Creating innovative research designs: The 10-year methodological think tank case study

David Katerndahl, Benjamin Crabtree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Addressing important but complex research questions often necessitates the creation of innovative mixed methods designs. This report describes an approach to developing research designs for studying important but methodologically challenging research questions. METHODS: The Methodological Think Tank has been held annually in conjunction with the Primary Care Research Methods and Statistics Conference in San Antonio since 1994. A group of 3 to 4 methodologists with expertise balanced between quantitative and qualitative backgrounds is invited by the think tank coordinators to serve on a 2-day think tank to discuss a research question selected from those submitted in response to a call for proposals. During the first half-day, these experts explore the content area with the investigator, often challenging beliefs and assumptions. During the second half-day, the think tank participants systematically prune potential approaches until a desirable research method is identified. RESULTS: To date, the most recent 7 think tanks have produced fundable research designs, with 1 being funded by a K award and 4 by R01 grants. All participating investigators attributed much of their success to think tank participation. Lessons learned include (1) the importance of careful selection of participating methodologists, (2) all think tank communities of inquiry must go through 4 stages of development from pseudocommunity to community, and (3) the critical importance of listening by the investigator. CONCLUSION: Researchers and academic departments could use this process locally to develop innovative research designs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-449
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Family Practice


  • Faculty development
  • Innovation
  • Multimethods
  • Research design


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