Methodological issues and complementary therapies: researching intangibles?

Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 2003 Aug;9(3):133-9. doi: 10.1016/S1353-6117(03)00042-8.


The increasing drive to adopt evidence-based practice within the mainstream health service creates a sense of urgency for high quality, rigorous research to support CAM. The RCT is seen as the gold standard for allopathic research. However, the tenets of the RCT cannot simply be just picked up and applied to CAM research. Critics of the RCT propose that it fractures and fragments the essence of many complementary therapies. Challenges including standardisation, blinding, randomisation, practitioner influence, placebos, and controls are explored and some possible solutions are presented. CAM researchers need to be creative so that they capture some of the intangibles that currently slip through the reductionist net of the RCT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies / standards*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Patient Selection
  • Placebo Effect
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design