A spotter’s guide to study designs
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When searching for evidence to answer our clinical questions, the ability to rapidly recognise different types of studies is helpful for finding the one that best answers the question. The “Levels of evidence” tables make suggestions for which design is best for which type of question. For instance, you would naturally consider a randomised controlled trial as the most appropriate study design for intervention decisions. But for potential harms of interventions, we may need case-control studies. And for aetiology we often need to use cohort studies: you wouldn’t randomise someone to cigarette smoking to see if they did worse—this would also be unethical. But you would want investigators to follow up cigarette smokers and non-smokers for a long time, just as Richard Doll did.1
This document has been peer reviewed.