UTOPIAN Idea to Proposal Course (I2P)

About the course

Idea to Proposal (I2P) is an extensive course on research methods to help those with clinical questions/research ideas to develop potentially fundable research grant applications. The course aims to increase the research capacity of family physicians, allied health professionals and other staff members within DFCM.

The course runs annually and is open to all primary care physicians and allied health professionals at UTOPIAN affiliated sites places are also available to health professionals outside of DFCM, including from across the GTA and Ontario. 45 individuals have already been trained since 2014.

From 2015-16, the course has been accredited for up to 43 Mainpro-C credits. Work outside the face-to-face sessions is required, focused on developing research protocol.

Current  format of the course

The course consists of two sessions, each lasting 2 days. The structure of both sessions is very similar, with mix of home group sessions (tutor-led, same groups for the duration of the course), plenaries and small group sessions. Sessions are designed as highly interactive and driven by participants' needs and questions. In 2016-2017, online support is provided through UofT learning portal which enables to monitor progress and also communications of participants between the sessions.

Home group sessions (total ~12 hours): The focus of the course is on participants developing their own research questions in small, tutor-led groups with tutors drawn from experienced researchers at DFCM; there are two tutors assigned to a group of maximum of 10 participants. There are two sessions each day of the course, totaling to 8 sessions of 1.5 hours throughout the course. Tutors for the home groups are drawn from DFCM faculty, combining one experienced senior researcher and one junior researcher. This combination also allows junior researchers to further develop their skills.

During the home group sessions, participants are following the research workbook which guides them through the process of developing a clinical question into a research question as part of the overall course aim of developing a potentially fundable research question.

Small group sessions (total ~5 hours): Small group sessions are hands-on workshops that are tailored to participants' needs. These include basic statistics, surveying, interviewing, educational research, literature searching and reference management software, work with (EMR) data and budgeting. Participants will be offered at least 2-3 different small groups per each of the 2-day sessions.

Plenaries (~6 hours) and whole group feedback (~1.5 hours): Plenaries and invited speakers cover topics of interest to the whole group, i.e. research methods, research funding, worked examples of proposals, ethics, overview of datasets for research. Invited speakers are drawn from researchers both within and outside DFCM.

Feedback from the entire group are at the end of each 2-day session, with longer time at the very end of the course. This allows participants to talk about their research questions with the entire group, allows discussion of potential issues/problems which might be relevant to everyone, and enables collaboration across the sites.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course module students will be able to:

  • Construct clear research questions;
  • Develop problems met in practice into potential research questions;
  • Conduct a literature review to outline what is already known about the topic of study;
  • Decide the most appropriate study design and methodology to answer the research question;
  • Design, with others, an appropriate study to answer the research question;
  • Prepare, with others, a grant application.


Feedback is collected from both participants and tutors on an ongoing basis; it informs both planning between the sessions (i.e. amending upcoming sessions to reflect participants' needs) and for future courses. Feedback from participants is passed on the tutors, speakers, presenters and course organizers.


  • oral feedback at the end of each session in the whole group
  • written feedback is collected at the end of each of the three sessions, this serves both as feedback on the session and also helps to inform planning of the upcoming sessions
  • informal feedback is collected throughout the course by course administrator and tutors


  • tutor meeting is scheduled at the beginning and end of each session which covers anticipated home group progress during the progress, any difficulties met by participants, and post-course assignments