Designing a Research Study on Abortion

Designing a Research Study on Abortion

This document will serve to support the design of a research study on abortion in Nigeria. This tool is applicable to developmental research while engaging academic and experimental research. The topic of abortion is still fragile in many countries including Nigeria which informed the design of this guide taking into consideration the safety of respondents.

For users of this guide, it is assumed that you have already designed a project on abortion highlighting specific area(s) of focus.

There are many aspects of abortion a project can be focused on. Some possible topics related to abortion are:

  • Abortion Rate among Adolescent Girls in XYZ Community between 2005 and 2010
  • Factors that Influence Unsafe Abortion in XYZ Community
  • Consequences of Unsafe Abortion in XYZ Community
  • Number of Facilities in XYZ Community that can provide Safe Abortion Services
  • Accessibility and Availability of Medical Abortion Pills in XYZ Community.

Picking a research topic in line with the overall goal of the project is a very important step towards ensuring the success of the research/study. The data obtained in the course of the research has to be relevant to the objectives of the project.

The following steps are generally used in conducting a developmental research project either formally or informally:

  1. Literature Review:

Carry out a literature review of on existing data (secondary data) relevant to your research topic. You could review the laws on abortion in the country and the abortion laws that governs the location of your research. You could also read up on other abortion related projects that had been implemented in that location. This will give you an idea of what is and what needs to be done in the course of the project your research seeks to implement.


  1. Outline the objectives of the research:

The research is for an abortion project. Ensure that the objectives of the research will be in line with the overall goal of the project covering the research study. Developing research questions will help to keep the objectives in check. Based on the sample areas of focus, some research questions could take these formats:

  • Would the inhabitants of XYZ community support their women and girls to procure abortion as long as it is safe and without complications?
  • Do enough people in XYZ community know about medical abortion pills?
  • Do they have enough qualified abortion service providers in XYZ community?
  • Do they have enough facilities that can provide standard abortion services in XYZ community?

The answers to your research questions should be able to match the outlined objectives of the research.


  1. Map the target population:

Depending on what area of abortion the research is focused on, you have to identify the target population you seek to conduct the study on. Generally, abortion projects could involve, Government Legislature (lawmakers), Government Health Sectors (ministries, commissions), Private Health Sectors, Education Sector, Community Health Sector and even the general populace. All of these, must not go together at once but that depends on the area of abortion the project is focused on. Identification of the target population gives you an idea of how to prepare your implementation.


Looking for a quick summary? Check out this infographic.


  1. Develop Research Modalities:

You will have to generate new data that will answer your research questions and achieve the research objectives and also contribute to the achievement of the overall goal of the project. The data should be collected from the identified target population. Top six ways to collect data for an abortion project and indeed any other developmental project are:



  • Interviews
  • Questionnaires and surveys
  • Observations
  • Documents and records
  • Focus groups
  • Oral histories

These data collection methods could be Quantitative (can be counted or put to numbers) or Qualitative (considers factors other than numerical values). In general, questionnaires, surveys, documents and records are quantitative, while interviews, focus groups discussions, observations, and oral histories are qualitative. There can also be a crossover between the two methods.

Selection of the data collection method should depend on the focus of the abortion project and the target population involved. For instance, a project that seeks to know the number of facilities in a location that provide safe abortion services, can use a quantitative method of data collection and get quality data. But a project that wants to highlight the effect of unsafe abortion in a location should best use qualitative methods of data collection, in order to get a high quality of data.

Depending on the data collection method chosen, you can design your data collection tools; questionnaire or interview questions or topics to be discussed in groups to achieve effective gathering of information. Share with other researchers or a consultant to review the tools in line with best practices related to your research focus before rolling out. You can decide to collect the data electronically or manually.


  1. Collecting Data:

It is expected that you have established a relationship with a gatekeeper for your target population, to grant you easy access to conduct the data collection exercise. You might also want to engage members of the target population to support you in conducting the exercise. Ensure that you make the goals and objectives of your research study comprehensible to the target population before you collect data.


  1. Carry out a Complete Analysis of the Data:

Develop a plan for the analysis of the captured data. This is usually a very delicate part of the research study. You can hire the expertise of a data analyst to handle this part if you are not sure how best to go about it. The results should be interpreted in relation to the research questions and the research objectives.

Instead of conclusions, you can make inferences and note key points from the analysis. These inferences and key points, can inform clearly stated recommendations. Ensure to state the results the way the analysis have brought them forth.

You should be aware that no result is negative. Every result from the research will either affirm a hypothesis and/or inform further actions.


  1. Prepare a Complete, Accurate and Readable Report:

This report will feature the background of the study, the target population, number of respondents, a summary of the data analysis, challenges encountered in the research, highlights, key points and recommendations based on the analysis. This report should be targeted to the project team including implementing partners and donors.

An extension publication can be made from the analysis and report which could be sent to a wider audience such as global stakeholders that can influence abortion laws in the project location or stakeholders who can create better abortion services in the location.

The results can also be translated into other advocacy materials or publications for the general public depending on what goals   the project is aiming to achieve.


P.S: Looking for a quick summary? Check out this infographic.