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The Research Guide: A Primer for Residents, Other Health Care Trainees,and Practitioners . By Bart J. Harvey, MD, PhD, MEd , Eddy S. Lang, MDCM , and Jason R. Frank , MD MA(Ed), Eds . Ottawa, Ontario, Canada : Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada , 2011 ; 302 pp; $65 CAN for members and $130 CAN for nonmembers (spiral bound); Available at: http://www.clicshop.com/Stores/royal/en/can-meds-publications/p17646603.html

I usually cringe when reading “Introduction to Research” books because their authors, moved by a desire to keep things simple and formulaic, invariably make statements that are not true. A French chef’s nuanced recipe for souffle gets reduced to “microwave on high for 30 seconds. “ I was, therefore, happily surprised that this book produced no such reaction. In fact, I was sufficiently enthusiastic about it that I wanted to get the reaction of the book’s target audience, doctors embarking on a research career. I asked two graduating emergency medicine residents who will be pursuing research fellowships to let you know what they think of it. Here are their reviews, Amazon style:

Reviewer 1 (MP): Most medical training programs require some sort of research activity to be completed by their trainees, yet few programs provide a formal, structured research curriculum. This book was developed to address this very real need. Generally speaking, I felt that this book was a success. It is well laid out in short, digestible chapters starting with the very basic topic of selecting an adequate research mentor and progressing to more advanced topics such as sample size calculations and study power.

The book covers a wide variety of topics related to health care research and presents the information in a concise, easy-to-understand writing style. Each chapter has a list of objectives identified on the first page and begins with a short vignette to give the reader some real-life context in which to frame the discussion that follows. The vignette is resolved at the end of the chapter.

The material in this book would be very useful for any resident or motivated medical student who is interested in research but has not yet gained much actual research experience. It can be used for general reading as well as targeted reading. For example, if a trainee were embarking on a survey study, he or she could read Chapter 11 on “Surveys” as a starting point and then access the references or additional resources included at the end of the chapter. Overall, I found the book to be appropriate in scope and depth and easy to absorb—i.e., a success.

Reviewer 2 (MW): This book provides chronologically organized guidance for conducting a research project, from formulating a research question to presenting findings at meetings and in print. The 32 chapters are written in a clear and concise manner with a summary at the end. Many chapters include practice questions that help reinforce chapter highlights. I am particularly impressed with the introduction to statistics chapters, which were far more comprehensible than those of other books I have read. Upon reading them, I felt more capable of critically appraising the literature. The sections on reporting research findings are also helpful because the authors give basic instructions on how to make effective poster presentations and PowerPoint slides. Presentation of findings in front of an audience can be the most daunting part of the research process, and I found that these sections help the novice researcher avoid many mistakes that seasoned researchers had to learn through experience.

I really enjoyed reading this book and only have two minor issues. First, since the authors are Canadian, the financing research chapter is not applicable to readers seeking funding in the United States. Second, I found the chapter on qualitative research the least satisfying, as after reading it, I still had no idea how to conduct qualitative research. Overall, I am very pleased with this book and recommend it strongly to my peers.

Thus, researchers novice and experienced alike enjoy this book. It is the best book I have seen of its kind, and I plan to offer it to residents and fellows interested in research. My only gripes are 1) I share MW’s frustration with the qualitative research chapter, and 2) while I recognize that Bayesian methods may be considered advanced and inappropriate for a basic primer, I wish the authors included at least some material that made readers aware that classical frequentist statistics are not the only game in town and that many disciplines are appropriately abandoning them for Bayesian ways of interpreting research results. These minor criticisms aside, the authors should be congratulated for assembling a practical, accurate primer on the conduct of research.