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Conceptualizing your research topic

Conceptualizing a research topic entails formulating a “defensible and researchable” research question . Conducting a literature search as one of the first steps in a graduate degree is often quite helpful as published peer-reviewed research articles are key to identify knowledge gaps in current literature. Thus, students can design and phrase their research projects to aim to address these research gaps.

Elements of a good research topic

  • Interesting: topic represents an area of deep interest for the researcher
  • Original : for PhD students, the topic can produce an original contribution to knowledge
  • Manageable: research question could be answered within the degree’s recommended time frame (see time limitation ).

At McGill, PhD students are usually expected to have a sufficiently defined research topic by the time of the comprehensive exam .

Seminar presentations can help with topic definition and project planning

Many experienced supervisors and successful PhD students suggest that preparing a research proposal for presentation at a seminar within six months of commencement helps with focusing on the topic. Here are some suggested questions:

  • What is it that you want to find answers for?
  • Why is it important that this be researched?
  • What impact will this research have?
  • How will you go about researching this?

Read critically to identify gaps in the field and understand different research methods

Critical reading involves developing an understanding of the knowledge and gaps in the field and being able to critique different research methods, methodologies and epistemologies.

Try concept mapping to visualize and organize links between ideas

Concept mapping: a practical strategy for students and researchers starting a project. It helps to identify areas of importance as well as possibilities for the exploration and analysis of such areas.

Concept maps are helpful as a means of focusing discussion on the topic or research question because they offer a visual approach to creating relationships among concepts . More information about concept mapping can be found at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition's page on Constructing your first concept map .

  • A concept map showing the main components of a concept map , from Novak & Canas (2008) .

If the student makes a concept map, this can form the basis of different discussions between the student and supervisor.

How important is motivation for topic selection?

Most graduate students have a general idea about what they would like to research. Depending on supervisors and disciplines, a student may be "given" a specific research topic or a list of topics to choose from or be asked to generate a topic based on her or his prior knowledge and experience. In either situation, it is a good idea to talk with others – supervisors, students, colleagues, peers, even friends and family – about possible choices, since a research topic is something most students will commit to for the rest of their degree.

Point to reflect on

  • What questions, topics or methodologies are you passionate about? Why are you passionate about them (e.g., personal interest or curiosity, potential applications to help others or the environment)?
  • Is it possible to answer your desired question within the time frame of a graduate degree? If not, is it possible to choose a portion of this topic to investigate during your graduate studies?
  • Do you get more motivated from knowing exactly what you’re going to do, or from the excitement of unexpected discoveries or research trajectories? How can you select a topic and plan your project to better suit your sources of motivation See  Staying motivated  for additional resources

Steps to refine the research focus

  • Identify the boundaries of the research areas and the gaps in the field .
  • Make a list of possible research ideas within a topic.
  • Discuss these ideas with others (e.g., peers, colleagues, professors, mentors). This can provide opportunities for receiving advice based on past experiences, additional ideas, or opportunities for collaboration.
  • Reduce the list to two ideas : a first choice and a backup. Having a backup is useful in the event that the first choice is found to be inappropriate for the time restriction, require unattainable resources, or be otherwise not feasible.
  • Brainstorm as many ideas, questions, possible problems, and any other thoughts relevant to the first choice.
  • Narrow down these ideas into a more precise focus by considering feasibility (e.g., time, requires resources), interest, and significance. The resulting idea should complete the sentence “The purpose of this project is…”
  • Refer back to the brainstorming and remove anything not relevant to the purpose statement. Add any new relevant ideas. Use these ideas as well as the purpose statement to create a list of researchable questions . Be sure to define key terms and consider required resources, including the characteristics of the participants if applicable.
  • Create a project outline. Consider what information or data will be needed and how it can be obtained.

Adapted from Wisker (2005, p. 83) and Bell & Waters (2014)

Bell, J., & Waters, S. (2014). Doing your research project: A guide for first-time researchers . New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Novak, J. D., & Cañas, A. J. (2008). The theory underlying concept maps and how to construct and use them. Institute for Human and Machine Cognition . Retrieved from http://cmap.ihmc.us/docs/theory-of-concept-maps

Wisker, G. (2005). The good supervisor: Supervising postgraduate and undergraduate research for doctoral theses and dissertations . Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License . Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University .

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Research Method

Home » Research Topics – Ideas and Examples

Research Topics – Ideas and Examples

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Research Topic

Research Topic

Definition:

Research topic is a specific subject or area of interest that a researcher wants to investigate or explore in-depth through research. It is the overarching theme or question that guides a research project and helps to focus the research activities towards a clear objective.

How to Choose Research Topic

You can Choose a Research Topic by following the below guide:

Identify your Interests

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a research topic is your personal interest. This is because you will be spending a considerable amount of time researching and writing about the topic, so it’s essential that you are genuinely interested and passionate about it. Start by brainstorming a list of potential research topics based on your interests, hobbies, or areas of expertise. You can also consider the courses that you’ve enjoyed the most or the topics that have stood out to you in your readings.

Review the Literature

Before deciding on a research topic, you need to understand what has already been written about it. Conducting a preliminary review of the existing literature in your field can help you identify gaps in knowledge, inconsistencies in findings, or unanswered questions that you can explore further. You can do this by reading academic articles, books, and other relevant sources in your field. Make notes of the themes or topics that emerge and use this information to guide your research question.

Consult with your Advisor

Your academic advisor or a mentor in your field can provide you with valuable insights and guidance on choosing a research topic. They can help you identify areas of interest, suggest potential research questions, and provide feedback on the feasibility of your research proposal. They can also direct you towards relevant literature and resources that can help you develop your research further.

Consider the Scope and Feasibility

The research topic you choose should be manageable within the time and resource constraints of your project. Be mindful of the scope of your research and ensure that you are not trying to tackle a topic that is too broad or too narrow. If your topic is too broad, you may find it challenging to conduct a comprehensive analysis, while if it’s too narrow, you may struggle to find enough material to support your research.

Brainstorm with Peers

Discussing potential research topics with your peers or colleagues can help you generate new ideas and perspectives. They may have insights or expertise that you haven’t considered, and their feedback can help you refine your research question. You can also join academic groups or attend conferences in your field to network with other researchers and get inspiration for your research.

Consider the Relevance

Choose a research topic that is relevant to your field of study and has the potential to contribute to the existing knowledge. You can consider the latest trends and emerging issues in your field to identify topics that are both relevant and interesting. Conducting research on a topic that is timely and relevant can also increase the likelihood of getting published or presenting your research at conferences.

Keep an Open Mind

While it’s essential to choose a research topic that aligns with your interests and expertise, you should also be open to exploring new ideas or topics that may be outside of your comfort zone. Consider researching a topic that challenges your assumptions or introduces new perspectives that you haven’t considered before. You may discover new insights or perspectives that can enrich your research and contribute to your growth as a researcher.

Components of Research Topic

A research topic typically consists of several components that help to define and clarify the subject matter of the research project. These components include:

  • Research problem or question: This is the central issue or inquiry that the research seeks to address. It should be well-defined and focused, with clear boundaries that limit the scope of the research.
  • Background and context: This component provides the necessary background information and context for the research topic. It explains why the research problem or question is important, relevant, and timely. It may also include a literature review that summarizes the existing research on the topic.
  • Objectives or goals : This component outlines the specific objectives or goals that the research seeks to achieve. It should be clear and concise, and should align with the research problem or question.
  • Methodology : This component describes the research methods and techniques that will be used to collect and analyze data. It should be detailed enough to provide a clear understanding of how the research will be conducted, including the sampling method, data collection tools, and statistical analyses.
  • Significance or contribution : This component explains the significance or contribution of the research topic. It should demonstrate how the research will add to the existing knowledge in the field, and how it will benefit practitioners, policymakers, or society at large.
  • Limitations: This component outlines the limitations of the research, including any potential biases, assumptions, or constraints. It should be transparent and honest about the potential shortcomings of the research, and how these limitations will be addressed.
  • Expected outcomes or findings : This component provides an overview of the expected outcomes or findings of the research project. It should be realistic and based on the research objectives and methodology.

Purpose of Research Topic

The purpose of a research topic is to identify a specific area of inquiry that the researcher wants to explore and investigate. A research topic is typically a broad area of interest that requires further exploration and refinement through the research process. It provides a clear focus and direction for the research project, and helps to define the research questions and objectives. A well-defined research topic also helps to ensure that the research is relevant and useful, and can contribute to the existing body of knowledge in the field. Ultimately, the purpose of a research topic is to generate new insights, knowledge, and understanding about a particular phenomenon, issue, or problem.

Characteristics of Research Topic

some common characteristics of a well-defined research topic include:

  • Relevance : A research topic should be relevant and significant to the field of study and address a current issue, problem, or gap in knowledge.
  • Specificity : A research topic should be specific enough to allow for a focused investigation and clear understanding of the research question.
  • Feasibility : A research topic should be feasible, meaning it should be possible to carry out the research within the given constraints of time, resources, and expertise.
  • Novelty : A research topic should add to the existing body of knowledge by introducing new ideas, concepts, or theories.
  • Clarity : A research topic should be clearly articulated and easy to understand, both for the researcher and for potential readers of the research.
  • Importance : A research topic should be important and have practical implications for the field or society as a whole.
  • Significance : A research topic should be significant and have the potential to generate new insights and understanding in the field.

Examples of Research Topics

Here are some examples of research topics that are currently relevant and in-demand in various fields:

  • The impact of social media on mental health: With the rise of social media use, this topic has gained significant attention in recent years. Researchers could investigate how social media affects self-esteem, body image, and other mental health concerns.
  • The use of artificial intelligence in healthcare: As healthcare becomes increasingly digitalized, researchers could explore the use of AI algorithms to predict and prevent disease, optimize treatment plans, and improve patient outcomes.
  • Renewable energy and sustainable development: As the world seeks to reduce its carbon footprint, researchers could investigate the potential of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, and how these technologies can be integrated into existing infrastructure.
  • The impact of workplace diversity and inclusion on employee productivity: With an increasing focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, researchers could investigate how these factors affect employee morale, productivity, and retention.
  • Cybersecurity and data privacy: As data breaches and cyber attacks become more common, researchers could explore new methods of protecting sensitive information and preventing malicious attacks.
  • T he impact of mindfulness and meditation on stress reduction: As stress-related health issues become more prevalent, researchers could investigate the effectiveness of mindfulness and meditation practices on reducing stress and improving overall well-being.

Research Topics Ideas

Here are some Research Topics Ideas from different fields:

  • The impact of social media on mental health and well-being.
  • The effectiveness of various teaching methods in improving academic performance in high schools.
  • The role of AI and machine learning in healthcare: current applications and future potentials.
  • The impact of climate change on wildlife habitats and conservation efforts.
  • The effects of video game violence on aggressive behavior in young adults.
  • The effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques in reducing anxiety and depression.
  • The impact of technology on human relationships and social interactions.
  • The role of exercise in promoting physical and mental health in older adults.
  • The causes and consequences of income inequality in developed and developing countries.
  • The effects of cultural diversity in the workplace on job satisfaction and productivity.
  • The impact of remote work on employee productivity and work-life balance.
  • The relationship between sleep patterns and cognitive functioning.
  • The effectiveness of online learning versus traditional classroom learning.
  • The role of government policies in promoting renewable energy adoption.
  • The effects of childhood trauma on mental health in adulthood.
  • The impact of social media on political participation and civic engagement.
  • The effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy in treating anxiety disorders.
  • The relationship between nutrition and cognitive functioning.
  • The impact of gentrification on urban communities.
  • The effects of music on mood and emotional regulation.
  • The impact of microplastics on marine ecosystems and food webs.
  • The role of artificial intelligence in detecting and preventing cyberattacks.
  • The effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions in managing chronic pain.
  • The relationship between personality traits and job satisfaction.
  • The effects of social isolation on mental and physical health in older adults.
  • The impact of cultural and linguistic diversity on healthcare access and outcomes.
  • The effectiveness of psychotherapy in treating depression and anxiety in adolescents.
  • The relationship between exercise and cognitive aging.
  • The effects of social media on body image and self-esteem.
  • The role of corporate social responsibility in promoting sustainable business practices.
  • The impact of mindfulness meditation on attention and focus in children.
  • The relationship between political polarization and media consumption habits.
  • The effects of urbanization on mental health and well-being.
  • The role of social support in managing chronic illness.
  • The impact of social media on romantic relationships and dating behaviors.
  • The effectiveness of behavioral interventions in promoting physical activity in sedentary adults.
  • The relationship between sleep quality and immune function.
  • The effects of workplace diversity and inclusion programs on employee retention.
  • The impact of climate change on global food security.
  • The role of music therapy in improving communication and social skills in individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
  • The impact of cultural values on the development of mental health stigma.
  • The effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques in reducing burnout in healthcare professionals.
  • The relationship between social media use and body dissatisfaction among adolescents.
  • The effects of nature exposure on cognitive functioning and well-being.
  • The role of peer mentoring in promoting academic success in underrepresented student populations.
  • The impact of neighborhood characteristics on physical activity and obesity.
  • The effectiveness of cognitive rehabilitation interventions in improving cognitive functioning in individuals with traumatic brain injury.
  • The relationship between organizational culture and employee job satisfaction.
  • The effects of cultural immersion experiences on intercultural competence development.
  • The role of assistive technology in promoting independence and quality of life for individuals with disabilities.
  • The impact of workplace design on employee productivity and well-being.
  • The impact of digital technologies on the music industry and artist revenues.
  • The effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy in treating insomnia.
  • The relationship between social media use and body weight perception among young adults.
  • The effects of green spaces on mental health and well-being in urban areas.
  • The role of mindfulness-based interventions in reducing substance use disorders.
  • The impact of workplace bullying on employee turnover and job satisfaction.
  • The effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy in treating mental health disorders.
  • The relationship between teacher-student relationships and academic achievement.
  • The effects of social support on resilience in individuals experiencing adversity.
  • The role of cognitive aging in driving safety and mobility.
  • The effectiveness of psychotherapy in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • The relationship between social media use and sleep quality.
  • The effects of cultural competency training on healthcare providers’ attitudes and behaviors towards diverse patient populations.
  • The role of exercise in preventing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • The impact of the gig economy on job security and worker rights.
  • The effectiveness of art therapy in promoting emotional regulation and coping skills in children and adolescents.
  • The relationship between parenting styles and child academic achievement.
  • The effects of social comparison on well-being and self-esteem.
  • The role of nutrition in promoting healthy aging and longevity.
  • The impact of gender diversity in leadership on organizational performance.
  • The effectiveness of family-based interventions in treating eating disorders.
  • The relationship between social media use and perceived loneliness among older adults.
  • The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on pain management in chronic pain patients.
  • The role of physical activity in preventing and treating depression.
  • The impact of cultural differences on communication and conflict resolution in international business.
  • The effectiveness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in treating anxiety disorders.
  • The relationship between student engagement and academic success in higher education.
  • The effects of discrimination on mental health outcomes in minority populations.
  • The role of virtual reality in enhancing learning experiences.
  • The impact of social media influencers on consumer behavior and brand loyalty.
  • The effectiveness of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in treating chronic pain.
  • The relationship between social media use and body image dissatisfaction among men.
  • The effects of exposure to nature on cognitive functioning and creativity.
  • The role of spirituality in coping with illness and disability.
  • The impact of automation on employment and job displacement.
  • The effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in treating borderline personality disorder.
  • The relationship between teacher-student relationships and school attendance.
  • The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on workplace stress and burnout.
  • The role of exercise in promoting cognitive functioning and brain health in older adults.
  • The impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives on organizational innovation and creativity.
  • The effectiveness of cognitive remediation therapy in treating schizophrenia.
  • The relationship between social media use and body dissatisfaction among women.
  • The effects of exposure to natural light on mood and sleep quality.
  • The role of spirituality in enhancing well-being and resilience in military personnel.
  • The impact of artificial intelligence on job training and skill development.
  • The effectiveness of interpersonal therapy (IPT) in treating depression.
  • The relationship between parental involvement and academic achievement among low-income students.
  • The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on emotional regulation and coping skills in trauma survivors.
  • The role of nutrition in preventing and treating mental health disorders.

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11.1 The Purpose of Research Writing

Learning objectives.

  • Identify reasons to research writing projects.
  • Outline the steps of the research writing process.

Why was the Great Wall of China built? What have scientists learned about the possibility of life on Mars? What roles did women play in the American Revolution? How does the human brain create, store, and retrieve memories? Who invented the game of football, and how has it changed over the years?

You may know the answers to these questions off the top of your head. If you are like most people, however, you find answers to tough questions like these by searching the Internet, visiting the library, or asking others for information. To put it simply, you perform research.

Whether you are a scientist, an artist, a paralegal, or a parent, you probably perform research in your everyday life. When your boss, your instructor, or a family member asks you a question that you do not know the answer to, you locate relevant information, analyze your findings, and share your results. Locating, analyzing, and sharing information are key steps in the research process, and in this chapter, you will learn more about each step. By developing your research writing skills, you will prepare yourself to answer any question no matter how challenging.

Reasons for Research

When you perform research, you are essentially trying to solve a mystery—you want to know how something works or why something happened. In other words, you want to answer a question that you (and other people) have about the world. This is one of the most basic reasons for performing research.

But the research process does not end when you have solved your mystery. Imagine what would happen if a detective collected enough evidence to solve a criminal case, but she never shared her solution with the authorities. Presenting what you have learned from research can be just as important as performing the research. Research results can be presented in a variety of ways, but one of the most popular—and effective—presentation forms is the research paper . A research paper presents an original thesis, or purpose statement, about a topic and develops that thesis with information gathered from a variety of sources.

If you are curious about the possibility of life on Mars, for example, you might choose to research the topic. What will you do, though, when your research is complete? You will need a way to put your thoughts together in a logical, coherent manner. You may want to use the facts you have learned to create a narrative or to support an argument. And you may want to show the results of your research to your friends, your teachers, or even the editors of magazines and journals. Writing a research paper is an ideal way to organize thoughts, craft narratives or make arguments based on research, and share your newfound knowledge with the world.

Write a paragraph about a time when you used research in your everyday life. Did you look for the cheapest way to travel from Houston to Denver? Did you search for a way to remove gum from the bottom of your shoe? In your paragraph, explain what you wanted to research, how you performed the research, and what you learned as a result.

Research Writing and the Academic Paper

No matter what field of study you are interested in, you will most likely be asked to write a research paper during your academic career. For example, a student in an art history course might write a research paper about an artist’s work. Similarly, a student in a psychology course might write a research paper about current findings in childhood development.

Having to write a research paper may feel intimidating at first. After all, researching and writing a long paper requires a lot of time, effort, and organization. However, writing a research paper can also be a great opportunity to explore a topic that is particularly interesting to you. The research process allows you to gain expertise on a topic of your choice, and the writing process helps you remember what you have learned and understand it on a deeper level.

Research Writing at Work

Knowing how to write a good research paper is a valuable skill that will serve you well throughout your career. Whether you are developing a new product, studying the best way to perform a procedure, or learning about challenges and opportunities in your field of employment, you will use research techniques to guide your exploration. You may even need to create a written report of your findings. And because effective communication is essential to any company, employers seek to hire people who can write clearly and professionally.

Writing at Work

Take a few minutes to think about each of the following careers. How might each of these professionals use researching and research writing skills on the job?

  • Medical laboratory technician
  • Small business owner
  • Information technology professional
  • Freelance magazine writer

A medical laboratory technician or information technology professional might do research to learn about the latest technological developments in either of these fields. A small business owner might conduct research to learn about the latest trends in his or her industry. A freelance magazine writer may need to research a given topic to write an informed, up-to-date article.

Think about the job of your dreams. How might you use research writing skills to perform that job? Create a list of ways in which strong researching, organizing, writing, and critical thinking skills could help you succeed at your dream job. How might these skills help you obtain that job?

Steps of the Research Writing Process

How does a research paper grow from a folder of brainstormed notes to a polished final draft? No two projects are identical, but most projects follow a series of six basic steps.

These are the steps in the research writing process:

  • Choose a topic.
  • Plan and schedule time to research and write.
  • Conduct research.
  • Organize research and ideas.
  • Draft your paper.
  • Revise and edit your paper.

Each of these steps will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter. For now, though, we will take a brief look at what each step involves.

Step 1: Choosing a Topic

As you may recall from Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , to narrow the focus of your topic, you may try freewriting exercises, such as brainstorming. You may also need to ask a specific research question —a broad, open-ended question that will guide your research—as well as propose a possible answer, or a working thesis . You may use your research question and your working thesis to create a research proposal . In a research proposal, you present your main research question, any related subquestions you plan to explore, and your working thesis.

Step 2: Planning and Scheduling

Before you start researching your topic, take time to plan your researching and writing schedule. Research projects can take days, weeks, or even months to complete. Creating a schedule is a good way to ensure that you do not end up being overwhelmed by all the work you have to do as the deadline approaches.

During this step of the process, it is also a good idea to plan the resources and organizational tools you will use to keep yourself on track throughout the project. Flowcharts, calendars, and checklists can all help you stick to your schedule. See Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , Section 11.2 “Steps in Developing a Research Proposal” for an example of a research schedule.

Step 3: Conducting Research

When going about your research, you will likely use a variety of sources—anything from books and periodicals to video presentations and in-person interviews.

Your sources will include both primary sources and secondary sources . Primary sources provide firsthand information or raw data. For example, surveys, in-person interviews, and historical documents are primary sources. Secondary sources, such as biographies, literary reviews, or magazine articles, include some analysis or interpretation of the information presented. As you conduct research, you will take detailed, careful notes about your discoveries. You will also evaluate the reliability of each source you find.

Step 4: Organizing Research and the Writer’s Ideas

When your research is complete, you will organize your findings and decide which sources to cite in your paper. You will also have an opportunity to evaluate the evidence you have collected and determine whether it supports your thesis, or the focus of your paper. You may decide to adjust your thesis or conduct additional research to ensure that your thesis is well supported.

Remember, your working thesis is not set in stone. You can and should change your working thesis throughout the research writing process if the evidence you find does not support your original thesis. Never try to force evidence to fit your argument. For example, your working thesis is “Mars cannot support life-forms.” Yet, a week into researching your topic, you find an article in the New York Times detailing new findings of bacteria under the Martian surface. Instead of trying to argue that bacteria are not life forms, you might instead alter your thesis to “Mars cannot support complex life-forms.”

Step 5: Drafting Your Paper

Now you are ready to combine your research findings with your critical analysis of the results in a rough draft. You will incorporate source materials into your paper and discuss each source thoughtfully in relation to your thesis or purpose statement.

When you cite your reference sources, it is important to pay close attention to standard conventions for citing sources in order to avoid plagiarism , or the practice of using someone else’s words without acknowledging the source. Later in this chapter, you will learn how to incorporate sources in your paper and avoid some of the most common pitfalls of attributing information.

Step 6: Revising and Editing Your Paper

In the final step of the research writing process, you will revise and polish your paper. You might reorganize your paper’s structure or revise for unity and cohesion, ensuring that each element in your paper flows into the next logically and naturally. You will also make sure that your paper uses an appropriate and consistent tone.

Once you feel confident in the strength of your writing, you will edit your paper for proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and formatting. When you complete this final step, you will have transformed a simple idea or question into a thoroughly researched and well-written paper you can be proud of!

Review the steps of the research writing process. Then answer the questions on your own sheet of paper.

  • In which steps of the research writing process are you allowed to change your thesis?
  • In step 2, which types of information should you include in your project schedule?
  • What might happen if you eliminated step 4 from the research writing process?

Key Takeaways

  • People undertake research projects throughout their academic and professional careers in order to answer specific questions, share their findings with others, increase their understanding of challenging topics, and strengthen their researching, writing, and analytical skills.
  • The research writing process generally comprises six steps: choosing a topic, scheduling and planning time for research and writing, conducting research, organizing research and ideas, drafting a paper, and revising and editing the paper.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Selecting a research topic: overview.

  • Refine your topic
  • Background information & facts
  • Writing help

Here are some resources to refer to when selecting a topic and preparing to write a paper:

  • MIT Writing and Communication Center "Providing free professional advice about all types of writing and speaking to all members of the MIT community."
  • Search Our Collections Find books about writing. Search by subject for: english language grammar; report writing handbooks; technical writing handbooks
  • Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation Online version of the book that provides examples and tips on grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and other writing rules.
  • Select a topic

Choosing an interesting research topic is your first challenge. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a topic that you are interested in! The research process is more relevant if you care about your topic.
  • If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information and not be able to focus.
  • Background reading can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic. 
  • Review the guidelines on topic selection outlined in your assignment.  Ask your professor or TA for suggestions.
  • Refer to lecture notes and required texts to refresh your knowledge of the course and assignment.
  • Talk about research ideas with a friend.  S/he may be able to help focus your topic by discussing issues that didn't occur to you at first.
  • WHY did you choose the topic?  What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
  • WHO are the information providers on this topic?  Who might publish information about it?  Who is affected by the topic?  Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
  • WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
  • WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?
  • WHEN is/was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?

Table of contents

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The purpose statement succinctly explains (on no more than 1 page) the objectives of the research study. These objectives must directly address the problem and help close the stated gap. Expressed as a formula:

research topic and its purpose

Good purpose statements:

  • Flow from the problem statement and actually address the proposed problem
  • Are concise and clear
  • Answer the question ‘Why are you doing this research?’
  • Match the methodology (similar to research questions)
  • Have a ‘hook’ to get the reader’s attention
  • Set the stage by clearly stating, “The purpose of this (qualitative or quantitative) study is to ...

In PhD studies, the purpose usually involves applying a theory to solve the problem. In other words, the purpose tells the reader what the goal of the study is, and what your study will accomplish, through which theoretical lens. The purpose statement also includes brief information about direction, scope, and where the data will come from.

A problem and gap in combination can lead to different research objectives, and hence, different purpose statements. In the example from above where the problem was severe underrepresentation of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies and the identified gap related to lack of research of male-dominated boards; one purpose might be to explore implicit biases in male-dominated boards through the lens of feminist theory. Another purpose may be to determine how board members rated female and male candidates on scales of competency, professionalism, and experience to predict which candidate will be selected for the CEO position. The first purpose may involve a qualitative ethnographic study in which the researcher observes board meetings and hiring interviews; the second may involve a quantitative regression analysis. The outcomes will be very different, so it’s important that you find out exactly how you want to address a problem and help close a gap!

The purpose of the study must not only align with the problem and address a gap; it must also align with the chosen research method. In fact, the DP/DM template requires you to name the  research method at the very beginning of the purpose statement. The research verb must match the chosen method. In general, quantitative studies involve “closed-ended” research verbs such as determine , measure , correlate , explain , compare , validate , identify , or examine ; whereas qualitative studies involve “open-ended” research verbs such as explore , understand , narrate , articulate [meanings], discover , or develop .

A qualitative purpose statement following the color-coded problem statement (assumed here to be low well-being among financial sector employees) + gap (lack of research on followers of mid-level managers), might start like this:

In response to declining levels of employee well-being, the purpose of the qualitative phenomenology was to explore and understand the lived experiences related to the well-being of the followers of novice mid-level managers in the financial services industry. The levels of follower well-being have been shown to correlate to employee morale, turnover intention, and customer orientation (Eren et al., 2013). A combined framework of Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory and the employee well-being concept informed the research questions and supported the inquiry, analysis, and interpretation of the experiences of followers of novice managers in the financial services industry.

A quantitative purpose statement for the same problem and gap might start like this:

In response to declining levels of employee well-being, the purpose of the quantitative correlational study was to determine which leadership factors predict employee well-being of the followers of novice mid-level managers in the financial services industry. Leadership factors were measured by the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) assessment framework  by Mantlekow (2015), and employee well-being was conceptualized as a compound variable consisting of self-reported turnover-intent and psychological test scores from the Mental Health Survey (MHS) developed by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Both of these purpose statements reflect viable research strategies and both align with the problem and gap so it’s up to the researcher to design a study in a manner that reflects personal preferences and desired study outcomes. Note that the quantitative research purpose incorporates operationalized concepts  or variables ; that reflect the way the researcher intends to measure the key concepts under study; whereas the qualitative purpose statement isn’t about translating the concepts under study as variables but instead aim to explore and understand the core research phenomenon.  

Always keep in mind that the dissertation process is iterative, and your writing, over time, will be refined as clarity is gradually achieved. Most of the time, greater clarity for the purpose statement and other components of the Dissertation is the result of a growing understanding of the literature in the field. As you increasingly master the literature you will also increasingly clarify the purpose of your study.

The purpose statement should flow directly from the problem statement. There should be clear and obvious alignment between the two and that alignment will get tighter and more pronounced as your work progresses.

The purpose statement should specifically address the reason for conducting the study, with emphasis on the word specifically. There should not be any doubt in your readers’ minds as to the purpose of your study. To achieve this level of clarity you will need to also insure there is no doubt in your mind as to the purpose of your study.

Many researchers benefit from stopping your work during the research process when insight strikes you and write about it while it is still fresh in your mind. This can help you clarify all aspects of a dissertation, including clarifying its purpose.

Your Chair and your committee members can help you to clarify your study’s purpose so carefully attend to any feedback they offer.

The purpose statement should reflect the research questions and vice versa. The chain of alignment that began with the research problem description and continues on to the research purpose, research questions, and methodology must be respected at all times during dissertation development. You are to succinctly describe the overarching goal of the study that reflects the research questions. Each research question narrows and focuses the purpose statement. Conversely, the purpose statement encompasses all of the research questions.

Identify in the purpose statement the research method as quantitative, qualitative or mixed (i.e., “The purpose of this [qualitative/quantitative/mixed] study is to ...)

Avoid the use of the phrase “research study” since the two words together are redundant.

Follow the initial declaration of purpose with a brief overview of how, with what instruments/data, with whom and where (as applicable) the study will be conducted. Identify variables/constructs and/or phenomenon/concept/idea. Since this section is to be a concise paragraph, emphasis must be placed on the word brief. However, adding these details will give your readers a very clear picture of the purpose of your research.

Developing the purpose section of your dissertation is usually not achieved in a single flash of insight. The process involves a great deal of reading to find out what other scholars have done to address the research topic and problem you have identified. The purpose section of your dissertation could well be the most important paragraph you write during your academic career, and every word should be carefully selected. Think of it as the DNA of your dissertation. Everything else you write should emerge directly and clearly from your purpose statement. In turn, your purpose statement should emerge directly and clearly from your research problem description. It is good practice to print out your problem statement and purpose statement and keep them in front of you as you work on each part of your dissertation in order to insure alignment.

It is helpful to collect several dissertations similar to the one you envision creating. Extract the problem descriptions and purpose statements of other dissertation authors and compare them in order to sharpen your thinking about your own work.  Comparing how other dissertation authors have handled the many challenges you are facing can be an invaluable exercise. Keep in mind that individual universities use their own tailored protocols for presenting key components of the dissertation so your review of these purpose statements should focus on content rather than form.

Once your purpose statement is set it must be consistently presented throughout the dissertation. This may require some recursive editing because the way you articulate your purpose may evolve as you work on various aspects of your dissertation. Whenever you make an adjustment to your purpose statement you should carefully follow up on the editing and conceptual ramifications throughout the entire document.

In establishing your purpose you should NOT advocate for a particular outcome. Research should be done to answer questions not prove a point. As a researcher, you are to inquire with an open mind, and even when you come to the work with clear assumptions, your job is to prove the validity of the conclusions reached. For example, you would not say the purpose of your research project is to demonstrate that there is a relationship between two variables. Such a statement presupposes you know the answer before your research is conducted and promotes or supports (advocates on behalf of) a particular outcome. A more appropriate purpose statement would be to examine or explore the relationship between two variables.

Your purpose statement should not imply that you are going to prove something. You may be surprised to learn that we cannot prove anything in scholarly research for two reasons. First, in quantitative analyses, statistical tests calculate the probability that something is true rather than establishing it as true. Second, in qualitative research, the study can only purport to describe what is occurring from the perspective of the participants. Whether or not the phenomenon they are describing is true in a larger context is not knowable. We cannot observe the phenomenon in all settings and in all circumstances.

It is important to distinguish in your mind the differences between the Problem Statement and Purpose Statement.

The Problem Statement is why I am doing the research

The Purpose Statement is what type of research I am doing to fit or address the problem

The Purpose Statement includes:

  • Method of Study
  • Specific Population

Remember, as you are contemplating what to include in your purpose statement and then when you are writing it, the purpose statement is a concise paragraph that describes the intent of the study, and it should flow directly from the problem statement.  It should specifically address the reason for conducting the study, and reflect the research questions.  Further, it should identify the research method as qualitative, quantitative, or mixed.  Then provide a brief overview of how the study will be conducted, with what instruments/data collection methods, and with whom (subjects) and where (as applicable). Finally, you should identify variables/constructs and/or phenomenon/concept/idea.

Qualitative Purpose Statement

Creswell (2002) suggested for writing purpose statements in qualitative research include using deliberate phrasing to alert the reader to the purpose statement. Verbs that indicate what will take place in the research and the use of non-directional language that do not suggest an outcome are key. A purpose statement should focus on a single idea or concept, with a broad definition of the idea or concept. How the concept was investigated should also be included, as well as participants in the study and locations for the research to give the reader a sense of with whom and where the study took place. 

Creswell (2003) advised the following script for purpose statements in qualitative research:

“The purpose of this qualitative_________________ (strategy of inquiry, such as ethnography, case study, or other type) study is (was? will be?) to ________________ (understand? describe? develop? discover?) the _________________(central phenomenon being studied) for ______________ (the participants, such as the individual, groups, organization) at __________(research site). At this stage in the research, the __________ (central phenomenon being studied) will be generally defined as ___________________ (provide a general definition)” (pg. 90).

Quantitative Purpose Statement

Creswell (2003) offers vast differences between the purpose statements written for qualitative research and those written for quantitative research, particularly with respect to language and the inclusion of variables. The comparison of variables is often a focus of quantitative research, with the variables distinguishable by either the temporal order or how they are measured. As with qualitative research purpose statements, Creswell (2003) recommends the use of deliberate language to alert the reader to the purpose of the study, but quantitative purpose statements also include the theory or conceptual framework guiding the study and the variables that are being studied and how they are related. 

Creswell (2003) suggests the following script for drafting purpose statements in quantitative research:

“The purpose of this _____________________ (experiment? survey?) study is (was? will be?) to test the theory of _________________that _________________ (compares? relates?) the ___________(independent variable) to _________________________(dependent variable), controlling for _______________________ (control variables) for ___________________ (participants) at _________________________ (the research site). The independent variable(s) _____________________ will be generally defined as _______________________ (provide a general definition). The dependent variable(s) will be generally defined as _____________________ (provide a general definition), and the control and intervening variables(s), _________________ (identify the control and intervening variables) will be statistically controlled in this study” (pg. 97).

  • The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine how participation in service-learning in an alternative school impacted students academically, civically, and personally.  There is ample evidence demonstrating the failure of schools for students at-risk; however, there is still a need to demonstrate why these students are successful in non-traditional educational programs like the service-learning model used at TDS.  This study was unique in that it examined one alternative school’s approach to service-learning in a setting where students not only serve, but faculty serve as volunteer teachers.  The use of a constructivist approach in service-learning in an alternative school setting was examined in an effort to determine whether service-learning participation contributes positively to academic, personal, and civic gain for students, and to examine student and teacher views regarding the overall outcomes of service-learning.  This study was completed using an ethnographic approach that included observations, content analysis, and interviews with teachers at The David School.
  • The purpose of this quantitative non-experimental cross-sectional linear multiple regression design was to investigate the relationship among early childhood teachers’ self-reported assessment of multicultural awareness as measured by responses from the Teacher Multicultural Attitude Survey (TMAS) and supervisors’ observed assessment of teachers’ multicultural competency skills as measured by the Multicultural Teaching Competency Scale (MTCS) survey. Demographic data such as number of multicultural training hours, years teaching in Dubai, curriculum program at current school, and age were also examined and their relationship to multicultural teaching competency. The study took place in the emirate of Dubai where there were 14,333 expatriate teachers employed in private schools (KHDA, 2013b).
  • The purpose of this quantitative, non-experimental study is to examine the degree to which stages of change, gender, acculturation level and trauma types predicts the reluctance of Arab refugees, aged 18 and over, in the Dearborn, MI area, to seek professional help for their mental health needs. This study will utilize four instruments to measure these variables: University of Rhode Island Change Assessment (URICA: DiClemente & Hughes, 1990); Cumulative Trauma Scale (Kira, 2012); Acculturation Rating Scale for Arabic Americans-II Arabic and English (ARSAA-IIA, ARSAA-IIE: Jadalla & Lee, 2013), and a demographic survey. This study will examine 1) the relationship between stages of change, gender, acculturation levels, and trauma types and Arab refugees’ help-seeking behavior, 2) the degree to which any of these variables can predict Arab refugee help-seeking behavior.  Additionally, the outcome of this study could provide researchers and clinicians with a stage-based model, TTM, for measuring Arab refugees’ help-seeking behavior and lay a foundation for how TTM can help target the clinical needs of Arab refugees. Lastly, this attempt to apply the TTM model to Arab refugees’ condition could lay the foundation for future research to investigate the application of TTM to clinical work among refugee populations.
  • The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study is to describe the lived experiences of LLM for 10 EFL learners in rural Guatemala and to utilize that data to determine how it conforms to, or possibly challenges, current theoretical conceptions of LLM. In accordance with Morse’s (1994) suggestion that a phenomenological study should utilize at least six participants, this study utilized semi-structured interviews with 10 EFL learners to explore why and how they have experienced the motivation to learn English throughout their lives. The methodology of horizontalization was used to break the interview protocols into individual units of meaning before analyzing these units to extract the overarching themes (Moustakas, 1994). These themes were then interpreted into a detailed description of LLM as experienced by EFL students in this context. Finally, the resulting description was analyzed to discover how these learners’ lived experiences with LLM conformed with and/or diverged from current theories of LLM.
  • The purpose of this qualitative, embedded, multiple case study was to examine how both parent-child attachment relationships are impacted by the quality of the paternal and maternal caregiver-child interactions that occur throughout a maternal deployment, within the context of dual-military couples. In order to examine this phenomenon, an embedded, multiple case study was conducted, utilizing an attachment systems metatheory perspective. The study included four dual-military couples who experienced a maternal deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) when they had at least one child between 8 weeks-old to 5 years-old.  Each member of the couple participated in an individual, semi-structured interview with the researcher and completed the Parenting Relationship Questionnaire (PRQ). “The PRQ is designed to capture a parent’s perspective on the parent-child relationship” (Pearson, 2012, para. 1) and was used within the proposed study for this purpose. The PRQ was utilized to triangulate the data (Bekhet & Zauszniewski, 2012) as well as to provide some additional information on the parents’ perspective of the quality of the parent-child attachment relationship in regards to communication, discipline, parenting confidence, relationship satisfaction, and time spent together (Pearson, 2012). The researcher utilized the semi-structured interview to collect information regarding the parents' perspectives of the quality of their parental caregiver behaviors during the deployment cycle, the mother's parent-child interactions while deployed, the behavior of the child or children at time of reunification, and the strategies or behaviors the parents believe may have contributed to their child's behavior at the time of reunification. The results of this study may be utilized by the military, and by civilian providers, to develop proactive and preventive measures that both providers and parents can implement, to address any potential adverse effects on the parent-child attachment relationship, identified through the proposed study. The results of this study may also be utilized to further refine and understand the integration of attachment theory and systems theory, in both clinical and research settings, within the field of marriage and family therapy.

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How to Write a Research Paper: Choosing Your Topic

Choosing Your Topic

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  • Choose a topic you are interested in, and can find information about.
  • Your opinion of the topic might change as you conduct your research and find out more about the subject.
  • Choose a topic that is not too broad or too narrow. The first will be hard to keep focused and the second might be hard to find information about.

Rethinking Your Topic

You may discover that you’re looking for information by search terms that are not the most effective. Databases use search terminology called Subject Terms . Find these descriptive words to help with your search. For example: "death penalty" is often classified as "capital punishment."

Write all of those search terms down to keep track of them. These terms might give you new ways of thinking about your topic.. Maybe come up with a question or two for things you’re curious about. Those questions will help you focus your paper.

Narrowing Your Topic

After you have found some information, try to narrow your topic. If your topic is too broad, it will be hard to keep a focus in your paper and the information range will be too large. Adjust your topic to a topic field that is specific enough to research without having large amounts of articles, but still general enough to have some relevant information sources.

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Creating a Successful Research Topic Statement (PSY)

In this tutorial, we will identify what makes for a successful research topic.

Most research topics start out as a general and often vague idea that a researcher has an interest in investigating.

Inexperienced researchers, including most doctoral learners, frequently think of topics that are quite interesting, but not narrowly enough focused for a dissertation.

This tutorial will guide you through a set of steps designed to help you come up with a topic, first of all, and secondly to focus it more tightly so that you can begin a meaningful and successful search of the existing literature to discover whether your topic is actually researchable.

This tutorial's primary objective is to prepare you to create a successful research topic that may become the topic of your dissertation. To do that, we'll work through the following issues:

  • First, what are the characteristics of a well-formed research topic?
  • Second, how are research topics evaluated?
  • Third, how can the key concepts and the population be narrowed and focused so that they are researchable?
  • Fourth, how can the relationship among concepts be named so that the appropriate methodological literature can be accessed in the literature review?

Obviously, in Track 1 you are at the beginning of your studies toward the doctorate, and perhaps your dissertation is far from your thoughts. We are starting the process now, however, because our experience has been that when learners wait to start searching for their topics, it often creates a serious problem for them when they actually start the dissertation. That problem can take many forms, but the most common one is that they have not had sufficient time (and training) in exhaustively searching the relevant literature to discover whether the topic they are interested in is even viable—and without a good topic statement, a good literature search is impossible. So let's begin.

What Is a Research Topic?

A research topic is an area of interest to a researcher that is first of all, researchable. It is focused narrowly enough that its key concepts are quite plain and well integrated. It is a topic or subject that can be found in the existing literature of the researcher's field, which shows that it is of some interest or importance to that field, and has some important characteristics.

Characteristics of a Well-formed Research Topic

The first mark of a well-formed topic is that it clearly states the key concepts to be investigated. Sometimes, only one concept is named—those studies often turn out to be qualitative, but not always. More often, two or more key concepts are named. Next, it identifies the relationship or relationships among those concepts that the researcher intends to explore. Obviously, if only one concept was named, there won't be a relationship, but in that case a word like "describes" or "experiences" will give a clue to the kind of information desired. Third, a research topic specifies the population of interest to be investigated. Finally, a research topic is just a phrase. That is, it is not a full sentence with a verb. However, the well-formed topic statement will embed the actual topic in a complete sentence. Let's look at some examples.

Some Examples of Topic Statements

Here are a few topic statements that eventually lead to successful dissertations:

  • Elementary age students' needs for family-based counseling services.
  • Indigenous people's responses to encounters with law enforcement.
  • Impact of mother's death on daughters in poor, middle class, and wealthy families.
  • The relationship between assignment strategies to prevent burnout used by managers of first responders and the occurrence of burnout.
  • Employees' productivity as a function of their managers' management styles.
  • Strategies used by mainstream classroom teachers to manage children with behavior problems who do not receive special education.

You can see immediately that all six examples, taken from the four schools in Capella University, are phrases, not complete sentences. So far, so good. The first mark of a successful topic statement is that it identifies the key concepts to be investigated, right? Let's see how the examples do that.

Evaluating the Form of the Examples: Key Concepts

In the first example, we seem to have two key concepts: "needs" and "family-based counseling services." Are they stated clearly? Probably not clearly enough: what is meant by "needs" and "family-based counseling services" is not immediately transparent. This topic will need some work, but most topics start out this way.

Let's try another: Indigenous people’s responses to encounters with law enforcement. Here, there seem to be two key concepts: "responses" and "encounters with law enforcement." These concepts are quite broad and will have to be narrowed considerably to support a researchable topic, but they provide a good start.

Let's do one more: Employees' productivity as a function of their managers' management styles.

Here, there are two key concepts, right? Productivity and management styles.

Evaluating the Form of Topics: Relationship(s) among the Key Concepts

The second mark of a successful topic is that it identifies any relationship to be investigated between or among the key concepts. Let's look at the third example to see about this.

This topic meets our criterion of being a phrase. It seems to state at least two concepts (but with multiple levels): "death" and "socio-economic status of daughters." What about the relationship? Well, it is captured in that word "impact."

An "impact" in research jargon means the effect that one concept—death—has on another concept, in this case, the daughters. One can, in fact, replace the word impact with the word effect without changing the meaning at all. So the topic is proposing a cause-and-effect kind of relationship.

Let's look at another example: The relationship between assignment strategies to prevent burnout used by managers of first responders and the occurrence of burnout

This seems complicated, but it really isn't. First, let's check the key concepts: "Assignment strategies to prevent burnout" would seem to be one key concept, and "occurrence of burnout" would be the other. These are reasonably clear, or probably would be to someone in the human resources or management worlds. No doubt they will be further clarified as the researcher works on the topic's wording. But what about the relationship? It is in the word "relationship," obviously. And in research jargon, a "relationship" between A and B is a particular kind of relationship, called a correlation.

Now, play with the other topics to see if you can identify the relationship—if any.

Evaluating the Form of Topics: Target Population

The third sign of a successful topic is that it names the target population, the group of people or organizations or groups that the researcher is interested in. Let's evaluate some of our examples on this point.

  • Elementary age students' needs for family-based counseling services : The population here is stated: Students of elementary school age.
  • Indigenous people's responses to encounters with law enforcement: Here as well, the population is indigenous people.
  • Impact of mother's death on daughters in poor, middle class, and wealthy families: The population is daughters in three socio-economic groups.
  • The relationship between assignment strategies to prevent burnout used by managers of first responders and the occurrence of burnout: You determine who the population is in this one.

Is It Managers or Is It First Responders?

The population is managers of first responders. Or is it? The awkward wording of the topic makes this a bit hard to digest. The burnout occurs in the first responders, so maybe they are the population. But the first responders' managers are the ones using the management strategies, so are they the population?

Well, the two key concepts are management strategies (used by managers) and rate of burnout (in first responders), so the researcher will have to get information from both groups of people, so both are the target population: first responders and their managers.

Take a minute and try to figure out the rest of our examples.

Summing Up the Characteristics of a Successful Topic

We've seen in action the three chief marks of a successful research topic.

  • The topic states the key concepts to be investigated.
  • It states what relationship between or among the concepts will be explored. Remember, if there is only one concept (which often is the case in qualitative studies), there won't be a relationship. But if there are two or more key concepts, look for the relationship between or among them.
  • The successful topic names the population of interest for the study.

A well-formed research topic will have these characteristics, but simply having them is not sufficient. The elements also need to be well-focused and narrowed down to a point where the research becomes feasible. Let's take a look at a simple method for doing this.

Narrowing the Focus

Take a look at this grid. You'll see that one of our topics has been broken out into the first column. The population is first—indigenous people—followed by two concepts: responses and law enforcement. Now look at the central column, labeled "Narrower term." Notice how the very broad population has been narrowed. Similarly, "law enforcement" has been narrowed to police (there are many other types of law enforcement, such as FBI, Homeland Security, TSA, Customs and Immigration, sheriff's departments, and so on). Similarly, there are many kinds of behaviors and experiences that could be considered "responses," but the researcher is most interested in emotional responses. Now move to the third column. Can you see how each term is being narrowed yet again?

If we restated the topic now, after having narrowed it down a bit, it would look like this: Cherokee Indians' tolerance for stress when meeting traffic officers.

Let's work through another example, this time using the topic "Employees' productivity as a function of their managers' management styles."

You can see the key terms lined up in the first column. The other two columns are blank.

What would you ask yourself, if this were your topic, in order to narrow this down?

Questions to Ask for Narrowing a Topic

There are many questions you can ask yourself when you are narrowing your topic. A good opener is "So what do I really want to know about the concept?"

Another quite good question is to ask about your real interest or passion is about the concept or the population.

You can also find helpful terms by performing controlled vocabulary searches in library databases. You can find a nice tutorial on that method of searching in the Capella library at but whatever you ask yourself, keep your focus on what you truly most want to know and care about regarding the concept.

Now, let's get back to our example.

When the researcher asked herself what sort of employees and managers she was actually interested in, she realized it was service employees and managers. The more she pondered, and was helped by a quick check of the literature in her specialization, she realized that she was most interested in call center personnel. Then she tackled productivity . From her courses in management measurement, she knew that one way to think about productivity was days at work. But that seemed too dependent on factors outside the manager-employee relationship. She wanted a more fine-grained way to look at productivity, so she narrowed it to a specific measure, calls completed times minutes per call.

Then she took on management styl e. Knowing that there are many types, her first attempt at focusing this term was authoritarian style. That didn't satisfy her, and when she looked again at her topic, she realized that that word "function" was important. It implied to her that she was really interested in knowing how different management styles related to different degrees of productivity. At first, she put together a list of known management styles, but that felt intimidating. She decided to narrow it down to just two: authoritarian vs. flexible management style.

After all this, her topic now looked like this: Productivity as measured by calls completed times minutes per call in call center employees supervised by authoritarian managers compared to productivity in call center employees supervised by flexible managers.

She knew the wording was clunky and would need to be crafted better, but she had a much more focused topic. So far, we've been looking at two things about good research topics: what they should contain (concepts, relationships, and population), and how to narrow each element. In these narrowing exercises, we've focused on the concepts and the population. Now, let's turn our attention to the relationship . This is a very important element, because it offers an important clue about the nature of the study that might ensue.

Evaluating the Relationship Named in the Topic

Research asks all kinds of questions, and the relationship named in the research topic clues us into what kind of question the ensuing study will likely ask. Here are some questions you might ask in order to choose the right word to describe the relationship you're looking for.

What do you envision really doing?

  • Looking at comparisons between variables or groups of people?
  • Looking at relationships between two or more concepts?
  • Looking at effects of one or more concept on another concept or group?
  • Looking at outcomes of some process or treatment or condition?
  • Looking at experiences?
  • Developing a theory to explain some phenomenon?

For each of these (and there are other sorts of questions you can ask yourself), specific words can specify the relationship. Let's look at them.

If your topic compares two or more things compared with or some similar phrase indicates the relationship you want to know about. For instance, student retention rates in large urban school districts compared with small rural districts.

If your interest is about relationships between two or more concepts, try using words like relationship, in relation to, or other similar constructions. Here's an example: the frequency of church attendance in relation to socioeconomic status.

Suppose your interest is to see if one thing has an effect on something else. In that case, you can use that word, effect, or other words such as influence, impact, cause, predict, and the like. For example, the influence of tax policy on employment patterns in Midwestern communities.

An outcome is another version of a cause-and-effect relationship, specifically when you are interested in the final condition after some kind of process. For instance, the outcome of a training program. That word is excellent to use for the relationship, as in the outcome of training program A as measured by employee comprehension of corporate policies.

Are you interested in describing a certain experience, such as falling in love or being laid off work or having a baby or starting a new company? Having experiences is a very subjective thing, and the actual experience is a single thing—not one of a few variables. So there is no relationship to specify in such a topic, but the only way to learn about people's experiences is to ask them to describe them. So, words like descriptions of, accounts of, reports of, and the like can be very helpful. For instance, men's descriptions of their spiritual transformations when recovering from alcoholism.

Okay, we've covered the basics of how to craft a well-formed research topic. We've seen the marks of a good topic. They are:

  • The key concepts are clearly stated and well-focused so that they can be profitably found in the literature.
  • Second, the relationship, if any, between or among them is clearly stated. Even if there is no relationship, what you're really looking for (descriptions? accounts? reports?) can be seen in the wording.
  • Third, the people you want to study, your population, is clearly stated and narrowed down to a workable point. You have all these points covered in a single phrase, and if after narrowing it down that phrase is awkward, you will work on crafting it into a more graceful form.

In a minute, you'll get to work crafting your own research topic, but first I want to show you why we emphasize the importance of narrowing and focusing the key concepts, relationships, and populations.

What Do You Do With the Research Topic?

The research topic is step 1 in the sequential process of research design. Once you have your topic in hand, step 2 is to take it to the library and begin searching for existing research and theory on the topic. Here's where your key concepts need to be well-defined and narrowly focused. You will be looking for all the existing research on those key concepts when you start.

At first, you'll investigate each of your key concepts individually, to find out what the existing literature has to say about them in and of themselves. Later, after you have developed a good working knowledge of the background concepts, you'll dig deeper into research linking the key concepts together.

At the third level, you'll follow the "breadcrumbs" all the way back to the earliest studies on your topic so that you will, ultimately, master that literature fully.

So your topic statement is the foundation. It organizes your various literature reviews. Searching on the key concepts (translated into various key words) will help you organize the content of your study.

Searching on the existing methodological literature about the relationship named in your topic will prepare you for your methodological decisions in later steps of research design.

There is an old Chinese proverb found in the I Ching and many other places: “Patience in the beginning brings success.” If you are careful and attentive, and work patiently to write your research topic, then rewrite it, then rewrite it again and again, you will have a solid foundation on which to start building your literature review. The topic is your beginning.

Remain patient and steady, and you will succeed.

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  • Starting the research process

A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

Research process steps

When you have to write a thesis or dissertation , it can be hard to know where to begin, but there are some clear steps you can follow.

The research process often begins with a very broad idea for a topic you’d like to know more about. You do some preliminary research to identify a  problem . After refining your research questions , you can lay out the foundations of your research design , leading to a proposal that outlines your ideas and plans.

This article takes you through the first steps of the research process, helping you narrow down your ideas and build up a strong foundation for your research project.

Table of contents

Step 1: choose your topic, step 2: identify a problem, step 3: formulate research questions, step 4: create a research design, step 5: write a research proposal, other interesting articles.

First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you’re interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you’ve taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose .

Even if you already have a good sense of your topic, you’ll need to read widely to build background knowledge and begin narrowing down your ideas. Conduct an initial literature review to begin gathering relevant sources. As you read, take notes and try to identify problems, questions, debates, contradictions and gaps. Your aim is to narrow down from a broad area of interest to a specific niche.

Make sure to consider the practicalities: the requirements of your programme, the amount of time you have to complete the research, and how difficult it will be to access sources and data on the topic. Before moving onto the next stage, it’s a good idea to discuss the topic with your thesis supervisor.

>>Read more about narrowing down a research topic

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research topic and its purpose

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So you’ve settled on a topic and found a niche—but what exactly will your research investigate, and why does it matter? To give your project focus and purpose, you have to define a research problem .

The problem might be a practical issue—for example, a process or practice that isn’t working well, an area of concern in an organization’s performance, or a difficulty faced by a specific group of people in society.

Alternatively, you might choose to investigate a theoretical problem—for example, an underexplored phenomenon or relationship, a contradiction between different models or theories, or an unresolved debate among scholars.

To put the problem in context and set your objectives, you can write a problem statement . This describes who the problem affects, why research is needed, and how your research project will contribute to solving it.

>>Read more about defining a research problem

Next, based on the problem statement, you need to write one or more research questions . These target exactly what you want to find out. They might focus on describing, comparing, evaluating, or explaining the research problem.

A strong research question should be specific enough that you can answer it thoroughly using appropriate qualitative or quantitative research methods. It should also be complex enough to require in-depth investigation, analysis, and argument. Questions that can be answered with “yes/no” or with easily available facts are not complex enough for a thesis or dissertation.

In some types of research, at this stage you might also have to develop a conceptual framework and testable hypotheses .

>>See research question examples

The research design is a practical framework for answering your research questions. It involves making decisions about the type of data you need, the methods you’ll use to collect and analyze it, and the location and timescale of your research.

There are often many possible paths you can take to answering your questions. The decisions you make will partly be based on your priorities. For example, do you want to determine causes and effects, draw generalizable conclusions, or understand the details of a specific context?

You need to decide whether you will use primary or secondary data and qualitative or quantitative methods . You also need to determine the specific tools, procedures, and materials you’ll use to collect and analyze your data, as well as your criteria for selecting participants or sources.

>>Read more about creating a research design

Finally, after completing these steps, you are ready to complete a research proposal . The proposal outlines the context, relevance, purpose, and plan of your research.

As well as outlining the background, problem statement, and research questions, the proposal should also include a literature review that shows how your project will fit into existing work on the topic. The research design section describes your approach and explains exactly what you will do.

You might have to get the proposal approved by your supervisor before you get started, and it will guide the process of writing your thesis or dissertation.

>>Read more about writing a research proposal

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

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What (Exactly) Is A Research Proposal?

A simple explainer with examples + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020 (Updated April 2023)

Whether you’re nearing the end of your degree and your dissertation is on the horizon, or you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, chances are you’ll need to craft a convincing research proposal . If you’re on this page, you’re probably unsure exactly what the research proposal is all about. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Overview: Research Proposal Basics

  • What a research proposal is
  • What a research proposal needs to cover
  • How to structure your research proposal
  • Example /sample proposals
  • Proposal writing FAQs
  • Key takeaways & additional resources

What is a research proposal?

Simply put, a research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains what you plan to research (your research topic), why it’s worth researching (your justification), and how  you plan to investigate it (your methodology). 

The purpose of the research proposal (its job, so to speak) is to convince  your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is  suitable  (for the requirements of the degree program) and  manageable  (given the time and resource constraints you will face). 

The most important word here is “ convince ” – in other words, your research proposal needs to  sell  your research idea (to whoever is going to approve it). If it doesn’t convince them (of its suitability and manageability), you’ll need to revise and resubmit . This will cost you valuable time, which will either delay the start of your research or eat into its time allowance (which is bad news). 

A research proposal is a  formal document that explains what you plan to research , why it's worth researching and how you'll do it.

What goes into a research proposal?

A good dissertation or thesis proposal needs to cover the “ what “, “ why ” and” how ” of the proposed study. Let’s look at each of these attributes in a little more detail:

Your proposal needs to clearly articulate your research topic . This needs to be specific and unambiguous . Your research topic should make it clear exactly what you plan to research and in what context. Here’s an example of a well-articulated research topic:

An investigation into the factors which impact female Generation Y consumer’s likelihood to promote a specific makeup brand to their peers: a British context

As you can see, this topic is extremely clear. From this one line we can see exactly:

  • What’s being investigated – factors that make people promote or advocate for a brand of a specific makeup brand
  • Who it involves – female Gen-Y consumers
  • In what context – the United Kingdom

So, make sure that your research proposal provides a detailed explanation of your research topic . If possible, also briefly outline your research aims and objectives , and perhaps even your research questions (although in some cases you’ll only develop these at a later stage). Needless to say, don’t start writing your proposal until you have a clear topic in mind , or you’ll end up waffling and your research proposal will suffer as a result of this.

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research topic and its purpose

As we touched on earlier, it’s not good enough to simply propose a research topic – you need to justify why your topic is original . In other words, what makes it  unique ? What gap in the current literature does it fill? If it’s simply a rehash of the existing research, it’s probably not going to get approval – it needs to be fresh.

But,  originality  alone is not enough. Once you’ve ticked that box, you also need to justify why your proposed topic is  important . In other words, what value will it add to the world if you achieve your research aims?

As an example, let’s look at the sample research topic we mentioned earlier (factors impacting brand advocacy). In this case, if the research could uncover relevant factors, these findings would be very useful to marketers in the cosmetics industry, and would, therefore, have commercial value . That is a clear justification for the research.

So, when you’re crafting your research proposal, remember that it’s not enough for a topic to simply be unique. It needs to be useful and value-creating – and you need to convey that value in your proposal. If you’re struggling to find a research topic that makes the cut, watch  our video covering how to find a research topic .

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

It’s all good and well to have a great topic that’s original and valuable, but you’re not going to convince anyone to approve it without discussing the practicalities – in other words:

  • How will you actually undertake your research (i.e., your methodology)?
  • Is your research methodology appropriate given your research aims?
  • Is your approach manageable given your constraints (time, money, etc.)?

While it’s generally not expected that you’ll have a fully fleshed-out methodology at the proposal stage, you’ll likely still need to provide a high-level overview of your research methodology . Here are some important questions you’ll need to address in your research proposal:

  • Will you take a qualitative , quantitative or mixed -method approach?
  • What sampling strategy will you adopt?
  • How will you collect your data (e.g., interviews, surveys, etc)?
  • How will you analyse your data (e.g., descriptive and inferential statistics , content analysis, discourse analysis, etc, .)?
  • What potential limitations will your methodology carry?

So, be sure to give some thought to the practicalities of your research and have at least a basic methodological plan before you start writing up your proposal. If this all sounds rather intimidating, the video below provides a good introduction to research methodology and the key choices you’ll need to make.

How To Structure A Research Proposal

Now that we’ve covered the key points that need to be addressed in a proposal, you may be wondering, “ But how is a research proposal structured? “.

While the exact structure and format required for a research proposal differs from university to university, there are four “essential ingredients” that commonly make up the structure of a research proposal:

  • A rich introduction and background to the proposed research
  • An initial literature review covering the existing research
  • An overview of the proposed research methodology
  • A discussion regarding the practicalities (project plans, timelines, etc.)

In the video below, we unpack each of these four sections, step by step.

Research Proposal Examples/Samples

In the video below, we provide a detailed walkthrough of two successful research proposals (Master’s and PhD-level), as well as our popular free proposal template.

Proposal Writing FAQs

How long should a research proposal be.

This varies tremendously, depending on the university, the field of study (e.g., social sciences vs natural sciences), and the level of the degree (e.g. undergraduate, Masters or PhD) – so it’s always best to check with your university what their specific requirements are before you start planning your proposal.

As a rough guide, a formal research proposal at Masters-level often ranges between 2000-3000 words, while a PhD-level proposal can be far more detailed, ranging from 5000-8000 words. In some cases, a rough outline of the topic is all that’s needed, while in other cases, universities expect a very detailed proposal that essentially forms the first three chapters of the dissertation or thesis.

The takeaway – be sure to check with your institution before you start writing.

How do I choose a topic for my research proposal?

Finding a good research topic is a process that involves multiple steps. We cover the topic ideation process in this video post.

How do I write a literature review for my proposal?

While you typically won’t need a comprehensive literature review at the proposal stage, you still need to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the key literature and are able to synthesise it. We explain the literature review process here.

How do I create a timeline and budget for my proposal?

We explain how to craft a project plan/timeline and budget in Research Proposal Bootcamp .

Which referencing format should I use in my research proposal?

The expectations and requirements regarding formatting and referencing vary from institution to institution. Therefore, you’ll need to check this information with your university.

What common proposal writing mistakes do I need to look out for?

We’ve create a video post about some of the most common mistakes students make when writing a proposal – you can access that here . If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary:

  • The research topic is too broad (or just poorly articulated).
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align.
  • The research topic is not well justified.
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation.
  • The research design is not well articulated well enough.
  • Poor writing and sloppy presentation.
  • Poor project planning and risk management.
  • Not following the university’s specific criteria.

Key Takeaways & Additional Resources

As you write up your research proposal, remember the all-important core purpose:  to convince . Your research proposal needs to sell your study in terms of suitability and viability. So, focus on crafting a convincing narrative to ensure a strong proposal.

At the same time, pay close attention to your university’s requirements. While we’ve covered the essentials here, every institution has its own set of expectations and it’s essential that you follow these to maximise your chances of approval.

By the way, we’ve got plenty more resources to help you fast-track your research proposal. Here are some of our most popular resources to get you started:

  • Proposal Writing 101 : A Introductory Webinar
  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : The Ultimate Online Course
  • Template : A basic template to help you craft your proposal

If you’re looking for 1-on-1 support with your research proposal, be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through the proposal development process (and the entire research journey), step by step.

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Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Research proposal mistakes

50 Comments

Myrna Pereira

I truly enjoyed this video, as it was eye-opening to what I have to do in the preparation of preparing a Research proposal.

I would be interested in getting some coaching.

BARAKAELI TEREVAELI

I real appreciate on your elaboration on how to develop research proposal,the video explains each steps clearly.

masebo joseph

Thank you for the video. It really assisted me and my niece. I am a PhD candidate and she is an undergraduate student. It is at times, very difficult to guide a family member but with this video, my job is done.

In view of the above, I welcome more coaching.

Zakia Ghafoor

Wonderful guidelines, thanks

Annie Malupande

This is very helpful. Would love to continue even as I prepare for starting my masters next year.

KYARIKUNDA MOREEN

Thanks for the work done, the text was helpful to me

Ahsanullah Mangal

Bundle of thanks to you for the research proposal guide it was really good and useful if it is possible please send me the sample of research proposal

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome. We don’t have any research proposals that we can share (the students own the intellectual property), but you might find our research proposal template useful: https://gradcoach.com/research-proposal-template/

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Thanks alot. It was an eye opener that came timely enough before my imminent proposal defense. Thanks, again

agnelius

thank you very much your lesson is very interested may God be with you

Abubakar

I am an undergraduate student (First Degree) preparing to write my project,this video and explanation had shed more light to me thanks for your efforts keep it up.

Synthia Atieno

Very useful. I am grateful.

belina nambeya

this is a very a good guidance on research proposal, for sure i have learnt something

Wonderful guidelines for writing a research proposal, I am a student of m.phil( education), this guideline is suitable for me. Thanks

You’re welcome 🙂

Marjorie

Thank you, this was so helpful.

Amitash Degan

A really great and insightful video. It opened my eyes as to how to write a research paper. I would like to receive more guidance for writing my research paper from your esteemed faculty.

Glaudia Njuguna

Thank you, great insights

Thank you, great insights, thank you so much, feeling edified

Yebirgual

Wow thank you, great insights, thanks a lot

Roseline Soetan

Thank you. This is a great insight. I am a student preparing for a PhD program. I am requested to write my Research Proposal as part of what I am required to submit before my unconditional admission. I am grateful having listened to this video which will go a long way in helping me to actually choose a topic of interest and not just any topic as well as to narrow down the topic and be specific about it. I indeed need more of this especially as am trying to choose a topic suitable for a DBA am about embarking on. Thank you once more. The video is indeed helpful.

Rebecca

Have learnt a lot just at the right time. Thank you so much.

laramato ikayo

thank you very much ,because have learn a lot things concerning research proposal and be blessed u for your time that you providing to help us

Cheruiyot M Kipyegon

Hi. For my MSc medical education research, please evaluate this topic for me: Training Needs Assessment of Faculty in Medical Training Institutions in Kericho and Bomet Counties

Rebecca

I have really learnt a lot based on research proposal and it’s formulation

Arega Berlie

Thank you. I learn much from the proposal since it is applied

Siyanda

Your effort is much appreciated – you have good articulation.

You have good articulation.

Douglas Eliaba

I do applaud your simplified method of explaining the subject matter, which indeed has broaden my understanding of the subject matter. Definitely this would enable me writing a sellable research proposal.

Weluzani

This really helping

Roswitta

Great! I liked your tutoring on how to find a research topic and how to write a research proposal. Precise and concise. Thank you very much. Will certainly share this with my students. Research made simple indeed.

Alice Kuyayama

Thank you very much. I an now assist my students effectively.

Thank you very much. I can now assist my students effectively.

Abdurahman Bayoh

I need any research proposal

Silverline

Thank you for these videos. I will need chapter by chapter assistance in writing my MSc dissertation

Nosi

Very helpfull

faith wugah

the videos are very good and straight forward

Imam

thanks so much for this wonderful presentations, i really enjoyed it to the fullest wish to learn more from you

Bernie E. Balmeo

Thank you very much. I learned a lot from your lecture.

Ishmael kwame Appiah

I really enjoy the in-depth knowledge on research proposal you have given. me. You have indeed broaden my understanding and skills. Thank you

David Mweemba

interesting session this has equipped me with knowledge as i head for exams in an hour’s time, am sure i get A++

Andrea Eccleston

This article was most informative and easy to understand. I now have a good idea of how to write my research proposal.

Thank you very much.

Georgina Ngufan

Wow, this literature is very resourceful and interesting to read. I enjoyed it and I intend reading it every now then.

Charity

Thank you for the clarity

Mondika Solomon

Thank you. Very helpful.

BLY

Thank you very much for this essential piece. I need 1o1 coaching, unfortunately, your service is not available in my country. Anyways, a very important eye-opener. I really enjoyed it. A thumb up to Gradcoach

Md Moneruszzaman Kayes

What is JAM? Please explain.

Gentiana

Thank you so much for these videos. They are extremely helpful! God bless!

azeem kakar

very very wonderful…

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research topic and its purpose

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Principles of Social Research Methodology pp 15–28 Cite as

Research: Meaning and Purpose

  • Kazi Abusaleh 4 &
  • Akib Bin Anwar 5  
  • First Online: 27 October 2022

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The objective of the chapter is to provide the conceptual framework of the research and research process and draw the importance of research in social sciences. Various books and research papers were reviewed to write the chapter. The chapter defines ‘research’ as a deliberate and systematic scientific investigation into a phenomenon to explore, analyse, and predict about the issues or circumstances, and characterizes ‘research’ as a systematic and scientific mode of inquiry, a way to testify the existing knowledge and theories, and a well-designed process to answer questions in a reliable and unbiased way. This chapter, however, categorizes research into eight types under four headings, explains six steps to carry out a research work scientifically, and finally sketches the importance of research in social sciences.

  • Research process
  • Social science
  • Systematic scientific investigation

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Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Dhanmondi, Dhaka, 1209, Bangladesh

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Abusaleh, K., Anwar, A.B. (2022). Research: Meaning and Purpose. In: Islam, M.R., Khan, N.A., Baikady, R. (eds) Principles of Social Research Methodology. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-5441-2_2

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  • SCC Research Guides
  • Choosing a Research Topic
  • What Makes a Good Research Topic?

ask a librarian email questions

Before diving into how to choose a research topic, it is important to think about what are some elements of a good research topic. Of course, this will depend specifically on your research project, but a good research topic will always:

  • Relate to the assignment itself. Even when you have a choice for your research topic, you still want to make sure your chosen topic lines up with your class assignment sheet.
  • A topic that is too broad will give you too many sources, and it will be hard to focus your research.
  • A topic that is too narrow will not give you enough sources, if you can find any sources at all.
  • Is debatable. This is important if you are researching a topic that you will have to argue a position for. Good topics have more than one side to the issue and cannot be resolved with a simple yes or no.
  • Should be interesting to you! It's more fun to do research on a topic that you are interested in as opposed to one you are not interested in.

Remember, it is common and normal if your research topic changes as you start brainstorming and doing some background research on your topic.

Start with a General Idea

As an example, let's say you were writing a paper about issues relating to college students 

  • << Previous: Choosing a Research Topic
  • Next: 1. Concept Mapping >>
  • 1. Concept Mapping
  • 2. Background Research
  • 3. Narrow Your Topic / Thesis Statements

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What is Research? – Purpose of Research

DiscoverPhDs

  • By DiscoverPhDs
  • September 10, 2020

Purpose of Research - What is Research

The purpose of research is to enhance society by advancing knowledge through the development of scientific theories, concepts and ideas. A research purpose is met through forming hypotheses, collecting data, analysing results, forming conclusions, implementing findings into real-life applications and forming new research questions.

What is Research

Simply put, research is the process of discovering new knowledge. This knowledge can be either the development of new concepts or the advancement of existing knowledge and theories, leading to a new understanding that was not previously known.

As a more formal definition of research, the following has been extracted from the Code of Federal Regulations :

research topic and its purpose

While research can be carried out by anyone and in any field, most research is usually done to broaden knowledge in the physical, biological, and social worlds. This can range from learning why certain materials behave the way they do, to asking why certain people are more resilient than others when faced with the same challenges.

The use of ‘systematic investigation’ in the formal definition represents how research is normally conducted – a hypothesis is formed, appropriate research methods are designed, data is collected and analysed, and research results are summarised into one or more ‘research conclusions’. These research conclusions are then shared with the rest of the scientific community to add to the existing knowledge and serve as evidence to form additional questions that can be investigated. It is this cyclical process that enables scientific research to make continuous progress over the years; the true purpose of research.

What is the Purpose of Research

From weather forecasts to the discovery of antibiotics, researchers are constantly trying to find new ways to understand the world and how things work – with the ultimate goal of improving our lives.

The purpose of research is therefore to find out what is known, what is not and what we can develop further. In this way, scientists can develop new theories, ideas and products that shape our society and our everyday lives.

Although research can take many forms, there are three main purposes of research:

  • Exploratory: Exploratory research is the first research to be conducted around a problem that has not yet been clearly defined. Exploration research therefore aims to gain a better understanding of the exact nature of the problem and not to provide a conclusive answer to the problem itself. This enables us to conduct more in-depth research later on.
  • Descriptive: Descriptive research expands knowledge of a research problem or phenomenon by describing it according to its characteristics and population. Descriptive research focuses on the ‘how’ and ‘what’, but not on the ‘why’.
  • Explanatory: Explanatory research, also referred to as casual research, is conducted to determine how variables interact, i.e. to identify cause-and-effect relationships. Explanatory research deals with the ‘why’ of research questions and is therefore often based on experiments.

Characteristics of Research

There are 8 core characteristics that all research projects should have. These are:

  • Empirical  – based on proven scientific methods derived from real-life observations and experiments.
  • Logical  – follows sequential procedures based on valid principles.
  • Cyclic  – research begins with a question and ends with a question, i.e. research should lead to a new line of questioning.
  • Controlled  – vigorous measures put into place to keep all variables constant, except those under investigation.
  • Hypothesis-based  – the research design generates data that sufficiently meets the research objectives and can prove or disprove the hypothesis. It makes the research study repeatable and gives credibility to the results.
  • Analytical  – data is generated, recorded and analysed using proven techniques to ensure high accuracy and repeatability while minimising potential errors and anomalies.
  • Objective  – sound judgement is used by the researcher to ensure that the research findings are valid.
  • Statistical treatment  – statistical treatment is used to transform the available data into something more meaningful from which knowledge can be gained.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

Types of Research

Research can be divided into two main types: basic research (also known as pure research) and applied research.

Basic Research

Basic research, also known as pure research, is an original investigation into the reasons behind a process, phenomenon or particular event. It focuses on generating knowledge around existing basic principles.

Basic research is generally considered ‘non-commercial research’ because it does not focus on solving practical problems, and has no immediate benefit or ways it can be applied.

While basic research may not have direct applications, it usually provides new insights that can later be used in applied research.

Applied Research

Applied research investigates well-known theories and principles in order to enhance knowledge around a practical aim. Because of this, applied research focuses on solving real-life problems by deriving knowledge which has an immediate application.

Methods of Research

Research methods for data collection fall into one of two categories: inductive methods or deductive methods.

Inductive research methods focus on the analysis of an observation and are usually associated with qualitative research. Deductive research methods focus on the verification of an observation and are typically associated with quantitative research.

Research definition

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is a method that enables non-numerical data collection through open-ended methods such as interviews, case studies and focus groups .

It enables researchers to collect data on personal experiences, feelings or behaviours, as well as the reasons behind them. Because of this, qualitative research is often used in fields such as social science, psychology and philosophy and other areas where it is useful to know the connection between what has occurred and why it has occurred.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is a method that collects and analyses numerical data through statistical analysis.

It allows us to quantify variables, uncover relationships, and make generalisations across a larger population. As a result, quantitative research is often used in the natural and physical sciences such as engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, finance, and medical research, etc.

What does Research Involve?

Research often follows a systematic approach known as a Scientific Method, which is carried out using an hourglass model.

A research project first starts with a problem statement, or rather, the research purpose for engaging in the study. This can take the form of the ‘ scope of the study ’ or ‘ aims and objectives ’ of your research topic.

Subsequently, a literature review is carried out and a hypothesis is formed. The researcher then creates a research methodology and collects the data.

The data is then analysed using various statistical methods and the null hypothesis is either accepted or rejected.

In both cases, the study and its conclusion are officially written up as a report or research paper, and the researcher may also recommend lines of further questioning. The report or research paper is then shared with the wider research community, and the cycle begins all over again.

Although these steps outline the overall research process, keep in mind that research projects are highly dynamic and are therefore considered an iterative process with continued refinements and not a series of fixed stages.

What are the consequences of Self-Plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is when you try and pass off work that you’ve previously done as something that is completely new.

Dissertation versus Thesis

In the UK, a dissertation, usually around 20,000 words is written by undergraduate and Master’s students, whilst a thesis, around 80,000 words, is written as part of a PhD.

PhD_Synopsis_Format_Guidance

This article will answer common questions about the PhD synopsis, give guidance on how to write one, and provide my thoughts on samples.

Join thousands of other students and stay up to date with the latest PhD programmes, funding opportunities and advice.

research topic and its purpose

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research topic and its purpose

This post gives you the best questions to ask at a PhD interview, to help you work out if your potential supervisor and lab is a good fit for you.

Rationale for Research

The term rationale of research means the reason for performing the research study in question.

research topic and its purpose

Rose is a final year PhD student at the University of St Andrews. Her research is focussed on modelling stars similar to the sun in its youth and understanding better the magnetic fields of these stars.

research topic and its purpose

Charlene is a 5th year PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She studies depression and neuroticism in people with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) using MR Imaging and behavioural tests.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 113 great research paper topics.

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General Education

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One of the hardest parts of writing a research paper can be just finding a good topic to write about. Fortunately we've done the hard work for you and have compiled a list of 113 interesting research paper topics. They've been organized into ten categories and cover a wide range of subjects so you can easily find the best topic for you.

In addition to the list of good research topics, we've included advice on what makes a good research paper topic and how you can use your topic to start writing a great paper.

What Makes a Good Research Paper Topic?

Not all research paper topics are created equal, and you want to make sure you choose a great topic before you start writing. Below are the three most important factors to consider to make sure you choose the best research paper topics.

#1: It's Something You're Interested In

A paper is always easier to write if you're interested in the topic, and you'll be more motivated to do in-depth research and write a paper that really covers the entire subject. Even if a certain research paper topic is getting a lot of buzz right now or other people seem interested in writing about it, don't feel tempted to make it your topic unless you genuinely have some sort of interest in it as well.

#2: There's Enough Information to Write a Paper

Even if you come up with the absolute best research paper topic and you're so excited to write about it, you won't be able to produce a good paper if there isn't enough research about the topic. This can happen for very specific or specialized topics, as well as topics that are too new to have enough research done on them at the moment. Easy research paper topics will always be topics with enough information to write a full-length paper.

Trying to write a research paper on a topic that doesn't have much research on it is incredibly hard, so before you decide on a topic, do a bit of preliminary searching and make sure you'll have all the information you need to write your paper.

#3: It Fits Your Teacher's Guidelines

Don't get so carried away looking at lists of research paper topics that you forget any requirements or restrictions your teacher may have put on research topic ideas. If you're writing a research paper on a health-related topic, deciding to write about the impact of rap on the music scene probably won't be allowed, but there may be some sort of leeway. For example, if you're really interested in current events but your teacher wants you to write a research paper on a history topic, you may be able to choose a topic that fits both categories, like exploring the relationship between the US and North Korea. No matter what, always get your research paper topic approved by your teacher first before you begin writing.

113 Good Research Paper Topics

Below are 113 good research topics to help you get you started on your paper. We've organized them into ten categories to make it easier to find the type of research paper topics you're looking for.

Arts/Culture

  • Discuss the main differences in art from the Italian Renaissance and the Northern Renaissance .
  • Analyze the impact a famous artist had on the world.
  • How is sexism portrayed in different types of media (music, film, video games, etc.)? Has the amount/type of sexism changed over the years?
  • How has the music of slaves brought over from Africa shaped modern American music?
  • How has rap music evolved in the past decade?
  • How has the portrayal of minorities in the media changed?

music-277279_640

Current Events

  • What have been the impacts of China's one child policy?
  • How have the goals of feminists changed over the decades?
  • How has the Trump presidency changed international relations?
  • Analyze the history of the relationship between the United States and North Korea.
  • What factors contributed to the current decline in the rate of unemployment?
  • What have been the impacts of states which have increased their minimum wage?
  • How do US immigration laws compare to immigration laws of other countries?
  • How have the US's immigration laws changed in the past few years/decades?
  • How has the Black Lives Matter movement affected discussions and view about racism in the US?
  • What impact has the Affordable Care Act had on healthcare in the US?
  • What factors contributed to the UK deciding to leave the EU (Brexit)?
  • What factors contributed to China becoming an economic power?
  • Discuss the history of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies  (some of which tokenize the S&P 500 Index on the blockchain) .
  • Do students in schools that eliminate grades do better in college and their careers?
  • Do students from wealthier backgrounds score higher on standardized tests?
  • Do students who receive free meals at school get higher grades compared to when they weren't receiving a free meal?
  • Do students who attend charter schools score higher on standardized tests than students in public schools?
  • Do students learn better in same-sex classrooms?
  • How does giving each student access to an iPad or laptop affect their studies?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of the Montessori Method ?
  • Do children who attend preschool do better in school later on?
  • What was the impact of the No Child Left Behind act?
  • How does the US education system compare to education systems in other countries?
  • What impact does mandatory physical education classes have on students' health?
  • Which methods are most effective at reducing bullying in schools?
  • Do homeschoolers who attend college do as well as students who attended traditional schools?
  • Does offering tenure increase or decrease quality of teaching?
  • How does college debt affect future life choices of students?
  • Should graduate students be able to form unions?

body_highschoolsc

  • What are different ways to lower gun-related deaths in the US?
  • How and why have divorce rates changed over time?
  • Is affirmative action still necessary in education and/or the workplace?
  • Should physician-assisted suicide be legal?
  • How has stem cell research impacted the medical field?
  • How can human trafficking be reduced in the United States/world?
  • Should people be able to donate organs in exchange for money?
  • Which types of juvenile punishment have proven most effective at preventing future crimes?
  • Has the increase in US airport security made passengers safer?
  • Analyze the immigration policies of certain countries and how they are similar and different from one another.
  • Several states have legalized recreational marijuana. What positive and negative impacts have they experienced as a result?
  • Do tariffs increase the number of domestic jobs?
  • Which prison reforms have proven most effective?
  • Should governments be able to censor certain information on the internet?
  • Which methods/programs have been most effective at reducing teen pregnancy?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of the Keto diet?
  • How effective are different exercise regimes for losing weight and maintaining weight loss?
  • How do the healthcare plans of various countries differ from each other?
  • What are the most effective ways to treat depression ?
  • What are the pros and cons of genetically modified foods?
  • Which methods are most effective for improving memory?
  • What can be done to lower healthcare costs in the US?
  • What factors contributed to the current opioid crisis?
  • Analyze the history and impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic .
  • Are low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets more effective for weight loss?
  • How much exercise should the average adult be getting each week?
  • Which methods are most effective to get parents to vaccinate their children?
  • What are the pros and cons of clean needle programs?
  • How does stress affect the body?
  • Discuss the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • What were the causes and effects of the Salem Witch Trials?
  • Who was responsible for the Iran-Contra situation?
  • How has New Orleans and the government's response to natural disasters changed since Hurricane Katrina?
  • What events led to the fall of the Roman Empire?
  • What were the impacts of British rule in India ?
  • Was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary?
  • What were the successes and failures of the women's suffrage movement in the United States?
  • What were the causes of the Civil War?
  • How did Abraham Lincoln's assassination impact the country and reconstruction after the Civil War?
  • Which factors contributed to the colonies winning the American Revolution?
  • What caused Hitler's rise to power?
  • Discuss how a specific invention impacted history.
  • What led to Cleopatra's fall as ruler of Egypt?
  • How has Japan changed and evolved over the centuries?
  • What were the causes of the Rwandan genocide ?

main_lincoln

  • Why did Martin Luther decide to split with the Catholic Church?
  • Analyze the history and impact of a well-known cult (Jonestown, Manson family, etc.)
  • How did the sexual abuse scandal impact how people view the Catholic Church?
  • How has the Catholic church's power changed over the past decades/centuries?
  • What are the causes behind the rise in atheism/ agnosticism in the United States?
  • What were the influences in Siddhartha's life resulted in him becoming the Buddha?
  • How has media portrayal of Islam/Muslims changed since September 11th?

Science/Environment

  • How has the earth's climate changed in the past few decades?
  • How has the use and elimination of DDT affected bird populations in the US?
  • Analyze how the number and severity of natural disasters have increased in the past few decades.
  • Analyze deforestation rates in a certain area or globally over a period of time.
  • How have past oil spills changed regulations and cleanup methods?
  • How has the Flint water crisis changed water regulation safety?
  • What are the pros and cons of fracking?
  • What impact has the Paris Climate Agreement had so far?
  • What have NASA's biggest successes and failures been?
  • How can we improve access to clean water around the world?
  • Does ecotourism actually have a positive impact on the environment?
  • Should the US rely on nuclear energy more?
  • What can be done to save amphibian species currently at risk of extinction?
  • What impact has climate change had on coral reefs?
  • How are black holes created?
  • Are teens who spend more time on social media more likely to suffer anxiety and/or depression?
  • How will the loss of net neutrality affect internet users?
  • Analyze the history and progress of self-driving vehicles.
  • How has the use of drones changed surveillance and warfare methods?
  • Has social media made people more or less connected?
  • What progress has currently been made with artificial intelligence ?
  • Do smartphones increase or decrease workplace productivity?
  • What are the most effective ways to use technology in the classroom?
  • How is Google search affecting our intelligence?
  • When is the best age for a child to begin owning a smartphone?
  • Has frequent texting reduced teen literacy rates?

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How to Write a Great Research Paper

Even great research paper topics won't give you a great research paper if you don't hone your topic before and during the writing process. Follow these three tips to turn good research paper topics into great papers.

#1: Figure Out Your Thesis Early

Before you start writing a single word of your paper, you first need to know what your thesis will be. Your thesis is a statement that explains what you intend to prove/show in your paper. Every sentence in your research paper will relate back to your thesis, so you don't want to start writing without it!

As some examples, if you're writing a research paper on if students learn better in same-sex classrooms, your thesis might be "Research has shown that elementary-age students in same-sex classrooms score higher on standardized tests and report feeling more comfortable in the classroom."

If you're writing a paper on the causes of the Civil War, your thesis might be "While the dispute between the North and South over slavery is the most well-known cause of the Civil War, other key causes include differences in the economies of the North and South, states' rights, and territorial expansion."

#2: Back Every Statement Up With Research

Remember, this is a research paper you're writing, so you'll need to use lots of research to make your points. Every statement you give must be backed up with research, properly cited the way your teacher requested. You're allowed to include opinions of your own, but they must also be supported by the research you give.

#3: Do Your Research Before You Begin Writing

You don't want to start writing your research paper and then learn that there isn't enough research to back up the points you're making, or, even worse, that the research contradicts the points you're trying to make!

Get most of your research on your good research topics done before you begin writing. Then use the research you've collected to create a rough outline of what your paper will cover and the key points you're going to make. This will help keep your paper clear and organized, and it'll ensure you have enough research to produce a strong paper.

What's Next?

Are you also learning about dynamic equilibrium in your science class? We break this sometimes tricky concept down so it's easy to understand in our complete guide to dynamic equilibrium .

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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Research Guide

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  • Plan Your Search
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STEP 1: Define Your Topic

research topic and its purpose

Think about Search Terms

Use your background information to think of appropriate search terms. Brainstorm every possible search term for your topic.Try to think of synonyms and related words for each keyword to help broaden or narrow your search.

Look at your topic. For example: ‘Are Canadian youth politically engaged?’ The keywords in this topic would be Canadian , youth , and political engagement .

These keywords can become:

  • Canadian → Canada
  • Youth → "young people", "young adults", or adolescents
  • "Political engagement" → vote, voting, politics, elections, or "political participation"

Example: Brainstorming Search Terms

My research question was ‘Can alternative energy sources help stop global warming?’

For this question, the keywords would be alternative energy sources, and global warming. So, some search terms could be:

  • global warming → climate change, temperature change, greenhouse effect
  • alternative energy sources → sustainable energy, renewable energy source, alternative fuels or environmental technology

1. Background Research

  • Do some background reading to understand more about the topic.
  • Is there a current book or article that gives you are good overview of the topic? 
  • You can use Wikipedia  for ideas, keywords for your search and important dates and issues, but do not use it as a source in your final paper, as is not an academic source. It can also include errors, so be careful. 
  • Try a test search of the library's resources to see what kind of results you get. If the topic is too general, you may need to narrow it down; if it is too specific, you may need to expand your search. 
  • You can also do a test search of the internet using Google. 
  • Keep in mind that what you will find through the AC Library is mostly subscription based and will include content not available for free on the internet.  

Example: Picking a Subject

My assignment:.

Write a research report on a topic of your choice

My subject ideas:

  • I am interested in environmental issues.
  • I have read about global warming, but what are the causes?
  • I wonder, what are some possible solutions?
  • Why is it such a complicated problem and what are some of the issues that are debated by scientists?
  • Is technology the solution to global warming? Or are changes in our behaviour the solution?

My broad topic for the assignment is ‘Global Warming’.

My research to narrow my topic:

  • I got a good overview of the topic.
  • I discovered areas of the topic that interest me and that I might want to focus on, such as the causes of global warming and the possible responses to it.
  • I searched for for ‘Global warming’ in Page 1+ .
  • I got too many results, because my topic is too general.
  • I can find suggestions of subjects on the left side of the page, which I can use to make my subject more specific.
  • In the next step, I will use what I have learned to refine my topic.

2. Refine Your Topic

Narrowing your subject to a more specific topic takes a bit of research and thought.

Here are some ideas to help you narrow your topic:

  • Talk to a friend to get ideas. They may give you ideas that didn't occur to you.
  • Brainstorm - think about or write down what you know about the topic. Use these as terms for your test searches. 

Use these questions:

  • WHY did you choose the topic? What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
  • WHO are the information providers on this topic?  Who might publish information about it?  Who is affected by the topic? Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
  • WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
  • WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?
  • WHEN is/was your topic important? Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?

(Content reproduced from MIT.edu under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License )

  • Turn your topic into a question. You will be trying to answer this question with your research. Think about something you would like to try to prove or argue.
  • Make sure to pick a topic that will have enough information available. Do a preliminary search to see if there is enough information about your topic.

Example: Refining Your Topic

The subject we chose in the earlier step is ‘global warming.’ This subject is a very broad topic with many different aspects you could research. We will use the techniques above to narrow our subject to a research topic.

  • Why: I am interested in environmental issues, and I am interested in how technology can be used to improve things in the future.
  • Who: Many environmental journals have published research on this topic. Also, organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme publish reports on the topic.
  • Which types of energy sources are best for the environment?
  • Are they feasible?
  • How much will they cost?
  • What are the potential positive or negative effects?
  • Where: This issue is important for everyone, both on local levels and on a global level.
  • When: This is a current issue; it is very important today and for the future. I would like for this paper to be more future-focused.
  • From these answers, I came up with possible topics, such as ‘the causes of global warming’ ‘technological solutions to global warming’, or ‘what effect does global warming have on business?’ or ‘scientific debate about global warming’
  • I turned my topic into a question: ‘Can alternative energy sources help stop global warming?’
  • I made sure my topic has enough information available. A quick search of library resources shows over 7,000 results related to my question.

Sample research question: Can alternative energy sources help stop global warming?

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How To Write a Research Question

Deeptanshu D

Academic writing and research require a distinct focus and direction. A well-designed research question gives purpose and clarity to your research. In addition, it helps your readers understand the issue you are trying to address and explore.

Every time you want to know more about a subject, you will pose a question. The same idea is used in research as well. You must pose a question in order to effectively address a research problem. That's why the research question is an integral part of the research process. Additionally, it offers the author writing and reading guidelines, be it qualitative research or quantitative research.

In your research paper , you must single out just one issue or problem. The specific issue or claim you wish to address should be included in your thesis statement in order to clarify your main argument.

A good research question must have the following characteristics.

research topic and its purpose

  • Should include only one problem in the research question
  • Should be able to find the answer using primary data and secondary data sources
  • Should be possible to resolve within the given time and other constraints
  • Detailed and in-depth results should be achievable
  • Should be relevant and realistic.
  • It should relate to your chosen area of research

While a larger project, like a thesis, might have several research questions to address, each one should be directed at your main area of study. Of course, you can use different research designs and research methods (qualitative research or quantitative research) to address various research questions. However, they must all be pertinent to the study's objectives.

What is a Research Question?

what-is-a-research-question

A research question is an inquiry that the research attempts to answer. It is the heart of the systematic investigation. Research questions are the most important step in any research project. In essence, it initiates the research project and establishes the pace for the specific research A research question is:

  • Clear : It provides enough detail that the audience understands its purpose without any additional explanation.
  • Focused : It is so specific that it can be addressed within the time constraints of the writing task.
  • Succinct: It is written in the shortest possible words.
  • Complex : It is not possible to answer it with a "yes" or "no", but requires analysis and synthesis of ideas before somebody can create a solution.
  • Argumental : Its potential answers are open for debate rather than accepted facts.

A good research question usually focuses on the research and determines the research design, methodology, and hypothesis. It guides all phases of inquiry, data collection, analysis, and reporting. You should gather valuable information by asking the right questions.

Why are Research Questions so important?

Regardless of whether it is a qualitative research or quantitative research project, research questions provide writers and their audience with a way to navigate the writing and research process. Writers can avoid "all-about" papers by asking straightforward and specific research questions that help them focus on their research and support a specific thesis.

Types of Research Questions

types-of-research-question

There are two types of research: Qualitative research and Quantitative research . There must be research questions for every type of research. Your research question will be based on the type of research you want to conduct and the type of data collection.

The first step in designing research involves identifying a gap and creating a focused research question.

Below is a list of common research questions that can be used in a dissertation. Keep in mind that these are merely illustrations of typical research questions used in dissertation projects. The real research questions themselves might be more difficult.

Example Research Questions

examples-of-research-question

The following are a few examples of research questions and research problems to help you understand how research questions can be created for a particular research problem.

Steps to Write Research Questions

steps-to-write-a-research-question

You can focus on the issue or research gaps you're attempting to solve by using the research questions as a direction.

If you're unsure how to go about writing a good research question, these are the steps to follow in the process:

  • Select an interesting topic Always choose a topic that interests you. Because if your curiosity isn’t aroused by a subject, you’ll have a hard time conducting research around it. Alos, it’s better that you pick something that’s neither too narrow or too broad.
  • Do preliminary research on the topic Search for relevant literature to gauge what problems have already been tackled by scholars. You can do that conveniently through repositories like Scispace , where you’ll find millions of papers in one place. Once you do find the papers you’re looking for, try our reading assistant, SciSpace Copilot to get simple explanations for the paper . You’ll be able to quickly understand the abstract, find the key takeaways, and the main arguments presented in the paper. This will give you a more contextual understanding of your subject and you’ll have an easier time identifying knowledge gaps in your discipline.

     Also: ChatPDF vs. SciSpace Copilot: Unveiling the best tool for your research

  • Consider your audience It is essential to understand your audience to develop focused research questions for essays or dissertations. When narrowing down your topic, you can identify aspects that might interest your audience.
  • Ask questions Asking questions will give you a deeper understanding of the topic. Evaluate your question through the What, Why, When, How, and other open-ended questions assessment.
  • Assess your question Once you have created a research question, assess its effectiveness to determine if it is useful for the purpose. Refine and revise the dissertation research question multiple times.

Additionally, use this list of questions as a guide when formulating your research question.

Are you able to answer a specific research question? After identifying a gap in research, it would be helpful to formulate the research question. And this will allow the research to solve a part of the problem. Is your research question clear and centered on the main topic? It is important that your research question should be specific and related to your central goal. Are you tackling a difficult research question? It is not possible to answer the research question with a simple yes or no. The problem requires in-depth analysis. It is often started with "How" and "Why."

Start your research Once you have completed your dissertation research questions, it is time to review the literature on similar topics to discover different perspectives.

Strong  Research Question Samples

Uncertain: How should social networking sites work on the hatred that flows through their platform?

Certain: What should social media sites like Twitter or Facebook do to address the harm they are causing?

This unclear question does not specify the social networking sites that are being used or what harm they might be causing. In addition, this question assumes that the "harm" has been proven and/or accepted. This version is more specific and identifies the sites (Twitter, Facebook), the type and extent of harm (privacy concerns), and who might be suffering from that harm (users). Effective research questions should not be ambiguous or interpreted.

Unfocused: What are the effects of global warming on the environment?

Focused: What are the most important effects of glacial melting in Antarctica on penguins' lives?

This broad research question cannot be addressed in a book, let alone a college-level paper. Focused research targets a specific effect of global heating (glacial  melting), an area (Antarctica), or a specific animal (penguins). The writer must also decide which effect will have the greatest impact on the animals affected. If in doubt, narrow down your research question to the most specific possible.

Too Simple: What are the U.S. doctors doing to treat diabetes?

Appropriately complex: Which factors, if any, are most likely to predict a person's risk of developing diabetes?

This simple version can be found online. It is easy to answer with a few facts. The second, more complicated version of this question is divided into two parts. It is thought-provoking and requires extensive investigation as well as evaluation by the author. So, ensure that a quick Google search should not answer your research question.

How to write a strong Research Question?

how-to-write-a-strong-research-question

The foundation of all research is the research question. You should therefore spend as much time as necessary to refine your research question based on various data.

You can conduct your research more efficiently and analyze your results better if you have great research questions for your dissertation, research paper , or essay .

The following criteria can help you evaluate the strength and importance of your research question and can be used to determine the strength of your research question:

  • Researchable
  • It should only cover one issue.
  • A subjective judgment should not be included in the question.
  • It can be answered with data analysis and research.
  • Specific and Practical
  • It should not contain a plan of action, policy, or solution.
  • It should be clearly defined
  • Within research limits
  • Complex and Arguable
  • It shouldn't be difficult to answer.
  • To find the truth, you need in-depth knowledge
  • Allows for discussion and deliberation
  • Original and Relevant
  • It should be in your area of study
  • Its results should be measurable
  • It should be original

Conclusion - How to write Research Questions?

Research questions provide a clear guideline for research. One research question may be part of a larger project, such as a dissertation. However, each question should only focus on one topic.

Research questions must be answerable, practical, specific, and applicable to your field. The research type that you use to base your research questions on will determine the research topic. You can start by selecting an interesting topic and doing preliminary research. Then, you can begin asking questions, evaluating your questions, and start your research.

Now it's easier than ever to streamline your research workflow with SciSpace ResearchGPT . Its integrated, comprehensive end-to-end platform for research allows scholars to easily discover, read, write and publish their research and fosters collaboration.

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What is Research? Definition, Types, Methods and Process

By Nick Jain

Published on: July 25, 2023

What is Research

Table of Contents

What is Research?

Types of research methods, research process: how to conduct research, top 10 best practices for conducting research in 2023.

Research is defined as a meticulous and systematic inquiry process designed to explore and unravel specific subjects or issues with precision. This methodical approach encompasses the thorough collection, rigorous analysis, and insightful interpretation of information, aiming to delve deep into the nuances of a chosen field of study. By adhering to established research methodologies, investigators can draw meaningful conclusions, fostering a profound understanding that contributes significantly to the existing knowledge base. This dedication to systematic inquiry serves as the bedrock of progress, steering advancements across sciences, technology, social sciences, and diverse disciplines. Through the dissemination of meticulously gathered insights, scholars not only inspire collaboration and innovation but also catalyze positive societal change.

In the pursuit of knowledge, researchers embark on a journey of discovery, seeking to unravel the complexities of the world around us. By formulating clear research questions, researchers set the course for their investigations, carefully crafting methodologies to gather relevant data. Whether employing quantitative surveys or qualitative interviews, data collection lies at the heart of every research endeavor. Once the data is collected, researchers meticulously analyze it, employing statistical tools or thematic analysis to identify patterns and draw meaningful insights. These insights, often supported by empirical evidence, contribute to the collective pool of knowledge, enriching our understanding of various phenomena and guiding decision-making processes across diverse fields. Through research, we continually refine our understanding of the universe, laying the foundation for innovation and progress that shape the future.

Research embodies the spirit of curiosity and the pursuit of truth. Here are the key characteristics of research:

  • Systematic Approach: Research follows a well-structured and organized approach, with clearly defined steps and methodologies. It is conducted in a systematic manner to ensure that data is collected, analyzed, and interpreted in a logical and coherent way.
  • Objective and Unbiased: Research is objective and strives to be free from bias or personal opinions. Researchers aim to gather data and draw conclusions based on evidence rather than preconceived notions or beliefs.
  • Empirical Evidence: Research relies on empirical evidence obtained through observations, experiments, surveys, or other data collection methods. This evidence serves as the foundation for drawing conclusions and making informed decisions.
  • Clear Research Question or Problem: Every research study begins with a specific research question or problem that the researcher aims to address. This question provides focus and direction to the entire research process.
  • Replicability: Good research should be replicable, meaning that other researchers should be able to conduct a similar study and obtain similar results when following the same methods.
  • Transparency and Ethics: Research should be conducted with transparency, and researchers should adhere to ethical guidelines and principles. This includes obtaining informed consent from participants, ensuring confidentiality, and avoiding any harm to participants or the environment.
  • Generalizability: Researchers often aim for their findings to be generalizable to a broader population or context. This means that the results of the study can be applied beyond the specific sample or situation studied.
  • Logical and Critical Thinking: Research involves critical thinking to analyze and interpret data, identify patterns, and draw meaningful conclusions. Logical reasoning is essential in formulating hypotheses and designing the study.
  • Contribution to Knowledge: The primary purpose of research is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge in a particular field. Researchers aim to expand understanding, challenge existing theories, or propose new ideas.
  • Peer Review and Publication: Research findings are typically subject to peer review by experts in the field before being published in academic journals or presented at conferences. This process ensures the quality and validity of the research.
  • Iterative Process: Research is often an iterative process, with findings from one study leading to new questions and further research. It is a continuous cycle of discovery and refinement.
  • Practical Application: While some research is theoretical in nature, much of it aims to have practical applications and real-world implications. It can inform policy decisions, improve practices, or address societal challenges.

These key characteristics collectively define research as a rigorous and valuable endeavor that drives progress, knowledge, and innovation in various disciplines.

Types of Research Methods

Research methods refer to the specific approaches and techniques used to collect and analyze data in a research study. There are various types of research methods, and researchers often choose the most appropriate method based on their research question, the nature of the data they want to collect, and the resources available to them. Some common types of research methods include:

1. Quantitative Research: Quantitative research methods focus on collecting and analyzing quantifiable data to draw conclusions. The key methods for conducting quantitative research are:

Surveys- Conducting structured questionnaires or interviews with a large number of participants to gather numerical data.

Experiments-Manipulating variables in a controlled environment to establish cause-and-effect relationships.

Observational Studies- Systematically observing and recording behaviors or phenomena without intervention.

Secondary Data Analysis- Analyzing existing datasets and records to draw new insights or conclusions.

2. Qualitative Research: Qualitative research employs a range of information-gathering methods that are non-numerical, and are instead intellectual in order to provide in-depth insights into the research topic. The key methods are:

Interviews- Conducting in-depth, semi-structured, or unstructured interviews to gain a deeper understanding of participants’ perspectives.

Focus Groups- Group discussions with selected participants to explore their attitudes, beliefs, and experiences on a specific topic.

Ethnography- Immersing in a particular culture or community to observe and understand their behaviors, customs, and beliefs.

Case Studies- In-depth examination of a single individual, group, organization, or event to gain comprehensive insights.

3. Mixed-Methods Research: Combining both quantitative and qualitative research methods in a single study to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the research question.

4. Cross-Sectional Studies: Gathering data from a sample of a population at a specific point in time to understand relationships or differences between variables.

5. Longitudinal Studies: Following a group of participants over an extended period to examine changes and developments over time.

6. Action Research: Collaboratively working with stakeholders to identify and implement solutions to practical problems in real-world settings.

7. Case-Control Studies: Comparing individuals with a particular outcome (cases) to those without the outcome (controls) to identify potential causes or risk factors.

8. Descriptive Research: Describing and summarizing characteristics, behaviors, or patterns without manipulating variables.

9. Correlational Research: Examining the relationship between two or more variables without inferring causation.

10. Grounded Theory: An approach to developing theory based on systematically gathering and analyzing data, allowing the theory to emerge from the data.

11. Surveys and Questionnaires: Administering structured sets of questions to a sample population to gather specific information.

12. Meta-Analysis: A statistical technique that combines the results of multiple studies on the same topic to draw more robust conclusions.

Researchers often choose a research method or a combination of methods that best aligns with their research objectives, resources, and the nature of the data they aim to collect. Each research method has its strengths and limitations, and the choice of method can significantly impact the findings and conclusions of a study.

Learn more: What is Research Design?

Conducting research involves a systematic and organized process that follows specific steps to ensure the collection of reliable and meaningful data. The research process typically consists of the following steps:

Step 1. Identify the Research Topic

Choose a research topic that interests you and aligns with your expertise and resources. Develop clear and focused research questions that you want to answer through your study.

Step 2. Review Existing Research

Conduct a thorough literature review to identify what research has already been done on your chosen topic. This will help you understand the current state of knowledge, identify gaps in the literature, and refine your research questions.

Step 3. Design the Research Methodology

Determine the appropriate research methodology that suits your research questions. Decide whether your study will be qualitative , quantitative , or a mix of both (mixed methods). Also, choose the data collection methods, such as surveys, interviews, experiments, observations, etc.

Step 4. Select the Sample and Participants

If your study involves human participants, decide on the sample size and selection criteria. Obtain ethical approval, if required, and ensure that participants’ rights and privacy are protected throughout the research process.

Step 5. Information Collection

Collect information and data based on your chosen research methodology. Qualitative research has more intellectual information, while quantitative research results are more data-oriented. Ensure that your data collection process is standardized and consistent to maintain the validity of the results.

Step 6. Data Analysis

Analyze the data you have collected using appropriate statistical or qualitative research methods . The type of analysis will depend on the nature of your data and research questions.

Step 7. Interpretation of Results

Interpret the findings of your data analysis. Relate the results to your research questions and consider how they contribute to the existing knowledge in the field.

Step 8. Draw Conclusions

Based on your interpretation of the results, draw meaningful conclusions that answer your research questions. Discuss the implications of your findings and how they align with the existing literature.

Step 9. Discuss Limitations

Acknowledge and discuss any limitations of your study. Addressing limitations demonstrates the validity and reliability of your research.

Step 10. Make Recommendations

If applicable, provide recommendations based on your research findings. These recommendations can be for future research, policy changes, or practical applications.

Step 11. Write the Research Report

Prepare a comprehensive research report detailing all aspects of your study, including the introduction, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, and references.

Step 12. Peer Review and Revision

If you intend to publish your research, submit your report to peer-reviewed journals. Revise your research report based on the feedback received from reviewers.

Make sure to share your research findings with the broader community through conferences, seminars, or other appropriate channels, this will help contribute to the collective knowledge in your field of study.

Remember that conducting research is a dynamic process, and you may need to revisit and refine various steps as you progress. Good research requires attention to detail, critical thinking, and adherence to ethical principles to ensure the quality and validity of the study.

Learn more: What is Primary Market Research?

Best Practices for Conducting Research

Best practices for conducting research remain rooted in the principles of rigor, transparency, and ethical considerations. Here are the essential best practices to follow when conducting research in 2023:

1. Research Design and Methodology

  • Carefully select and justify the research design and methodology that aligns with your research questions and objectives.
  • Ensure that the chosen methods are appropriate for the data you intend to collect and the type of analysis you plan to perform.
  • Clearly document the research design and methodology to enhance the reproducibility and transparency of your study.

2. Ethical Considerations

  • Obtain approval from relevant research ethics committees or institutional review boards, especially when involving human participants or sensitive data.
  • Prioritize the protection of participants’ rights, privacy, and confidentiality throughout the research process.
  • Provide informed consent to participants, ensuring they understand the study’s purpose, risks, and benefits.

3. Data Collection

  • Ensure the reliability and validity of data collection instruments, such as surveys or interview protocols.
  • Conduct pilot studies or pretests to identify and address any potential issues with data collection procedures.

4. Data Management and Analysis

  • Implement robust data management practices to maintain the integrity and security of research data.
  • Transparently document data analysis procedures, including software and statistical methods used.
  • Use appropriate statistical techniques to analyze the data and avoid data manipulation or cherry-picking results.

5. Transparency and Open Science

  • Embrace open science practices, such as pre-registration of research protocols and sharing data and code openly whenever possible.
  • Clearly report all aspects of your research, including methods, results, and limitations, to enhance the reproducibility of your study.

6. Bias and Confounders

  • Be aware of potential biases in the research process and take steps to minimize them.
  • Consider and address potential confounding variables that could affect the validity of your results.

7. Peer Review

  • Seek peer review from experts in your field before publishing or presenting your research findings.
  • Be receptive to feedback and address any concerns raised by reviewers to improve the quality of your study.

8. Replicability and Generalizability

  • Strive to make your research findings replicable, allowing other researchers to validate your results independently.
  • Clearly state the limitations of your study and the extent to which the findings can be generalized to other populations or contexts.

9. Acknowledging Funding and Conflicts of Interest

  • Disclose any funding sources and potential conflicts of interest that may influence your research or its outcomes.

10. Dissemination and Communication

  • Effectively communicate your research findings to both academic and non-academic audiences using clear and accessible language.
  • Share your research through reputable and open-access platforms to maximize its impact and reach.

By adhering to these best practices, researchers can ensure the integrity and value of their work, contributing to the advancement of knowledge and promoting trust in the research community.

Learn more: What is Consumer Research?

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COMMENTS

  1. Defining the research topic

    Conceptualizing a research topic entails formulating a "defensible and researchable" research question. Conducting a literature search as one of the first steps in a graduate degree is often quite helpful as published peer-reviewed research articles are key to identify knowledge gaps in current literature. Thus, students can design and ...

  2. Research Topics

    Definition: Research topic is a specific subject or area of interest that a researcher wants to investigate or explore in-depth through research. It is the overarching theme or question that guides a research project and helps to focus the research activities towards a clear objective. How to Choose Research Topic

  3. Ultimate List Of Research Topics (With Examples)

    Check out the free course Find the perfect research topic for your dissertation, thesis or research project. Mega list of research ideas and practical examples.

  4. 11.1 The Purpose of Research Writing

    A research paper presents an original thesis, or purpose statement, about a topic and develops that thesis with information gathered from a variety of sources. If you are curious about the possibility of life on Mars, for example, you might choose to research the topic. What will you do, though, when your research is complete?

  5. Overview

    Select a topic. Choosing an interesting research topic is your first challenge. Here are some tips: Choose a topic that you are interested in! The research process is more relevant if you care about your topic. Narrow your topic to something manageable. If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information and not be able to focus.

  6. PDF DEVELOPING A RESEARCH TOPIC

    research strategies to find relevant and appropriate information. Before you begin the research process, be sure that you understand the assignment, the purpose, and the requirements. Plan for sufficient research, thinking, and writing time for the project. Then define, revise, and refine your work. Select a topic • start with an idea in ...

  7. Purpose Statement

    In PhD studies, the purpose usually involves applying a theory to solve the problem. In other words, the purpose tells the reader what the goal of the study is, and what your study will accomplish, through which theoretical lens. The purpose statement also includes brief information about direction, scope, and where the data will come from.

  8. PDF Developing a research topic

    In general, this includes all functions of business. The main areas include marketing, finance, human resources and strategy. Those of you on courses based on specific areas of business, e.g. a BA (Hons) in Marketing, will undoubtedly select a topic that is relevant to marketing. This might include.

  9. PDF RESEARCH TOPICS, LITERATURE REVIEWS, AND HYPOTHESES

    Sometimes coming up with a research topic or question is really straightforward. Someone may tell you explicitly what they want you to study such as: Did the program reduce delin- ... kind of material I discussed in Chapter 1 regarding the descriptive purpose of research. The second type of research question is normative questions, ...

  10. How to Write a Research Paper: Choosing Your Topic

    Choose a topic you are interested in, and can find information about. Your opinion of the topic might change as you conduct your research and find out more about the subject. Choose a topic that is not too broad or too narrow. The first will be hard to keep focused and the second might be hard to find information about.

  11. Creating a Successful Research Topic Statement (PSY)

    A research topic is an area of interest to a researcher that is first of all, researchable. It is focused narrowly enough that its key concepts are quite plain and well integrated. It is a topic or subject that can be found in the existing literature of the researcher's field, which shows that it is of some interest or importance to that field ...

  12. A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

    Step 1: Choose your topic. First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you're interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you've taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose.

  13. What Is A Research Proposal? Examples + Template

    The purpose of the research proposal (its job, so to speak) is to convince your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is suitable (for the requirements of the degree program) and manageable (given the time and resource constraints you will face). The most important word here is "convince" - in other words, your ...

  14. What Is Research, and Why Do People Do It?

    Stephen Hwang, Anne K Morris & Charles Hohensee Chapter Open Access First Online: 03 December 2022 12k Accesses Part of the Research in Mathematics Education book series (RME) Abstractspiepr Abs1 Every day people do research as they gather information to learn about something of interest.

  15. Research: Meaning and Purpose

    Research: Meaning and Purpose Kazi Abusaleh & Akib Bin Anwar Chapter First Online: 27 October 2022 1242 Accesses Abstract The objective of the chapter is to provide the conceptual framework of the research and research process and draw the importance of research in social sciences.

  16. Choosing a Research Topic

    What Makes a Good Research Topic? Before diving into how to choose a research topic, it is important to think about what are some elements of a good research topic. Of course, this will depend specifically on your research project, but a good research topic will always: Relate to the assignment itself.

  17. 55 Research Paper Topics to Jump-Start Your Paper

    55 Research Paper Topics to Jump-Start Your Paper. Coming up with research paper topics is the first step in writing most papers. While it may seem easy compared to the actual writing, choosing the right research paper topic is nonetheless one of the most important steps. Your topic determines the entire writing process: your core arguments ...

  18. What is Research?

    Summary The purpose of research is to enhance society by advancing knowledge through the development of scientific theories, concepts and ideas. A research purpose is met through forming hypotheses, collecting data, analysing results, forming conclusions, implementing findings into real-life applications and forming new research questions.

  19. PDF Why research is important

    6 Research is communicated to interested others; it takes place within a research community. No single research study has much meaning in isolation. Research studies provide the individual pieces that fit together to create the complex mosaic of the literature on a topic. Research can be viewed as a form of collective knowing that reflects

  20. 113 Great Research Paper Topics

    What Makes a Good Research Paper Topic? Not all research paper topics are created equal, and you want to make sure you choose a great topic before you start writing. Below are the three most important factors to consider to make sure you choose the best research paper topics. #1: It's Something You're Interested In

  21. Define Your Topic

    STEP 1: Define Your Topic. The first step when planning and writing a research paper is picking a good topic. A good topic is relevant to the assignment and has enough information available for you to use and is neither too broad nor too narrow. This section will help you pick a subject that interests you, and refine that subject to a specific ...

  22. Research Question: Definition, Types, Examples, Quick Tips

    A research question is: Clear: It provides enough detail that the audience understands its purpose without any additional explanation. Focused: It is so specific that it can be addressed within the time constraints of the writing task. Succinct: It is written in the shortest possible words.

  23. What is Research? Definition, Types, Methods and Process

    Researchers aim to gather data and draw conclusions based on evidence rather than preconceived notions or beliefs. Empirical Evidence: Research relies on empirical evidence obtained through observations, experiments, surveys, or other data collection methods.