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Jefferson Medical College Alpha Omega Alpha Guide to Research

Project Types

The type of project you choose should be determined by the time you are able to devote to research. A case report can be written in a weekend, whereas a prospective, randomized, controlled trial can take years to complete. A basic overview of different types of studies is provided below to familiarize you with the descriptions you will see when you begin to seek out projects:

Figure 2: Study design overview

Study design

Study population

Estimated time spent




Case report

1 subject


Case series

>1 subject

Days-Weeks (Depending on your schedule)


Exposure and outcome at same time

Weeks-Months (Depending on your schedule)


Identified by outcome, exposures analyzed

Weeks-Months (Depending on your schedule)


Identified by exposure, outcomes analyzed

Weeks-Years (Depending on retrospective vs prospective)




Non-randomized controlled trial

Subject allocated to exposure

Months-Years (Depending on # subjects and length of time to outcome)

Randomized controlled trial

Subject randomized, then allocated to exposure

Months-Years (Depending on # subjects and length of time to outcome)

In some cases, such as prospective cohort and experimental studies, the study design can limit your choice of projects. If you are on a 4 week research elective during your fourth year and want to have a paper written by the end of the rotation, a randomized controlled trial is not the best project to achieve your goal. However, if you are working on research between your 1st and 2nd years and would like to have a paper written by the end of medical school, working on such a project might be more reasonable.

Your schedule is the other important consideration when selecting the right type of project. If you have a few weeks to devote exclusively to research, you may be able to acquire and analyze all of the data you need to write up a case series, cross-sectional, or case-control study. However, these are also projects that can easily be worked on over the course of a few months if you only have a few hours each week to devote to research.

Making an informed decision about the type of project you work on increases your chances of achieving your research goals. Be sure you have made a realistic estimate of the time you are willing to devote to research and choose the types of projects you become involved with accordingly.

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