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First steps

All of us have lots of ideas. Part of the art is figuring out which of those ideas are the winners.” – John W. Sparks, M.D., Chair, Department of Pediatrics at University of Nebraska Medical Center and Chief Academic Officer, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

Let’s talk about first steps – the process you need to follow to develop research or quality improvement ideas, design projects and bring them to successful completion.

1. Get CITI certified.  You need to do this before anything else is done.

What is CITI? The Collaborative IRB Training Initiative Program (CITI) is a leading online training program maintained by the University of Miami. It offers curricula in human subjects research, animal research, and the responsible conduct of research. If you are a first-time CITI user, you may wish to contact the IRB offices for help getting started.

Which CITI course do I have to take? You must take either the biomedical or socio-behavioral training course, whichever is the most appropriate for your type of research.

For more information on the CITI certification process, visit

2. What are you interested in?  Having a specific area of interest can direct you towards an area and potential mentor for a project.

3. Find a mentor.  Performing a search on the search engine on this site can direct you towards an experienced investigator who can help develop a research idea.  

4. Formulate a hypothesis from your idea. A mentor can help with this.

5. Categorize your researchDoes your research use human subjects, animals or require a laboratory (bench research)?

6. Conduct background research. Perform a literature search on your topic to know what has been done and what questions remain unanswered.  Keeping the references will be important when preparing your manuscript.  Initiation of the manuscript can begin at this time.

7. What resources do you need?  Resources can be financial, personnel, equipment, computers, etc.  Planning ahead with a research advisor can help guide you how to obtain the resources. 

8. How will you store data?  Construction of a spreadsheet or database will be essential to storing data and analyzing data.

9. Put together a budget – if necessary.  Not all projects need financial support but if so, having a budget will put the scope of your project and planning in perspective

10. Put together needed grants or IRB/IACUC proposals for submission. The Pediatric Research Office (PRO) can help with IRB protocols.

11. Upon receiving IRB/IACUC approval, and not before, you can begin acquiring data.

12. Confer with research mentors or colleagues regularly to make sure your project is on track to achieve its goals.

13. Analyze the data.

14. Prepare an abstract for possible presentation.

15. Prepare presentation (oral or poster) if accepted to a meeting.

16. Finish your manuscript.