Learning from an Unsuccessful Study Idea: Reflection and Application of Innovative Techniques to Prevent Future Failures

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A well-organized, thoughtful study design is essential for creating an impactful study. However, pressures promoting high output from researchers can lead to rushed study proposals that overlook critical weaknesses in the study design that can affect the validity of the conclusions. Researchers can benefit from thorough review of past failed proposals when crafting new research ideas. Conceptual frameworks and root cause analysis are two innovative techniques that can be used during study development to identify flaws and prevent study failures. In addition, conceptual frameworks and root cause analysis can be combined to complement each other to provide both a big picture and detailed view of a study proposal. This article describes these two common analytical methods and provides an example of how they can be used to evaluate and improve a study design by critically examining a previous failed research idea.

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