This issue of JAN marks another innovative development in the evolution of the journal – the publication of a study protocol. I have chosen to highlight this protocol, by Donnelly et al. (2008)–‘Lifestyle limitations of children and young people with severe cerebral palsy: a population study protocol’ (pp. 557–569), as it offers a model for nurse researchers to improve both the transparency, quality and reporting of their research.
A protocol is an essential part of any study. It outlines in detail the study rationale and methodology, and provides a plan of action for the investigators to follow. Thus, by publishing their protocol, Donnelly et al. (2008) provide JAN readers with a unique insight into the detailed methods of their study. This level of detail is usually lost in the research reports published in journals after the study is completed due to space constraints and the need to focus on findings. In addition, this protocol gives a unique insight into the programme of research conducted by this nursing research group based at Queens University Belfast in collaboration with local clinicians, and the study funded by the Northern Ireland Research and Development Office.
Their protocol describes how the team propose to conduct a cross-sectional survey of children and young people aged 4–25 years with severe non-ambulant forms of cerebral palsy. I always find the selection of relevant outcome measures challenging, so I was particularly interested to see the battery of 15 outcome measures the team are intending to use and how they relate to the primary and secondary study outcomes. While 15 measures could turn out to be a considerable burden for respondents to complete, I was pleased to see that Donnelly et al. (2008) have built some flexibilities into their protocol in the form of investigator training, and piloting and refining of instruments, to develop the optimum approach to data collection.
I wish Donnelly et al. (2008) the best of luck with their study and we look forward to receiving a report of findings of relevance to nursing for future publication in JAN. It will be fascinating to see how the protocol and research plan translated in practical terms, and what (if anything) the team did differently. Improving transparency of research reporting by publishing research protocols has the potential to provide a valuable resource for novice and experienced nurse researchers alike, hopefully helping them to improve the quality of the research they conduct and report. Guidance about the submission of manuscripts in the form of a Research protocol can be found on JAN’s website.