Determining if an activity is Research or Quality Improvement (QI) can be difficult. It is important to distinguish that the terms such as ‘research’ and ‘human subject’ or ‘participant’ have distinct definitions in the federal regulations and use of such terms may invoke a set of requirements that perhaps do not apply.
What is research?
Research is a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluations, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. [45 CFR 46.102(l)]
- Systematic Investigation: An activity that involves a prospective plan which incorporates data collection, either quantitative or qualitative, and data analysis to answer a question.
- Generalizable: Knowledge that may be justifiably transferred or extrapolated to a broader population or situation than from which it was initially derived.
What is Quality Improvement (QI)?
Quality improvement is a process of systematic, data-guided activities designed to bring about immediate, positive changes in the delivery of healthcare in particular settings. These projects are typically institution specific, although collaborative approaches including multiple institutions focused on QI relevant to a specific patient population have evolved.
How is research different from QI?
Overview of the differences between Research and QI
|Research Study||QI Project|
|Intent||Designed to develop, not generally to implement knowledge||Apply known solutions to a focused problem or process, typically related to cost, productivity, or quality|
|Design||Systematic, methodological approach to the scientific process||Less rigorous methodology, often involves a Plan-Do-Study-Act test of change|
|Setting||Single or multisite settings||Most often, a single setting and situation|
|Benefit||Greater scientific community and clinicians||Subjects involved in the QI project and the institution where the project was conducted|
|Oversight||Institution, IRB, government, and funding agencies responsible for the project||Institution where the project is being conducted|
|Subject risk||Variable, risks, and benefits||None or minimal|
|Informed consent||Requires informed consent||No informed consent|
|IRB required||IRB always required||IRB typically not required|
|Ethical justification||Ethically justified by weighting risks to individual vs societal benefits from the development of new knowledge||Considered an expectation by society for clinical practice to continuously improve|
|Dissemination plan||Publication and presentation reported as the IRB-approved research study||Internal communication, publication, and presentations reported as the QI work|
- Differentiating between research and QI (Gregory, 2015)
- Identifying the Differences Between Quality Improvement, Evidence-based Practice, and Original Research (Baker et al., 2014)
What is Educational Research?
Education Research is a rigorous and systematic field of study that explores various aspects of education, both formal and informal, and its impact on learning processes and outcomes throughout a person’s lifetime. Scientists identify and analyze trends in how learning takes place in order to improve outcomes within the field of education.
Baker, K. M., Clark, P. R., Henderson, D., Wolf, L. A., Carman, M. J., Manton, A., & Zavotsky, K. E. (2014). Identifying the Differences Between Quality Improvement, Evidence-based Practice, and Original Research. Journal of emergency nursing, 40(2), 195-197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jen.2013.12.016
Gregory, K. E. (2015). Differentiating Between Research and Quality Improvement. The Journal of perinatal & neonatal nursing, 29(2), 100-102. https://doi.org/10.1097/JPN.0000000000000107