatment, the experimenter picks up any slip of paper – like a ‘lucky dip.’ Depending on the word that is written on the paper – experimental/control – the patient is assigned to the group. </li></ul><ul><li>Another way is by randomly deciding that patients with certain serial numbers are assigned to one group, while patients with the remaining serial numbers are part of the other group. </li></ul>
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The type of design is a random matched controlled study. Most studies which are done on medicine are double blind and placebo controlled . These two terms refer to additional checks which are used to make the results as free of bias as possible. Double blind means that both the subjects and the experimenter are not aware of the treatment which has been given to the subject. This may be done in different ways. The common method for a trial on tablets is to use two tablets which look identical. One of them is the actual , medically active drug, while the other may be a ‘harmless pill’, which has not physiological effects.
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The harmless pill is called a placebo . In a double blind study neither the patient nor the experimenter would know whether the tablet given was a placebo or not. This information would be kept by another person, to be used in the final interpretation of the results. This design reduces the bias of both the patient and the experimenter. With some of the non pharmacologic treatments, however, it is usually not possible to have a double blind, placebo controlled study. The reason is that these treatments usually require the active participation of the patient. For example, a patient who is practicing asanas cannot be unaware that he is doing so. Also there is no question of there being a placebo for it.
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<ul><li>Pranayama was taken to mean breathing slowly and rhythmically, with inspiration and expiration being in the ratio of 1:2. </li></ul><ul><li>The experimenters had made a device which could regulate breathing in this way. It is easy to imagine that an identical device which did not change breathing at all, could be considered as a placebo . This was an exceptional study, and usually double blind, placebo controlled trials are not possible for these types of treatments which need the active participation of the patient. </li></ul>
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Some studies also introduce the cross over design. This would mean that the two groups would receive two different treatments for a fixed period. At the end of this period the groups would ‘swap’ treatments. Assessments would be made at least thrice, i.e., (1) in the beginning, (2) at the end of the first phase and before swapping, and (3) at the end of the second phase . This may be useful to compare the effects of two treatments on the same individual, and also to verify whether the order of giving the treatments influences the results.
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STATISTICS Statistical assessments are necessary to be able to understand whether the results obtained in a group of patients are of significance, and can be generalized to the general population. Before discussing the actual statistical tests a few definitions are needed. MEAN MEDIAN MODE + + + + Divided by 5 Arithmetic mean Midway, in ascending order Most frequent STATISTICAL AVERAGES
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<ul><li>Mean : Similar to what is generally understood as the ‘average’. This is obtained by first taking the sum of all the values and dividing the sum by the number of values . </li></ul><ul><li>Median : Average, but different kind. The values are first arranged in ascending or descending order. The value which is exactly in the ‘middle’ is called the median. </li></ul><ul><li>Mode : The value which occurs most often among a set of values. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>Standard deviation : A standard dictionary definition of ‘deviation’ is to swerve from the direct/main line . The standard deviation gives us an idea about how much each of a set of values differs from the average of a set. It is a measure of dispersal . </li></ul><ul><li>Probability : Denoted by lowercase Greek alpha or ‘P’ . It refers to the likelihood or the predictability of the observation repeating itself in the same way, if the experiment was performed many more times. It is also a way of understanding whether differences between sets of values may be applicable to larger numbers, i.e. to the population in general. </li></ul>
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<ul><li>To determine whether two sets of values are significantly different, or not. </li></ul><ul><li>Eg., the set of data taken before treatment compared with the set of data taken after treatment . </li></ul><ul><li>2. To determine whether two sets of data are related or not. </li></ul><ul><li>Eg., if the body weight and level of anxiety are correlated; i.e., whether a higher body weight – eg. Is always associated with a lower level of anxiety . </li></ul>Statistical tests may be carried out for two reasons.
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Statistical tests may be carried out for two reasons. Choosing the Correct Statistical Test Examine the Data What is the question begin asked Homogenous Equal SD Heterogenous Different SD Parametric Non Parametric Are the Two Sets Different? Are the Two Sets Correlated? Set “a” Set “b”
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Two Sets of Statistical Tests Statistical tests are two types, parametric and nonparametric . NONPARAMETRIC Spearman’s test PARAMETRIC Pearson’s test SET ‘b’ NONPARAMETRIC Wilcoxan’s test Mann Whitney test ANOVA (Kruskal – Wallis test) PARAMETRIC Paired t test t test (not paired) ANOVA (parametric) SET ‘a’
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<ul><li>The data have a normal distribution. This will be described below. </li></ul><ul><li>If we are comparing two sets of values the variance of each of the sets should be almost equal. The variance can be approximately understood from the standard deviation , which has been described above. Where these conditions are not fulfilled – i.e., data do not have a normal distribution and variances are not equal, nonparametric statistical tests are used. </li></ul>Statistical tests are two types, parametric and nonparametric . Parametric tests are usually indicated when
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A set of numbers is said to have a normal distribution if most of the numbers cluster around a particular value . Numbers very much lower or much higher than this value are either absent from the sample, or very few. This is shown by a bell shaped curve. NORMAL DISTRIBUTION Number In Each Interval Frequency Intervals NORMAL DISTRIBUTION
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Parametric tests are considered more powerful than nonparametric tests. Depending on which of the two questions are asked ( see below ), different tests are used. Question 1 – Are the two sets of values the same, or different. The tests which may be done are of two types as described above, viz. parametric and nonparametric . Question 2 – Are the two sets of data interrelated/correlated?
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<ul><li>Paired data . When data are obtained from the same individual on two occasions (e.g. before and after treatment), the two dat can be considered to form a pair. If the paired data fulfill the conditions for parametric tests, then a paired t test can be used. For paired data which require a nonparametric test, the Wilcoxan’s paired signed ranks test is used. </li></ul>Question 1 – Are the two sets of values the same, or different. The tests which may be done are of two types as described above, viz. parametric and nonparametric .
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(b) Unpaired data . When two sets of independent data are to be compared, the tests which are used for related data or paired data are not appropriate. For such independent data which fulfill the conditions needed for parametric tests, a t test for independent data is used. Whereas for independent data which require nonparametric analysis, the Mann Whitney U test is suitable. (c) Comparing more than two sets of data . When more than two sets of data are to be compared, the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) is used. Data which can be analyzed with parametric tests is analyzed with an ANOVA which is different from the nonparametric ANOVA used to analyze data which do not have a normal distribution and equal variances. The latter test is called Kruskal – Wallis test .
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As described above, there are two separate tests for data which have equal variance and normal distribution – a parametric test and for data which do not have a normal distribution and with unequal variance, a nonparametric test . The former is called Pearson’s Rank Correlation test , while the nonparametric correlation tests is Spearman’s Rank Correlation test . The paragraphs above are intended to help the researcher to select which test should be used to analyze different data samples. The actual tests are not described here. They are described in most statistics textbooks, along with formulae, and the precautions to be taken. Question 2 – Are the two sets of data interrelated/correlated?
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SUGGESTED READING Zar, J.H. (1984). Biostatistical Analysis . Second Edition. Prentice – Hall, New Jersey.
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PARAMETERS TO BE RECORDED FOR SPECIFIC DISEASES OBESITY The parameters to be recorded can be considered as three categories <ul><li>Parameters which are intended to monitor whether there is any change in the body weight. </li></ul><ul><li>Weight (in kg) recorded with indoor clothing and no footwear. A lever balance is the most accurate. </li></ul><ul><li>Height (in cm) is recorded, as the weight is considered in relation to the height. Usually height is recorded without footwear. The body is kept erect with the heels and the back of the head and buttocks in contact with the scale. </li></ul>
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Overweight is when an individual exceeds the upper limit of the full range for his/her height and obesity is defined as a weight of 120% or more above the upper limit = 100%. The Body Mass Index (BMI) or Quetelet’s index is calculated from the equation – weight in kg divided by the square of the height measured in meters. A BMI of 30 or more in males, or 28.6 or more in females would be indicative of obesity . 3. Wrist circumference (in cm) is recorded using a tape measure horizontally beyond the wrist bone, where the wrist bends.
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This is used to calculate the ratio between the height and wrist circumference (both in cm) to get an idea about body frame. If Height / Wrist circumference = r If r > 10.4 small frame (males) If r > 11.0 small frame (females) If r = 9.6-10.4 medium frame (males) If r = 10.1-11.0 medium frame (females) If r < 9.6 large frame (males) If r < 10.1 large frame (females)
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II. Regional fat distribution – <ul><li>Waist circumference is measured at the level of the umbilicus in the erect position. </li></ul><ul><li>Hip circumference is measured 4 cm below the anterior superior iliac spine (ie., the bony prominence at the front of the hip), with underclothing on. </li></ul><ul><li>A waist / hip circumference ration of more than 0.8 is considered hazardous. </li></ul><ul><li>Skinfold thickness is measured with a skinfold thickness calipers. This calipers is designed so that there is a constant pressure of 10g/sq.mm between the jaws of any position. The skinfold thickness is recorded at four sites on the right side: </li></ul><ul><li>[a] triceps, [b] biceps, [c] subscapular, & [d] suprailiac </li></ul>
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<ul><li>The skinfold which is grasped between the thumb and forefinger includes two thickness of the skin and subcutaneous fat, but no muscle. The caliper is placed 1 cm above or below the finger midway between the upper and lower end of the skinfold . </li></ul><ul><li>Body density – for men, </li></ul><ul><li>Density = 1.161 – 0.0632* X +/- 0.0069 </li></ul><ul><li>Where X = sum of skinfold thickness at all 4 sites in mm, and is the sign for multiplication. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For women, Density = 1.1581 – 0.0720* X +/- 0.0096 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For body, Density = 1.1533 – 0.0643* X +/- 0.0083 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For girls, Density = 1.1369 – 0.0598* X +/- 0.0081 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>5. Fat percentage = [(4.95/Density ) – 4.5] * 100 </li></ul>
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<ul><li>Mid arm circumference is recorded with a tape measure at the midpoint between the bony prominences at tip of the elbow and the top of the shoulder. This is an indicator of the body’s total skeletal muscle mass. </li></ul><ul><li>III Parameters which help in understanding the shift in the energy balance which has resulted in an increase in weight. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Activity chart </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Calorie intake </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) The metabolic rate can be recorded both by an open circuit apparatus as well as with a closed circuit apparatus – the Benedict Roth apparatus. </li></ul></ul>
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<ul><li>The BMR is measured under ‘basal’ conditions – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The person must not have eaten any foot for at least 12 hours. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The person must have had a night of restful sleep </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No strenuous exercise is performed during the preceding hour or more </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All mental and physical factors which cause stimulation must be eliminated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The temperature of the air must be in the range of 68-80 degrees Fahrenheit. </li></ul></ul>
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<ul><li>IV Parameters which give an idea about the presence / absence of complications - </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Serum lipid profile </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blood pressure </li></ul></ul><ul><li>V Parameters to understand whether the overall body function has changed, particularly the muscle strength. </li></ul><ul><li>grip strength is recorded using a hand dynamometer. </li></ul>
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1. Is there a change in weight ? <ul><li>Weight (kg) </li></ul><ul><li>Height (cm) </li></ul><ul><li>Waist / Hip circumference </li></ul><ul><li>Skinfold thickness (mm) </li></ul><ul><li>mid arm circumference (cm) </li></ul><ul><li>Waist circumference (cm) </li></ul><ul><li>Body Mass Index </li></ul><ul><li>Weight in kg </li></ul><ul><li>(height in meter) 2 </li></ul>Is there a change in weight?
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OBESITY <ul><li>Calorie chart </li></ul><ul><li>Activity chart </li></ul>Is there a change in metabolism? 2. Is there a change in metabolism ?
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3. Is there a change in the risk factors ? <ul><li>Serum lipid profile </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cholesterol </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>HDL </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>LDL </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>VLDL </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Triglycerides </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blood pressure (BP) </li></ul>Is there a change in the risk factors? OBESITY
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WRITING IT UP Most reports on empirical research follow a standard format. Research on TESL and language acquisition is no exception. This format typically consists of five major sections, which may be subdivided into smaller parts. The five main components of a research report are...
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INTRODUCTION <ul><li>The main purpose of the INTRODUCTION is to give a description of the problem that will be addressed. In this section the researcher might discuss the nature of the research, the purpose of the research, the significance of the research problem, and the research question(s) to be addressed. </li></ul><ul><li>RATIONALE </li></ul><ul><li>PURPOSE </li></ul><ul><li>RESEARCH QUESTION(S) </li></ul>Three essential parts of a good introduction are:
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<ul><li>RATIONALE Somewhere in the introduction you need to inform the reader of the rationale of your research. This is a brief explanation of why your research topic is worthy of study and may make a significant contribution to the body of already existing research. </li></ul><ul><li>PURPOSE The statement of purpose is not simply a statement of why the research is being done. (That is what the rationale section is for.) Rather, "purpose" refers to the goal or objective of your research. The purpose statement should answer questions. . . </li></ul><ul><li>"What are the objectives of my research?" and </li></ul><ul><li>"What do I expect to discover or learn from this research?" </li></ul>
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<ul><li>RESEARCH QUESTION </li></ul><ul><li>The introduction usually ends with a research question or questions. This question should be. . . </li></ul><ul><li>Related to your research purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Focused </li></ul><ul><li>Clear </li></ul>
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LITERATURE REVIEW As part of the planning process you should have done a LITERATURE REVIEW , which is a survey of important articles, books and other sources pertaining to your research topic. Now, for the second main section of your research report you need to write a summary of the main studies and research related to your topic. This review of the professional literature relevant to your research question will help to contextualize, or frame, your research. It will also give readers the necessary background to understand your research.
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Evaluating other studies: In a review of the literature, you do not merely summarize the research findings that others have reported. You must also evaluate and comment on each study's worth and validity. You may find that some published research is not valid. If it also runs counter to your hypothesis, you may want to critique it in your review. Don't just ignore it. Tell how your research will be better/overcome the flaws. Doing this can strengthen the rationale for conducting your research. Selecting the studies to include in the review: You do not need to report on every published study in the area of your research topic. Choose those studies which are most relevant and most important.
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<ul><li>Organizing the review: </li></ul><ul><li>After you have decided which studies to review, you must decide how to order them. In making your selection, keep your research question in mind. It should be your most important guide in determining what other studies are revelant. Many people simple create a list of one-paragraph summaries in chronological order. This is not always the most effective way to organize your review. You should consider other ways, such as... </li></ul><ul><li>By topic </li></ul><ul><li>Problem -> solution </li></ul><ul><li>Cause -> effect </li></ul>
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Another approach is to organize your review by argument and counter argument. For example, You may write about those studies that disagree with your hypothesis, and then discuss those that agree with it. Yet another way to organize the studies in your review is to group them according to a particular variable, such as age level of the subjects (child studies, adult studies, etc.) or research method (case studies, experiments, etc.).
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The end of the review: The purpose of your review of the literature was to set the stage for your own research. Therefore, you should conclude the review with a statement of your hypothesis, or focused research question. When this is done, you are ready to proceed with part three of your research report, in which you explain the methods you used.
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DESIGN & METHOD The DESIGN & METHOD section of the report is where you explain to your reader how you went about carrying out your research. You should describe the subjects, the instruments used, the conditions under which the tests were given, how the tests were scored, how the results were analyzed, etc. Remember that this section needs to be very explicit. A good rule of thumb is to provide enough detail so that others could replicate all the important points of your research. Failure to provide adequate detail may raise doubts in your readers' minds about your procedures and findings.
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Make sure you are honest and forthright in this section. For example, if you had some problems with validity, acknowledge the weaknesses in your study so that others can take them into account when they interpret it (and avoid them if they try to replicate it).
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RESULTS In the RESULTS of your report you make sense of what you have found. Here you not only present your findings but also talk about the possible reasons for those findings. Also, if your research approach was deductive, then here is where you accept or reject your hypothesis (based on your findings). In addition, in this section you should use your knowledge of the subject in order to make intelligent comments about your results.
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BE CAREFUL! Sometimes researchers use this section as a soapbox and talk about things that don't have anything to do with the research that they did. Don't fall into this trap. Make sure your comments are related to (and based on) your research. Do not go beyond your data. Also, as you report and interpret your findings, do not exaggerate or sensationalize them. Nor should you minimize them. A straightforward matter-of-fact style is probably best.
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CONCLUSION In the CONCLUSION to your report, you do a number of important things: <ul><li>Summarize the main points you made in your introduction and review of the literature </li></ul><ul><li>Review (very briefly) the research methods and/or design you employed. </li></ul><ul><li>Repeat (in abbreviated form) your findings. </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss the broader implications of those findings. </li></ul><ul><li>Mention the limitations of your research (due to its scope or its weaknesses) </li></ul><ul><li>Offer suggestions for future research related to yours. </li></ul>
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ABSTRACT Some research reports end (or begin) with an abstract. An abstract is a highly abbreviated (usually 100-200 words) synopsis of your research. It should describe your rationale and objectives, as well as your methods and findings. Because of its limited length, an abstract cannot go into detail on any of these topics. Nor can it report on the limitations of your research or offer suggestions for future research. For those, readers will have to read the entire report. But, after reading your abstract, people unfamiliar with your research should know what it is about and whether they want to read the entire report.
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OTHER RESOURCES PRINT-BASED RESOURCES INTERNET-BASED RESOURCES
Clipping is a handy way to collect and organize the most important slides from a presentation. You can keep your great finds in clipboards organized around topics.