Research 101: Understanding Research Studies
Three General Categories of Research
While we’ve discussed the five general types of research in behavioral and mental health, there are also three other categories to consider.
Behavioral & Treatment Studies
Behavioral or treatment studies examine specific behaviors, treatments or therapies and see how they work on people. In psychology and sociology, most research conducted is of this nature. Such research provides direct insights into human behavior or therapeutic techniques that may be of value for treating a specific kind of disorder. This kind of research also helps us better understand a specific health or mental health concern, and how it manifests itself in a certain group of people (e.g., teenagers versus adults). This is the most “actionable” type of research – research that professionals and individuals can take action based upon its findings.
Research that examines brain structures, neurochemical reactions via PET or other brain imaging techniques, gene research, or research that examines other organic structures in a human body falls under this category. In most cases, such research helps further our understanding of the human body and how it functions, but doesn’t provide immediate insight or help in dealing with a problem today, or suggest new treatments that will be readily available. For instance, researchers often publish findings about how a particular gene may be correlated with a specific disorder. While such findings may eventually lead to some sort of medical test being developed for the disorder, it may be a decade or two before a finding of this nature translates into an actual test or new treatment method.
While such research is vitally important to our eventual better understanding of how our brains and bodies function, research in this category tends not to have much importance today for people dealing with a mental disorder or mental health problem.
Research is sometimes conducted on an animal to better understand how a specific organ system (such as the brain) reacts to changes, or how an animal’s behavior may be altered by specific social or environmental changes. Animal research, mostly on rats, in the 1950’s and 1960’s focused on studying animal behavior which, in psychology, led to the field of behaviorism and behavior therapy. More recently, the focus of animal studies has been on their biological makeup, to examine certain brain structures and genes related to health or mental health issues.