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Michigan State University

OST 581: Module 4 Research Project

Medical Ethics, Professionalism and Law

Building a quantifiable question

One of the first steps in research or building a convincing public health argument is deciding what information or data you need to gather to make your case. Creating a quantifiable questions is a good place to begin. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is your research question or proposal? Make it succinct and direct.
  2. Is my question an actually answerable, measurable outcome?
  3. What types of data would you want to gather, collect, analyze to help answer your research question? How can you show or prove that what you are studying is actually happening or not?
  4. Would you want to compare groups, and if so what groups, to help strengthen the evidence you are presenting?

Here we see an example of a good research question about the impact of the Love Canal on the local populations cancer incidence.

They have a specific question about a specific incident. Did living in Love Canal increase the risk of cancer for residents? They then demonstrate how they are investigating the question, as well as how they would prove the hypothesis.


To make evidence-based decisions, you must first locate and understand the scientific evidence related to the topic.

To find scientific evidence about DDT or any other toxic substances, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is a great first place to go.  It is a branch of the CDC.

Each substance has sets of resources aimed at the general community, as well as for toxicology and health professionals.  As public health professionals, you will want to start with the Toxicological Profile.  This is an in-depth examination of the given toxin.

The ToxGuide is a great quick 2-3 page summary of the evidence around the toxicity of various chemicals.

The next step is to find and acquaint yourself with data on malaria.  The WHO (World Health Organization) is a great first place to go.  Check for Topics on their website, and you can find information on malaria in the Topics section of their website. 

The Global Health Observatory (GHO) - The first resource you should go to find health related data about your specific country.  There is a wide variety of data available.  You can find fact sheets on specific health concerns tailored to that country.  Here is a sample from Guinea on the burden of Malaria. (click image for full size version)

screenshot of global health observatory infographic on malaria in Guinea


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