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Looking at previous research on whiplash injuryPiles of books

Authors of this page:Dawn Clarke and Graham R. Gibbs

Affiliation: University of Huddersfield

Date written: 27th July 2008




Learning outcomes

  1. Learn


Frances' next step was to look for previous research in the field. One of the publications she came across a study by some orthopaedic consultants, Gargan et al. (1997), about whiplash injury and its long-term effects. Literature like this helped her to develop her research questions. But as you will see, at this stage Frances’ questions were still very much influenced by her (and these publication’s) healthcare and medical background. She thinks of issues as having to do with the use and availability of healthcare services

Loudspeaker iconHear Frances developing the questions prompted by her reading of the literature.

So one of the questions that I had in my head was what actually is this experience of whiplash injury? What does it actually mean to have this injury? What are the kind of psycho-social effects of the injury? Because in terms of medical it’s minor, then there’s nothing, end of story … and the other thing that was there was, how is this influenced by healthcare provisions? So you go and you see a doctor – that would be your first port of call – what’s taking place in that initial consultation? What … happens there? So it was very broad, where do these influences come from? What actually are they? Because if you’ve got this injury and as a health visitor I think about promotion and prevention of ill-health and, you know, alleviation of… suffering and all that … so it made me think well if there’s something going on here, if we can identify people who might potentially have a problem what can we do to minimise or to manage that particular problem and prevent longer term consequences? So that’s kind of where I guess the background for the study came …


Both looking for other published research on whiplash and her personal and professional experiences gave Frances a framework on which to build her own research questions. At this stage of her research they were:

  • What actually is this experience of whiplash injury?
  • What does it actually mean to have this injury?
  • What are the kinds of psycho-social effects of the injury?
  • How does the medical model affect the person suffering from the injury?
  • What’s taking place in that initial consultation with the GP?
  • How does the consultation influence the patient?
  • What are the influences?
  • Where, do these influences come from?
  • What can we do to minimise or to manage that particular problem and prevent longer-term consequences?


These questions were just a start. They did not go unchanged. You might notice that they still reflect a medical and health care worker’s perspective and make very little reference to any social scientific or psychological theories or explanations. What will become evident throughout this exemplar is how Frances refined these questions in a psychological and social scientific direction and in some cases did not use them at all.

Loudspeaker iconHear Frances talk about the continual refinement of the research questions.

So it started to refine the questions [the implications of the research for healthcare policy and practice] so that it could be more manageable and could be looked at. so that it [the research] started to take shape over a period of time and in fact it still is being refined …… all the time, I don’t think it’s ever completely clear and concrete until it’s written down and then it's a done deal, then I go back to it and may be you might refine it and change it again, so I think it’s always ongoing even though we write things down …


Creative Commons License
The resources on this site by Graham R Gibbs, Dawn Clarke, Celia Taylor, Christina Silver and Ann Lewins are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.



Gargan MF, Bannister G, Main C, Hollis S (1997) Behavioural response to whiplash injury J Bone Joint Surg Br 77:523–526