What is a Clinical Study? - Definition & Explanation

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Clinical studies help scientists and medical professionals discover and test new treatments. Learn more about the definition, importance and process of clinical studies and test your knowledge with a quiz.


In 1537, Ambroise Paré was treating soldiers injured in battle. He knew that pouring boiling oil onto a wound would prevent infection, but he didn't have enough oil for all of the soldiers. He mixed together egg yolks, rose oil, and turpentine then applied it to some of the soldiers' wounds. The next day, he found that the new mixture worked as well as the boiling oil, without the side effects of burns and pain that the oil produced. Paré's discovery was made through the use of a clinical study.

Ambroise Pare
Photo of Ambroise Paré

A clinical study is a scientific examination of how a treatment for an illness or mental disorder works in humans.

Importance of Clinical Studies

Clinical studies (also called clinical trials) help scientists and doctors discover the best treatment for an illness or disorder. Imagine that Paré hadn't done a clinical trial of his concoction: we might still be pouring boiling oil on patients today!

In addition to helping scientists figure out what treatment works best, clinical studies help them find out the side effects of a treatment. Drugs are often tested on animals first. However, animals might not suffer from the same side effects that humans do. Clinical trials will help scientists discover important (and sometimes deadly) side effects.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account