Design Decisions in Research

7. The Dissemination Phase

The last phase of the research process is to prepare research reports in order to communicate findings to the appropriate audience. Similar to review of a final research plan, noted previously, dissemination reports should also be peer-reviewed from independent colleagues in the same field of research who have not participated in the conduct of the study. The peer-review process of completed reports will ensure objectivity and increase likelihood of a valid and reliable report. To be most effective, a dissemination plan should be developed prior to the completion of the study, identifying the strategies for dissemination and the targeted audience. Resources are available that outline creative and effective dissemination plans (Research Utilization Support & Health, 2001). Research reports or presentations may be disseminated to other investigators, health professionals, policymakers, or consumers. A brief research report can also be submitted to professional organizations or the media. Press releases should also be considered, as this offers an efficient mechanism for dissemination. Communicating study results to participants is based on the principle of respect for persons and although not required, is increasing in practice (Shalowitz & Miller, 2008). The stipulation of sending a research report is often included in the consent form that participants sign upon entry to a study. This is an ethical consideration given the time and effort participants contribute to the conduct of a study.

Traditional research reports include:

  • an introduction;
  • a description of the method;
  • results;
  • discussion of major findings; and
  • clinical, research and/or policy implications.

Brief research or policy reports should provide a concise and interesting description of the results with key points highlighted. Press releases should also be brief with recommendations clearly specified.