Research Methodology in Homeopathy[*]
26 May 2019 (online)
Since the Hahnemannian days homoeopathy has remained a controversial issue amongst the scientific community. Every now and then one finds critical statements about homoeopathy in the columns of newspapers or journals by one or the other scientist. Homoeopathy, by and large, is being practised as ‘medicine of experience’. There is voluminous therapeutic database in our literature showing efficacy of homoeopathic medicine in almost every disease. But hardly, there is any evidence-based data available in the literature. Yet, the popularity graph of homoeopathy has risen tremendously. This shows that homoeopathy is acceptable to the masses. The advances made in health research and rising awareness about health have necessitated us to practise an ‘evidence-based medicine’ rather than the experience-based medicine.
In this scientific age, there is no scope for random application of therapeutic intervention merely on arbitrary notions, empirical and hypothetical conceptions or any other unscientific foundation. Use or continuation of intervention on such fixed ideas and perceptions is not only irrational but unethical also. Now it is time for critical evaluation and embarking upon clinical research in homoeopathy to make it evidence-based medicine. To know how to do medical research and how to do it well, a sound knowledge of ‘research methodology’ is essentially required.
Research methodology may be understood as a science that explicitly deals with the study of systematic scientific investigation. It envisages guidelines for evaluating the safety and efficacy of a medicine or a group of medicines for a given morbid state. Research is solely an academic activity. According to Clifford Woody ‘research comprises defining and redefining problems, formulating hypothesis or suggested solutions; collecting, organising and evaluating data; making deductions and reaching conclusions; and at last carefully testing the conclusions to determine whether they fit the formulated hypothesis’.
Research methodology is a cohesive activity comprising several successive steps. But one should keep in mind that these steps may not necessarily be sequential; nor they are separate and distinct. There may be overlapping of these steps. A procedural blue print for the proposed study that provides a detailed description of the program is prepared. This research document is termed as research protocol. In this document, every detail of the institution sponsoring or carrying out the study, investigator(s), monitoring/coordinating staff, other technical/non-tech staff, technician, statistician etc. are given. How patients will be recruited, criteria for selection/withdrawal and inclusion/exclusion of patients are described in procedures. Sample size, study duration, number of centres where study is to be performed, number of patients to be enrolled at each centre, age and gender criteria for recruitment of patients are defined. Section that deals with the methods used to execute the study is the most important part of the protocol. In this part detailed information on laboratory investigations to be performed, diagnosis of the problem, history recording in a holistic manner (for homoeopathic studies), interventions depending on the study design, follow-up procedure, data collection, evaluation of results and statistical analysis (which test or technique shall be used) are spelled out clearly. Ethical considerations relating to the study are also highlighted. In homoeopathic studies to minimise subjectivity, special ‘symptom score formats’ have been developed in which each symptom/sign is assigned some score on intensity basis. This makes the assessment objective that facilitates statistical evaluation and proper documentation. This also enables researchers to disseminate the study outcome to the scientific community anywhere in the world through publication in journals, research publications or by paper presentation in an acceptable manner. An overview of the guidelines for homoeopathic research methodology is presented step by step in this paper.
* The Homoeopathic Heritage. 2013;38(10).
- 1 Definition of research according to Clifford Woody. http://cde.annauniv.edu/CourseMat/mba/sem2/dba1657/dere.html
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- 10 NHMRC revised policy on the dissemination of research findings. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants/policy/dissemination-research-findings