COVID-19 Community Update

For the latest updates & information visit Duke’s Coronavirus Response website.

Research Project Guidelines

About the Research Project

The research project serves to demonstrate the student's ability to apply the quantitative and methodological principles of clinical research contained in the curriculum. The products required are a manuscript and an oral presentation, both of which will be evaluated by an examining committee.

For the purposes of the traditional (non-basic science track) degree, clinical research is defined as research conducted with human subjects or patients’ samples in which an investigator makes direct measurements or observations on the subjects. It includes clinical trials, studies of the mechanism of human disease, epidemiological and behavioral studies, outcomes research and health services research. For examples of mechanistic studies, correlating serum biomarkers or genetic variants with clinical phenotypes would be acceptable. For information specific to the Research Project for the Basic Science Research Track, please refer to that page.  Studies based entirely in animal models or in vitro systems would only be appropriate for students on the Basic Science Research Track.


Although it is desirable the research project be one in which the student is involved throughout from the concept and design stage, this is not mandatory. A secondary data analysis of an existing data set might be acceptable, for example, as might a project that the student designs and conducts, but from which only preliminary results are reported.  Students unsure if a potential project satisfies this definition should email a brief description to John Williams, MD, MHSc.

Professor Carl Pieper discusses longitudinal data after class
Professor Carl Pieper discusses longitudinal data after class

The Examining Committee

Three faculty members constitute an examining committee to certify the student has successfully completed the research project requirement for the degree. The committee must include a clinical investigator and a statistician, both of whom are on the faculty of the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP). The third member of the committee should be a faculty member who has substantive knowledge in the area in which the clinical research project is conducted; for clinical fellows, this committee member is often the student's mentor. The chair of the committee must be a member of the CRTP faculty.

Important Note: Committees formed for other purposes (e.g., Fellowship committees, CTSA committees, etc.) cannot substitute for the CRTP Research Committee. You must have an approved CRTP committee for your research project.

Research Project Titles

Previous examples of successful research projects.


  • The recommended timeframe from approval of your CRTP research proposal to completion is approximately one year (to allow for input from the committee and to complete the research carefully). You may, of course, take longer if needed. Timelines shorter than six months will not be approved.