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Defining my project

Is my project research?

There are a number of different types of project that all contribute to measuring or testing improvement ideas in practice, the most common are:

  • Research
  • Quality Improvement
  • Service Evaluation
  • Clinical Audit
  • Clinical or Patient Reported Outcomes
  • Research

Some project ideas can be undertaken using a number of different approaches, however, it's important to decide what approach you are going to use, so you can ensure that the project is successful and also so you know what approvals will be needed before you start.

All projects need some degree of approval whether that is at service, trust or national level. It is also important that your project is undertaken with the knowledge and involvement of clinical teams where possible. This ensures the project is relevant to clinical practice, likely to succeed and that the results are shared with the people who can embrace any important developments. The different approaches are defined below:


  • Clinical research is conducted to provide new information/ knowledge about disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment or relief of symptoms, or wider health related issues.
  • Patients and healthy participants volunteer and then consent to be part of the project.
  • Clinical trials are a part of clinical research. They may use medicines, medical devices, or procedures and are designed to test or compare different treatments.
  • Other types of clinical research could include questionnaires, interviews or focus groups to understand patients’ experiences, or could be research involving biological samples or other clinical data.
  • The Health Research Authority has an interactive tool to help you assess whether a project is research: www.hra-decisiontools.org.uk/research

Clinical Audit

Clinical Audit is designed and conducted to check that we are achieving predetermined standards in care; aiming to assure quality and to improve standards.

Like Service Evaluation, it usually involves looking at existing data on patient care and outcomes, and often asks staff and patients for their feedback via interviews or questionnaires. 

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