ALTHOUGH most people know what to expect as topics of the research conducted in such domains as biochemistry, microbiology, or epidemiology, the domain of health care research has not been clearly delineated. It sometimes seems to include a chaotic variety of activities, ranging from polemic debates about medical ethics to quantitative accounts of hospital finances to biostatistical experiments with randomized therapy. The heterogeneous components and varieties of such research create special problems for peer review committees and for administrators of agencies that support health care research. Because the distinctive features of the research have not been precisely demarcated, it is often difficult to reach a consensus about the merit or even the eligibility of projects under consideration.
To help clarify some of the confusion, we have written this article for the taxonomic purpose of defining and classifying the kinds of investigation that constitute health care research. Health care research is