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Step by step guide to start a research project

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Throughout your academic career and even beyond in the professional world, you are required to undertake and carry out research projects. If you are having difficulty finding a good research topic or organizing yourself to articulate ideas among themselves, a few tips will be useful to get your research project off to a good start and complete it before the deadline.

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Steps to follow to start a research project

Explore ideas to dig

Whatever instructions you may have been given, the integral part of almost all research projects is to allow researchers to present their ideas. At this level, all you have to do is bring your best allies: pencil and paper. Without worrying about structure or format, start by writing down your ideas concerning your real areas of interest, as long as you meet the imposed criteria of the project.

  • Do not hesitate to write down your ideas. You’ll end up with a bit of mind-induced scrambling, silly or incomprehensible phrases coming out of your thinking. It’s normal. Think of these drafts as if they were cobwebs that you sweep from your attic. After a minute or two, better ideas will start to sprout (and maybe you’ve made fun of yourself a little bit in the meantime).

Use the tools at your disposal

If you can’t seem to stir up enough interesting material, and you’ve only been given vague instructions that are of no use to you, in this case, the best thing to do is flip through a book of the program. or course notes. Go through these latter elements and look for topics that you find interesting. You can open a coursebook directly at the table of contents, pick up a term or a name that seems relevant to embroider your ideas based on it.

Look at what others have done

In some cases, it may be interesting to research topics that were covered in the previous year by other students. You might be pleasantly surprised to find suggestions at the end of a project and recommendations for a study to do. You might even be able to find inspiration from a topic and thus create new research. This allows you to see examples of tested projects.

  • Some teachers will even provide you on request with samples of previously treated subjects whose themes have met with good resonance. However, be careful not to end up with a topic that you would like to cover, but that you are afraid to address because someone else has explored it before you.

Consider the theme from all angles

Use the instructions provided for the project if you have them. Soak up the spirit well. Write down everything that comes to your mind, even if it doesn’t seem like you’ll be able to hold up afterward. Start with the obvious approaches and then try to scaffold the other issues that are not necessarily directly related to the project guidelines.

  • For example, if the theme of your research topic is “Urban Poverty,” you can look at the topic through ethnic or gender components, but you might as well focus on corporate wages, minimum wage laws. , social security costs, loss of unskilled jobs in the urban core, etc. You could also try to compare the contrasts of urban versus poverty in peripheral and rural areas and examine what diverges in the two cases, for example in terms of diet, levels of physical exercise, or pollution of the environment. the air…

Synthesize the specific topics

You can combine a few or many parameters to create concrete issues that will give direction to your research project. Continuing from the previous example, you can study the eating habits of the rural poor compared to that of the urban poor and compare your results with those of the rich to form a theory for yourself: is diet more influenced by money or the environment, and up to what point?

Visualize the methodology you are going to employ

The methodology is an essential part of the project. You certainly don’t want to go down a path that doesn’t have a methodology or a direction that demands resources that you don’t have. Students generally lack the time and money, but in most cases have to fund their research. This aspect might be a little premature, but you certainly don’t want to embark on a project that won’t be successful.

  • Scaffold your work based on questions you would like to find answers to. A good research project should compile information to answer (or at least attempt to answer) a question. As you review and make connections between different topics, questions will arise that you will not have clear answers to at the moment. These questions represent your research topics.

Sort the information to which you have access

Now that you have good milestones for concrete research ideas that interest you, pick your flagship idea, and do a little preliminary research. If you find information that you can use, keep your topic, if, on the contrary, it doesn’t seem like a useful search, you will have to do a completely original search or change the subject. Do not hesitate to run the risk of choosing an original research theme even if it seems tenuous to you, often these subjects are precisely points that are sorely lacking in attention and your work will at least have the merit of directing the lighting. in the right direction.

  • Don’t limit yourself to libraries and databases on the Internet. Also consider external resources: primary sources, government agencies, and even educational television programs. If you want to know the differences in animal populations between Crown land and Indian reserve land, phone the reserve and ask to speak to their environment and wildlife department.
  • Well done to you if you want to embark on original research, however, the techniques to be able to deal with such a project are not discussed in this article. Talk to qualified advisers and work with their help to develop a comprehensive, controlled process that can be repeated as needed to gather information.

Clearly define your project

Now that you have defined your field of research and chosen the problem to be addressed, it is time to get down to business. Write down your research question and then briefly the different steps you will take to answer it. Finally, at the bottom of the page, write down each possible answer to your question. There are usually three potential answers: it’s one way, it’s different, or it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

  • If you decide to “dig into the topic” and you don’t have concrete things to say about it, write down the types of resources you plan to use instead: books (from the library or personal? ), magazines (which ones?), interviews, etc. Your preliminary research should already have given you a solid foundation for where to start.

Extend your idea through research

Start with a basic approach

It just means going out into the field and doing your research. If you spend too much time sketching out the outlines of your research project in a theoretical way, then you are probably wasting your time, because the research you can do will not plug all the necessary holes. Instead, start by visiting your school library (or local public library). Select books and stack books to then flip through them for interesting items until you have exhausted those resources. Keep a notebook or laptop handy to jot down anything you might use as is.

  • Quoting an argument developed by three different authors of agreements between them is usually more convincing than relying too much on a single book in particular. Bet on quantity as much as on quality. Check citations, footnotes, and bibliographies for other potential sources of information (see whether or not all of your authors are just citing an identical older author).
  • Write down your sources and all other relevant details (like context) around your information now. This precaution will save you a lot of future hassle.

Widen your field of vision

Once you have good resources from your research, use any tool you have access to gather more information from online databases like Jstor. If you are a student, you likely have free access to a lot of such resources through your university. Otherwise, you may have to pay some subscription fees. This is also a good time to do a general Internet search of serious sites, such as government agencies or well-known non-governmental organizations.

  • Use several different queries to query the database and get the desired results. If a particular turn of phrase or phrase does not work, try rephrasing the requestor using synonymous terms. Online academic databases tend to be quite narrow in terms of the terms to use at times, so try to find language parades to achieve your goals.

Look at unusual sources

At this point, you should have more copied (and appropriately referenced) content than you can use in the final job. Now is the right time to get creative and breathe life into your research. Visit museums and historical societies to view archives that otherwise cannot be accessed. Schedule interviews with recognized professors in their field for academic information that you can highlight as a primary source. Also, talk to project managers and professionals working in the field relevant to your research framework.

  • If this is a sensitive topic, you can venture to interview passers-by to ask their opinion. This method is not always suitable (or welcome) in a research project, however, it can provide excellent prospects for your research project in some cases.
  • Also, review the culture. In many facets of a study, one finds useful insights into the attitudes, hopes, or concerns of individuals at a particular time and place through the arts, music, or writing they have produced. One only has to look at the woodcuts of modern German Expressionists, for example, to realize that they lived in a world they often viewed as dark, grotesque, and hopeless. Song lyrics and poetry can likewise reveal strong popular attitudes.

Proofread and refine

At this level, you must have on hand substantial and well-referenced research and at least already somewhat classified. Read everything through the research question bundle, looking for full or partial answers. Also, read between the lines, use the context, publication date, and other background guides provided to help you better understand. Hopefully, you have more than you need on hand to conclude in favor of one answer over another. Go through your notes once again and leave out anything that will not be directly usable in your project. All you have left is

Advice from

  • When in doubt, write more rather than less. It is easier to synthesize and reorganize an overabundance of information than to spill out a thin stream of facts and anecdotes.
  • Prepare as early as possible. The basis of a research project is the research itself, and research takes time and requires patience, even if you do not create an original project. Allow yourself enough time to devote yourself to it, at least until the preliminary research phase is completed. Beyond this stage, the project should evolve naturally on its own.


  • Respect ethical considerations. Mainly if you plan to create original research, there are very strict ethical guidelines that must be applied so that the research project can be validated by any academic body. Talk to a counselor (a teacher, for example) about what you plan to do and learn about the steps you can take to make sure you’re following an ethical process.
  • Respect people’s wishes. Unless you are an investigative journalist, it is paramount that you stick to the demands others have made before you engage in original research, even if it remains technically ethical. Many American Indians, for example, cultivate a great deal of resentment towards sociologists who come to their reservations to do research, including those invited by tribal governments to revive their languages. Proceed with caution when out of your element, and only work with people who are willing to work with you.


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