Quantitative Research Designs
Historical controlled trials
Observational study: who, where, whenInvestigator does not assign exposures. A descriptive study provides a description of exposures and outcomes, whereas an analytic study provides a measure of the association between exposure and outcome. Observational studies are hypothesis generating and cannot establish causal association.
Ecologic study: provides a description of population group characteristics.
Cross-sectional study: evaluates the association between exposures and outcomes at the same time. It allows measurement of the prevalence of exposure or outcome. Temporal association is more difficult to establish.
Case-control study: compares subjects with disease (cases) to those without disease (controls) for differences in risk factors. It is useful for establishing hypotheses about risk factors and aetiology, especially when a disease is rare. It cannot estimate the prevalence of disease. Controls and cases should be sufficiently similar in prognostic factors unrelated to other than the risk risks of interest.
- Nested case-control study: defines a cohort with suspected risk factors and a control is assigned for each case from within the cohort. Cases and controls are matched on calendar time and length of follow-up.
- Case-cohort study: cases are not matched on calendar time or length of follow-up to controls.
- Prospective follows and assesses outcomes in exposed and unexposed groups over time.
- Retrospective identifies populations with and without the exposure based on past records and assesses outcomes at the time of study.
Before and after (pre-post) observational study: outcomes are measured before and after an exposure, that is not assigned by the investigator. Study participants in the pre- and post-periods may be the same or different.
- Controlled before and after: the before-after effect of implementation in the intervention group is compared with a control group that has no intervention.
Cross-sectional (prevalence) study: evaluates the prevalence of exposures and outcomes at the same time. Temporal association is difficult to establish.
Investigator assigns exposures (treatments).
Clinical trial: subjects with disease are placed in different treatment groups. The study population must be sufficiently similar and representative of the general population of patients. The intervention is compared to a placebo, no treatment or an alternative treatment.
- Parallel randomised trial: subjects are unpredictably (randomly) allocated to intervention and control groups. This minimises the risk of confounding in estimating the treatment effectselection bias and confounding.
- Parallel non-randomised trial: controls are selected using some predictable pattern, e.g., certain days of the week.
- Historically controlled trial: controls are adopted from the past, e.g., medical records, or previous studies.
- Cross-over trial: two groups undergo the same treatments at different time periods, i.e., each group serves as a control while the other group is undergoing intervention. The effect of the treatments needs to be reversible.
- Factorial trial: different treatments are tested at the same time in the same population. The treatment effects should be independent.
Field trial: subjects without disease are placed in different preventative intervention groups.