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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

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Introduction to Health Services Research : A Self-Study Course

Introduction and Purpose

This e-learning course is presented for your use by the National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR) of the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

The course is made up of seven modules and provides a description of several research scenarios for you to use to enlarge your health services research skills (case studies). The modules offer information on the content and history of health services issues, describe an introduction to the NLM health services research databases, and to literature analysis and study design.

Slides from the MLA CE class Introduction to HSR taught by NICHSR staff on May 23, 1998 are also available upon request for you to examine.


To get the most out of this e-learning course, participants should have a basic knowledge of bibliographic database searching, especially of the Medline database. Other than that only an interest in providing quality information services to health services researchers is required.

Course Structure

The course is presented in five cases and seven modules described briefly below. eLearners can begin with Case Study 1 and progress linearly through the five cases referring to the modules for additional information in order to maximize their learning of this concent.

Alternatively, the cases can be completed after the background reading is done. Doing the background reading is recommended.


In the case study modules the cases are first described. They outline a specific problem.

Once you have the background you will be asked to provide answers to several questions, including possible MeSH terms that you might use to successfully get references for the requestor needing the information. After thinking about the content you will be given immediate feedback by clicking through to the answer screen.

These are the five research case study titles:

Case 1: Health Disparities Case Study
Case 2: The End-Stage Renal Disease Program: Quality Issues
Case 3: Medicare Reimbursement Reforms
Case 4: Bioterrorism -- Community Preparedness
Case 5: HIV/AIDS, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program


Welcome to the online version of the Introduction to Health Services Research.

The course is structured so that you can start and stop with each module or case and continue on when you have the time.

Video clips from the video titled, Health Services Research - A Historical Perspective Video and images from the National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Section are available for viewing. The videos supplement this course. A captioned version of the video as well as a non-caption version is available online.

Video clips are readable by using RealPlayer version 8 or above. RealPlayer is a free application and may be downloaded from the RealPlayer Web site.

Outline of Modules

Self-Study Objectives

The purposes and main themes of this online learning experience in health services research are outlined for your benefit.

Module 1: What is Health Services Research (HSR)

Module 1 gives you a very brief and basic introduction to health services research and describes many of the important areas of research interest.

Module 2: Brief History of Health Services Research and Key Projects and Milestones

This module will discuss how health services research has come about and will provide you with information on key projects and milestones that have occurred in the field over the past two hundred or so years.

Module 3: Selected Players (Federal and Private)

Find out about the main agencies that are conducting health services research. You will find descriptions of academic departments, private foundations and associations, government agencies, and business organizations in this module. These will be useful when you do the cases.

Module 4: Search the Literature of HSR: Databases

Module 4 will introduce you to the major health services research databases such as the former HStar database and HSRProj, HSTAT, and to a database of major statistical databases called Database of Health Services Research Resources (HSRR). These health services research databases will be useful when you review the cases.

Module 5: Quality Filtering and Evidence-Based Medicine and Health

In this important section, elearners will get details of the role of quality filtering and evidence-based medicine and health by looking at Sampling, Assignment, Assessment, Analysis, Interpretation, and Extrapolation. This module will help you evaluate the material you find when you do the cases.

Module 6: Basic Components of a Study

Readers will find descriptions of the four major study designs Surveys, Cohort Studies, Case Control Studies, and Randomized Clinical Trials and will give you information on their strengths and weaknesses. This section will help you understand studies and what they mean in the context of the cases and other work you do.

Module 7: Librarians' Role in Health Services Research

After you have looked at all the specific health services research modules, you will have the opportunity to learn about the importance of librarians in providing search and reference assistance to researchers working in this discipline.

Selected HSR Internet Sites

This link sends you to a site maintained by NICHSR staff. The sites listed here are considered the most valuable to those doing health services research or who are providing services to researchers. It is worth bookmarking this site for interesting and useful content as you work with health services researchers.

Essential Concepts

The essential concepts are a description of the important ideas that we would like you to get from a particular section or module.


The bibliography will point you in the direction of additional health services research books and articles of interest. It is available from the NICHSR Web site.


There are several useful health services glossaries on the Web. This page links to them.

Review Sections

Discussion Topics

Discussion topics are questions provided for readers to think about as they go through the content. These questions may be used in study groups to enhance the sharing of information.

Students are not required to provide answers. You can evaluate your learning by reading over the Review Questions and taking the section and final quiz.

Review Questions for Quizzes

The review questions are a listing of all questions that you might get asked on the final quiz with their answers. The review questions make up the Knowledge Check section found at the bottom of many of the module pages. These questions are then aggregated into a review page for each module.

Assessment Section

Self Test

The self-tests are found in the Knowledge Check section at the bottom of many of the module pages. They will help you think about what you have just read.

Final Module Quizzes

eLearners are invited to take the final quizzes that are found at the end of each complete module. Students are required to get 70 percent of questions correct. When you successfully complete a module you may request a Certificate of Success for that module.

Questions may be true/false, multiple choice, or select the best answer.

Enrichment Section

Bonus Links

In addition to the links provided in the regular content, links to related content will be made available to those who are interested and wish to pursue additional learning.

Copyright and Availability

There are no copyright restrictions on the contents of this Web-based learning; Users are free to adapt or duplicate any portion for their learning or training needs.

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