man and woman sitting looking at tablet

How do researchers decide what to study?

Research begins with a question that needs an answer.  Researchers then design a study to test the problem and learn information; sometimes they get the answer they expected, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they learn something completely different which might spark a whole new question!

What are some examples of research questions?

  • Does this new drug work better than what doctors use now?
  • Can a vaccine prevent this disease?
  • Do medicines work differently in different people?
  • Can mindfulness help improve the quality of life of cancer patients?
  • How do our communities impact our health?
  • What causes a disease?
  • What happens in our brains when we sleep?

How do researchers choose what to study?

Sometimes what researchers choose to study can be very personal. For example, they might want to find a way to help a family member who has diabetes or cancer. Other times, they might be interested in studying a little-known disease that only affects a few people. Some researchers want to find out about how people live their lives within their communities to help improve everyday health and lifestyle.

Once researchers decide on the type of study they want to do, they will write up a detailed plan to get information that can help them answer their question.  Sometimes it takes many research studies to answer a question or to answer different pieces of a bigger question.  Sometimes, we don’t get the answer we expected, and that teaches us something new too!

Research for Me logo

Copyright © 2013-2022 The NC TraCS Institute, the integrated home of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program at UNC-CH.  This website is made possible by CTSA Grant UL1TR002489 and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.


  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
logo for the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute
logo for UNC Health
logo for UNC School of Medicine
logo for UNC Research