Research, service evaluation or audit?

Is my project research?

Not all projects are classed as research and they can also fall under “service evaluation” or “clinical audit”.

A well-used distinction is the following:

    • Research is designed and conducted to generate new knowledge.

    • Service evaluations are designed to answer the question “What standard does this service achieve?”.

    • Audits are designed to find out whether the quality of a service meets a defined standard.

The HRA has devised a decision tool to help you assess whether your project is considered research: Is my study research?.

It can sometimes be difficult to decide whether a project is research, service evaluation or audit and you can find further guidance to help you decide in the Defining Research Table.

NHS Research Ethics Committee and HRA/HCRW Approval are only required for research projects, however local Trust / Organisations will need to agree to participate in any audit or service evaluation and may have separate processes for this. Please note that even if your project is not classed as research you still need to carefully consider any ethical issues that could arise.

If you remain unsure and you are running your project within primary or community care in Norfolk and Suffolk please submit a draft proposal to the research office at We will review your proposal and can provide you with advice.

Service evaluation

The Research Office runs training on how to design and conduct service evaluations. We can also advise on the design of your local evaluation. Please contact for more information.