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steps for research project

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Research Process Steps: What they are + How To Follow

There are various approaches to conducting basic and applied research. This article explains the research process steps you should know.

There are various approaches to conducting basic and applied research. This article explains the research process steps you should know. Whether you are doing basic research or applied research, there are many ways of doing it. In some ways, each research study is unique since it is conducted at a different time and place.

Conducting research might be difficult, but there are clear processes to follow. The research process starts with a broad idea for a topic. This article will assist you through the research process steps, helping you focus and develop your topic.

Research Process Steps

The research process consists of a series of systematic procedures that a researcher must go through in order to generate knowledge that will be considered valuable by the project and focus on the relevant topic.

To conduct effective research, you must understand the research process steps and follow them. Here are a few steps in the research process to make it easier for you:

10 research process steps

Step 1: Identify the Problem

Finding an issue or formulating a research question is the first step. A well-defined research problem will guide the researcher through all stages of the research process, from setting objectives to choosing a technique. There are a number of approaches to get insight into a topic and gain a better understanding of it. Such as:

  • A preliminary survey
  • Case studies
  • Interviews with a small group of people
  • Observational survey

Step 2: Evaluate the Literature

A thorough examination of the relevant studies is essential to the research process . It enables the researcher to identify the precise aspects of the problem. Once a problem has been found, the investigator or researcher needs to find out more about it.

This stage gives problem-zone background. It teaches the investigator about previous research, how they were conducted, and its conclusions. The researcher can build consistency between his work and others through a literature review. Such a review exposes the researcher to a more significant body of knowledge and helps him follow the research process efficiently.

Step 3: Create Hypotheses

Formulating an original hypothesis is the next logical step after narrowing down the research topic and defining it. A belief solves logical relationships between variables. In order to establish a hypothesis, a researcher must have a certain amount of expertise in the field. 

It is important for researchers to keep in mind while formulating a hypothesis that it must be based on the research topic. Researchers are able to concentrate their efforts and stay committed to their objectives when they develop theories to guide their work.

Step 4: The Research Design

Research design is the plan for achieving objectives and answering research questions. It outlines how to get the relevant information. Its goal is to design research to test hypotheses, address the research questions, and provide decision-making insights.

The research design aims to minimize the time, money, and effort required to acquire meaningful evidence. This plan fits into four categories:

  • Exploration and Surveys
  • Data Analysis
  • Observation

Step 5: Describe Population

Research projects usually look at a specific group of people, facilities, or how technology is used in the business. In research, the term population refers to this study group. The research topic and purpose help determine the study group.

Suppose a researcher wishes to investigate a certain group of people in the community. In that case, the research could target a specific age group, males or females, a geographic location, or an ethnic group. A final step in a study’s design is to specify its sample or population so that the results may be generalized.

Step 6: Data Collection

Data collection is important in obtaining the knowledge or information required to answer the research issue. Every research collected data, either from the literature or the people being studied. Data must be collected from the two categories of researchers. These sources may provide primary data.

  • Questionnaire

Secondary data categories are:

  • Literature survey
  • Official, unofficial reports
  • An approach based on library resources

Step 7: Data Analysis

During research design, the researcher plans data analysis. After collecting data, the researcher analyzes it. The data is examined based on the approach in this step. The research findings are reviewed and reported.

Data analysis involves a number of closely related stages, such as setting up categories, applying these categories to raw data through coding and tabulation, and then drawing statistical conclusions. The researcher can examine the acquired data using a variety of statistical methods.

Step 8: The Report-writing

After completing these steps, the researcher must prepare a report detailing his findings. The report must be carefully composed with the following in mind:

  • The Layout: On the first page, the title, date, acknowledgments, and preface should be on the report. A table of contents should be followed by a list of tables, graphs, and charts if any.
  • Introduction: It should state the research’s purpose and methods. This section should include the study’s scope and limits.
  • Summary of Findings: A non-technical summary of findings and recommendations will follow the introduction. The findings should be summarized if they’re lengthy.
  • Principal Report: The main body of the report should make sense and be broken up into sections that are easy to understand.
  • Conclusion: The researcher should restate his findings at the end of the main text. It’s the final result.

LEARN ABOUT: 12 Best Tools for Researchers

The research process involves several steps that make it easy to complete the research successfully. The steps in the research process described above depend on each other, and the order must be kept. So, if we want to do a research project, we should follow the research process steps.

QuestionPro’s enterprise-grade research platform can collect survey and qualitative observation data. The tool’s nature allows for data processing and essential decisions. The platform lets you store and process data. Start immediately!



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Basic Steps in the Research Process

The following steps outline a simple and effective strategy for writing a research paper. Depending on your familiarity with the topic and the challenges you encounter along the way, you may need to rearrange these steps.

Step 1: Identify and develop your topic

Selecting a topic can be the most challenging part of a research assignment. Since this is the very first step in writing a paper, it is vital that it be done correctly. Here are some tips for selecting a topic:

  • Select a topic within the parameters set by the assignment. Many times your instructor will give you clear guidelines as to what you can and cannot write about. Failure to work within these guidelines may result in your proposed paper being deemed unacceptable by your instructor.
  • Select a topic of personal interest to you and learn more about it. The research for and writing of a paper will be more enjoyable if you are writing about something that you find interesting.
  • Select a topic for which you can find a manageable amount of information. Do a preliminary search of information sources to determine whether existing sources will meet your needs. If you find too much information, you may need to narrow your topic; if you find too little, you may need to broaden your topic.
  • Be original. Your instructor reads hundreds of research papers every year, and many of them are on the same topics (topics in the news at the time, controversial issues, subjects for which there is ample and easily accessed information). Stand out from your classmates by selecting an interesting and off-the-beaten-path topic.
  • Still can't come up with a topic to write about? See your instructor for advice.

Once you have identified your topic, it may help to state it as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about the epidemic of obesity in the American population, you might pose the question "What are the causes of obesity in America ?" By posing your subject as a question you can more easily identify the main concepts or keywords to be used in your research.

Step 2 : Do a preliminary search for information

Before beginning your research in earnest, do a preliminary search to determine whether there is enough information out there for your needs and to set the context of your research. Look up your keywords in the appropriate titles in the library's Reference collection (such as encyclopedias and dictionaries) and in other sources such as our catalog of books, periodical databases, and Internet search engines. Additional background information may be found in your lecture notes, textbooks, and reserve readings. You may find it necessary to adjust the focus of your topic in light of the resources available to you.

Step 3: Locate materials

With the direction of your research now clear to you, you can begin locating material on your topic. There are a number of places you can look for information:

If you are looking for books, do a subject search in One Search . A Keyword search can be performed if the subject search doesn't yield enough information. Print or write down the citation information (author, title,etc.) and the location (call number and collection) of the item(s). Note the circulation status. When you locate the book on the shelf, look at the books located nearby; similar items are always shelved in the same area. The Aleph catalog also indexes the library's audio-visual holdings.

Use the library's  electronic periodical databases  to find magazine and newspaper articles. Choose the databases and formats best suited to your particular topic; ask at the librarian at the Reference Desk if you need help figuring out which database best meets your needs. Many of the articles in the databases are available in full-text format.

Use search engines ( Google ,  Yahoo , etc.) and subject directories to locate materials on the Internet. Check the  Internet Resources  section of the NHCC Library web site for helpful subject links.

Step 4: Evaluate your sources

See the  CARS Checklist for Information Quality   for tips on evaluating the authority and quality of the information you have located. Your instructor expects that you will provide credible, truthful, and reliable information and you have every right to expect that the sources you use are providing the same. This step is especially important when using Internet resources, many of which are regarded as less than reliable.

Step 5: Make notes

Consult the resources you have chosen and note the information that will be useful in your paper. Be sure to document all the sources you consult, even if you there is a chance you may not use that particular source. The author, title, publisher, URL, and other information will be needed later when creating a bibliography.

Step 6: Write your paper

Begin by organizing the information you have collected. The next step is the rough draft, wherein you get your ideas on paper in an unfinished fashion. This step will help you organize your ideas and determine the form your final paper will take. After this, you will revise the draft as many times as you think necessary to create a final product to turn in to your instructor.

Step 7: Cite your sources properly

Give credit where credit is due; cite your sources.

Citing or documenting the sources used in your research serves two purposes: it gives proper credit to the authors of the materials used, and it allows those who are reading your work to duplicate your research and locate the sources that you have listed as references. The  MLA  and the  APA  Styles are two popular citation formats.

Failure to cite your sources properly is plagiarism. Plagiarism is avoidable!

Step 8: Proofread

The final step in the process is to proofread the paper you have created. Read through the text and check for any errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Make sure the sources you used are cited properly. Make sure the message that you want to get across to the reader has been thoroughly stated.

Additional research tips:

  • Work from the general to the specific -- find background information first, then use more specific sources.
  • Don't forget print sources -- many times print materials are more easily accessed and every bit as helpful as online resources.
  • The library has books on the topic of writing research papers at call number area LB 2369.
  • If you have questions about the assignment, ask your instructor.
  • If you have any questions about finding information in the library, ask the librarian.

Contact Information

Craig larson.

Librarian 763-424-0733 [email protected] Zoom:  myzoom   Available by appointment

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Key Steps in the Research Process - A Comprehensive Guide

Harish M

Embarking on a research journey can be both thrilling and challenging. Whether you're a student, journalist, or simply inquisitive about a subject, grasping the research process steps is vital for conducting thorough and efficient research. In this all-encompassing guide, we'll navigate you through the pivotal stages of what is the research process, from pinpointing your topic to showcasing your discoveries.

We'll delve into how to formulate a robust research question, undertake preliminary research, and devise a structured research plan. You'll acquire strategies for gathering and scrutinizing data, along with advice for effectively disseminating your findings. By adhering to these steps in the research process, you'll be fully prepared to confront any research endeavor that presents itself.

Step 1: Identify and Develop Your Topic

Identifying and cultivating a research topic is the foundational first step in the research process. Kick off by brainstorming potential subjects that captivate your interest, as this will fuel your enthusiasm throughout the endeavor. 

Employ the following tactics to spark ideas and understand what is the first step in the research process:

  • Review course materials, lecture notes, and assigned readings for inspiration
  • Engage in discussions with peers, professors, or experts in the field
  • Investigate current events, news pieces, or social media trends pertinent to your field of study to uncover valuable market research insights.
  • Reflect on personal experiences or observations that have sparked your curiosity

Once you've compiled a roster of possible topics, engage in preliminary research to evaluate the viability and breadth of each concept. This initial probe may encompass various research steps and procedures to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the topics at hand.

  • Scanning Wikipedia articles or other general reference sources for an overview
  • Searching for scholarly articles, books, or media related to your topic
  • Identifying key concepts, theories, or debates within the field
  • Considering the availability of primary sources or data for analysis

While amassing background knowledge, begin to concentrate your focus and hone your topic. Target a subject that is specific enough to be feasible within your project's limits, yet expansive enough to permit substantial analysis. Mull over the following inquiries to steer your topic refinement and address the research problem effectively:

  • What aspect of the topic am I most interested in exploring?
  • What questions or problems related to this topic remain unanswered or unresolved?
  • How can I contribute new insights or perspectives to the existing body of knowledge?
  • What resources and methods will I need to investigate this topic effectively?

Step 2: Conduct Preliminary Research

Having pinpointed a promising research topic, it's time to plunge into preliminary research. This essential phase enables you to deepen your grasp of the subject and evaluate the practicality of your project. Here are some pivotal tactics for executing effective preliminary research using various library resources:

  • Literature Review

To effectively embark on your scholarly journey, it's essential to consult a broad spectrum of sources, thereby enriching your understanding with the breadth of academic research available on your topic. This exploration may encompass a variety of materials.

  • Online catalogs of libraries (local, regional, national, and special)
  • Meta-catalogs and subject-specific online article databases
  • Digital institutional repositories and open access resources
  • Works cited in scholarly books and articles
  • Print bibliographies and internet sources
  • Websites of major nonprofit organizations, research institutes, museums, universities, and government agencies
  • Trade and scholarly publishers
  • Discussions with fellow scholars and peers
  • Identify Key Debates

Engaging with the wealth of recently published materials and seminal works in your field is a pivotal part of the research process definition. Focus on discerning the core ideas, debates, and arguments that define your topic, which will in turn sharpen your research focus and guide you toward formulating pertinent research questions.

  • Narrow Your Focus

Hone your topic by leveraging your initial findings to tackle a specific issue or facet within the larger subject, a fundamental step in the research process steps. Consider various factors that could influence the direction and scope of your inquiry.

  • Subtopics and specific issues
  • Key debates and controversies
  • Timeframes and geographical locations
  • Organizations or groups of people involved

A thorough evaluation of existing literature and a comprehensive assessment of the information at hand will pinpoint the exact dimensions of the issue you aim to explore. This methodology ensures alignment with prior research, optimizes resources, and can bolster your case when seeking research funding by demonstrating a well-founded approach.

Step 3: Establish Your Research Question

Having completed your preliminary research and topic refinement, the next vital phase involves formulating a precise and focused research question. This question, a cornerstone among research process steps, will steer your investigation, keeping it aligned with relevant data and insights. When devising your research question, take into account these critical factors:

Initiate your inquiry by defining the requirements and goals of your study, a key step in the research process steps. Whether you're testing a hypothesis, analyzing data, or constructing and supporting an argument, grasping the intent of your research is crucial for framing your question effectively.

Ensure that your research question is feasible, given your constraints in time and word count, an important consideration in the research process steps. Steer clear of questions that are either too expansive or too constricted, as they may impede your capacity to conduct a comprehensive analysis.

Your research question should transcend a mere 'yes' or 'no' response, prompting a thorough engagement with the research process steps. It should foster a comprehensive exploration of the topic, facilitating the analysis of issues or problems beyond just a basic description.

  • Researchability

Ensure that your research question opens the door to quality research materials, including academic books and refereed journal articles. It's essential to weigh the accessibility of primary data and secondary data that will bolster your investigative efforts.

When establishing your research question, take the following steps:

  • Identify the specific aspect of your general topic that you want to explore
  • Hypothesize the path your answer might take, developing a hypothesis after formulating the question
  • Steer clear of certain types of questions in your research process steps, such as those that are deceptively simple, fictional, stacked, semantic, impossible-to-answer, opinion or ethical, and anachronistic, to maintain the integrity of your inquiry.
  • Conduct a self-test on your research question to confirm it adheres to the research process steps, ensuring it is flexible, testable, clear, precise, and underscores a distinct reason for its importance.

By meticulously formulating your research question, you're establishing a solid groundwork for the subsequent research process steps, guaranteeing that your efforts are directed, efficient, and yield productive outcomes.

Step 4: Develop a Research Plan

Having formulated a precise research question, the ensuing phase involves developing a detailed research plan. This plan, integral to the research process steps, acts as a navigational guide for your project, keeping you organized, concentrated, and on a clear path to accomplishing your research objectives. When devising your research plan, consider these pivotal components:

  • Project Goals and Objectives

Articulate the specific aims and objectives of your research project with clarity. These should be in harmony with your research question and provide a structured framework for your investigation, ultimately aligning with your overarching business goals.

  • Research Methods

Select the most appropriate research tools and statistical methods to address your question effectively. This may include a variety of qualitative and quantitative approaches to ensure comprehensive analysis.

  • Quantitative methods (e.g., surveys, experiments)
  • Qualitative methods (e.g., interviews, focus groups)
  • Mixed methods (combining quantitative and qualitative approaches)
  • Access to databases, archives, or special collections
  • Specialized equipment or software
  • Funding for travel, materials, or participant compensation
  • Assistance from research assistants, librarians, or subject matter experts
  • Participant Recruitment

If your research involves human subjects, develop a strategic plan for recruiting participants. Consider factors such as the inclusion of diverse ethnic groups and the use of user interviews to gather rich, qualitative data.

  • Target population and sample size
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Recruitment strategies (e.g., flyers, social media, snowball sampling)
  • Informed consent procedures
  • Instruments or tools for gathering data (e.g., questionnaires, interview guides)
  • Data storage and management protocols
  • Statistical or qualitative analysis techniques
  • Software or tools for data analysis (e.g., SPSS, NVivo)

Create a realistic project strategy for your research project, breaking it down into manageable stages or milestones. Consider factors such as resource availability and potential bottlenecks.

  • Literature review and background research
  • IRB approval (if applicable)
  • Participant recruitment and data collection
  • Data analysis and interpretation
  • Writing and revising your findings
  • Dissemination of results (e.g., presentations, publications)

By developing a comprehensive research plan, incorporating key research process steps, you'll be better equipped to anticipate challenges, allocate resources effectively, and ensure the integrity and rigor of your research process. Remember to remain flexible and adaptable to navigate unexpected obstacles or opportunities that may arise.

Step 5: Conduct the Research

With your research plan in place, it's time to dive into the data collection phase. As you conduct your research, adhere to the established research process steps to ensure the integrity and quality of your findings.

Conduct your research in accordance with federal regulations, state laws, institutional SOPs, and policies. Familiarize yourself with the IRB-approved protocol and follow it diligently, as part of the essential research process steps.

  • Roles and Responsibilities

Understand and adhere to the roles and responsibilities of the principal investigator and other research team members. Maintain open communication lines with all stakeholders, including the sponsor and IRB, to foster cross-functional collaboration.

  • Data Management

Develop and maintain an effective system for data collection and storage, utilizing advanced research tools. Ensure that each member of the research team has seamless access to the most up-to-date documents, including the informed consent document, protocol, and case report forms.

  • Quality Assurance

Implement comprehensive quality assurance measures to verify that the study adheres strictly to the IRB-approved protocol, institutional policy, and all required regulations. Confirm that all study activities are executed as planned and that any deviations are addressed with precision and appropriateness.

  • Participant Eligibility

As part of the essential research process steps, verify that potential study subjects meet all eligibility criteria and none of the ineligibility criteria before advancing with the research.

To maintain the highest standards of academic integrity and ethical conduct:

  • Conduct research with unwavering honesty in all facets, including experimental design, data generation, and analysis, as well as the publication of results, as these are critical research process steps.
  • Maintain a climate conducive to conducting research in strict accordance with good research practices, ensuring each step of the research process is meticulously observed.
  • Provide appropriate supervision and training for researchers.
  • Encourage open discussion of ideas and the widest dissemination of results possible.
  • Keep clear and accurate records of research methods and results.
  • Exercise a duty of care to all those involved in the research.

When collecting and assimilating data:

  • Use professional online data analysis tools to streamline the process.
  • Use metadata for context
  • Assign codes or labels to facilitate grouping or comparison
  • Convert data into different formats or scales for compatibility
  • Organize documents in both the study participant and investigator's study regulatory files, creating a central repository for easy access and reference, as this organization is a pivotal step in the research process.

By adhering to these guidelines and upholding a commitment to ethical and rigorous research practices, you'll be well-equipped to conduct your research effectively and contribute meaningful insights to your field of study, thereby enhancing the integrity of the research process steps.

Step 6: Analyze and Interpret Data

Embarking on the research process steps, once you have gathered your research data, the subsequent critical phase is to delve into analysis and interpretation. This stage demands a meticulous examination of the data, spotting trends, and forging insightful conclusions that directly respond to your research question. Reflect on these tactics for a robust approach to data analysis and interpretation:

  • Organize and Clean Your Data

A pivotal aspect of the research process steps is to start by structuring your data in an orderly and coherent fashion. This organizational task may encompass:

  • Creating a spreadsheet or database to store your data
  • Assigning codes or labels to facilitate grouping or comparison
  • Cleaning the data by removing any errors, inconsistencies, or missing values
  • Converting data into different formats or scales for compatibility
  • Calculating measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode)
  • Determining measures of variability (range, standard deviation)
  • Creating frequency tables or histograms to visualize the distribution of your data
  • Identifying any outliers or unusual patterns in your data
  • Perform Inferential Analysis

Integral to the research process steps, you might engage in inferential analysis to evaluate hypotheses or extrapolate findings to a broader demographic, contingent on your research design and query. This analytical step may include:

  • Selecting appropriate statistical tests (e.g., t-tests, ANOVA, regression analysis)
  • As part of the research process steps, establishing a significance threshold (e.g., p < 0.05) is essential to gauge the likelihood of your results being a random occurrence rather than a significant finding.
  • Interpreting the results of your statistical tests in the context of your research question
  • Considering the practical significance of your findings, in addition to statistical significance

When interpreting your data, it's essential to:

  • Look for relationships, patterns, and trends in your data
  • Consider alternative explanations for your findings
  • Acknowledge any limitations or potential biases in your research design or data collection
  • Leverage data visualization techniques such as graphs, charts, and infographics to articulate your research findings with clarity and impact, thereby enhancing the communicative value of your data.
  • Seek feedback from peers, mentors, or subject matter experts to validate your interpretations

It's important to recognize that data interpretation is a cyclical process that hinges on critical thinking, inventiveness, and the readiness to refine your conclusions with emerging insights. By tackling data analysis and interpretation with diligence and openness, you're setting the stage to derive meaningful and justifiable inferences from your research, in line with the research process steps.

Step 7: Present the Findings

After meticulous analysis and interpretation of your research findings, as dictated by the research process steps, the moment arrives to disseminate your insights. Effectively presenting your research is key to captivating your audience and conveying the importance of your findings. Employ these strategies to create an engaging and persuasive presentation:

  • Organize Your Findings : 

Use the PEEL method to structure your presentation:

  • Point: Clearly state your main argument or finding
  • Evidence: Present the data and analysis that support your point
  • Explanation: Provide context and interpret the significance of your evidence
  • Link: Connect your findings to the broader research question or field
  • Tailor Your Message

Understanding your audience is crucial to effective communication. When presenting your research, it's important to tailor your message to their background, interests, and level of expertise, effectively employing user personas to guide your approach.

  • Use clear, concise language and explain technical terms
  • Highlight what makes your research unique and impactful
  • Craft a compelling narrative with a clear structure and hook
  • Share the big picture, emphasizing the significance of your findings
  • Engage Your Audience : Make your presentation enjoyable and memorable by incorporating creative elements:
  • Use visual aids, such as tables, charts, and graphs, to communicate your findings effectively
  • To vividly convey your research journey, consider employing storytelling techniques, such as UX comics or storyboards, which can make complex information more accessible and engaging.
  • Injecting humor and personality into your presentation can be a powerful tool for communication. Utilize funny messages or GIFs to lighten the mood, breaking up tension and refocusing attention, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of humor in communication.

By adhering to these strategies, you'll be well-prepared to present your research findings in a manner that's both clear and captivating. Ensure you follow research process steps such as citing your sources accurately and discussing the broader implications of your work, providing actionable recommendations, and delineating the subsequent phases for integrating your findings into broader practice or policy frameworks.

The research process is an intricate journey that demands meticulous planning, steadfast execution, and incisive analysis. By adhering to the fundamental research process steps outlined in this guide, from pinpointing your topic to showcasing your findings, you're setting yourself up for conducting research that's both effective and influential. Keep in mind that the research journey is iterative, often necessitating revisits to certain stages as fresh insights surface or unforeseen challenges emerge.

As you commence your research journey, seize the chance to contribute novel insights to your field and forge a positive global impact. By tackling your research with curiosity, integrity, and a dedication to excellence, you're paving the way towards attaining your research aspirations and making a substantial difference with your work, all while following the critical research process steps.

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steps for research project

The Research Process | Steps, How to Start & Tips

steps for research project


Basic steps in the research process, conducting a literature review, designing the research project, collecting and analyzing data.

  • Interpretation, conclusion and presentation of findings

Key principles for conducting research

The research process is a systematic method used to gather information and answer specific questions. The process ensures the findings are credible, high-quality, and applicable to a broader context. It can vary slightly between disciplines but typically follows a structured pathway from initial inquiry to final presentation of results.

What is the research process?

At its core, the research process involves several fundamental activities: identifying a topic that needs further investigation, reviewing existing knowledge on the subject, forming a precise research question , and designing a method to investigate it. This is followed by collecting and analyzing data , interpreting the results, and reporting the findings. Each step is crucial and builds upon the previous one, requiring meticulous attention to detail and rigorous methodology.

The research process is important because it provides a scientific basis for decision-making. Whether in academic, scientific, or commercial fields, research helps us understand complex issues, develop new tools or products, and improve existing practices. By adhering to a structured research process , researchers can produce results that are not only insightful but also transparent so that others can understand how the findings were developed and build on them in future studies. The integrity of the research process is essential for advancing knowledge and making informed decisions that can have significant social, economic, and scientific impacts.

The research process fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It demands a clear articulation of a problem, thorough investigation, and thoughtful interpretation of data, all of which are valuable skills in any professional field. By following this process, researchers are better equipped to tackle complex questions and contribute meaningful solutions to real-world problems.

steps for research project

From finding the key theoretical concepts to presenting the research findings in a report, every step in the research process forms a cohesive pathway that supports researchers in systematically uncovering deep insights and generating meaningful knowledge, which is crucial for the success of any qualitative investigation.

Identifying key theoretical concepts

The first step in the research process involves finding the key theoretical concepts or words that specify the research topic and are always included in the title of the investigation. Without a definition, these words have no sense or meaning (Daft, 1995). To identify these concepts, a researcher must ask which theoretical keywords are implicit in the investigation. To answer this question a researcher should identify the logical relationships among the two words that catch the focus of the investigation. It is also crucial that researchers provide clear definitions for their theoretical keywords. The title of the research can then include these theoretical keywords and signal how they are being studied.

A piece of useful advice is to draw a conceptual map to visualize the direct or indirect relationships between the key theoretical words and choose a relationship between them as the focus of the investigation.

Developing a research question

One of the most important steps in the research endeavor is identifying a research question. Research questions answer aspects of the topic that need more knowledge or shed light on information that has to be prioritized before others. It is the first step in identifying which participants or type of data collection methods. Research questions put into practice the conceptual framework and make the initial theoretical concepts more explicit.

A research question carries a different implicit meaning depending on how it is framed. Questions starting with what, who, and where usually identify a phenomenon or elements of one, while how, why, when and how much describe, explain, predict or control a phenomenon.

Overall, research questions must be clear, focused and complex. They must also generate knowledge relevant to society and the answers must pose a comprehensive understanding that contributes to the scientific community.

steps for research project

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A literature review is the synthesis of the existing body of research relevant to a research topic . It allows researchers to identify the current state of the art of knowledge of a particular topic. When conducting research, it is the foundation and guides the researcher to the knowledge gaps that need to be covered to best contribute to the scientific community.

Common methodologies include miniaturized or complete reviews, descriptive or integrated reviews, narrative reviews, theoretical reviews, methodological reviews and systematic reviews.

When navigating through the literature, researchers must try to answer their research question with the most current peer-reviewed research when finding relevant data for a research project. It is important to use the existing literature in at least two different databases and adapt the key concepts to amplify their search. Researchers also pay attention to the titles, summaries and references of each article. It is recommended to have a research diary for useful previous research as it could be the researcher´s go-to source when writing the final report.

steps for research project

A good research design involves data analysis methods suited to the research question, and where data collection generates appropriate data for the analysis method (Willig, 2001).

Designing a qualitative study is a critical step in the research process, serving as the blueprint for the research study. This phase is a fundamental part of the planning process, ensuring that the chosen research methods align perfectly with the research's purpose. During this stage, a researcher decides on a specific approach—such as narrative , phenomenological , grounded theory , ethnographic , or case study —tailoring the design to the unique research problem and needs of the research project. By carefully selecting the research method and planning how to approach the data, researchers can ensure that their work remains focused and relevant to the intended study area.

A well-constructed research design is vital for maintaining the integrity and credibility of the study. It guides the researcher through the research process steps, from data collection to analysis, helping to manage and mitigate potential interpretations and errors. This detailed planning is crucial, particularly in qualitative studies, where the depth of understanding and interpretive nature of analysis can significantly influence outcomes.

The design of a qualitative study is more than a procedural formality; it is a strategic component of the research that enhances the quality of the results. It requires thoughtful consideration of the research question, ensuring that every aspect of the methodology contributes effectively to the overarching goals of the project.

steps for research project

Collecting data

Gathering data can involve various methods tailored to the study's specific needs. To collect data , techniques may include interviews , focus groups, surveys and observations , each chosen for its ability to target a specific group relevant to the research population. For example, focus groups might explore attitudes within a specific age group, while observations might analyze behaviours in a community for population research projects. Data may also come from secondary sources with quantitative and qualitative approaches such as library resources, market research, customer feedback or employee evaluations.

Effective data management is crucial, ensuring that primary data from direct collection and secondary data from sources like public health records are organized and maintained properly. This step is vital for maintaining the integrity of the data throughout the research process steps, supporting the overall goal of conducting thorough and coherent research.

Analyzing data

Once research data has been collected, the next critical step is to analyze the data. This phase is crucial for transforming raw data into high-quality information for meaningful research findings.

Analyzing qualitative data often involves coding and thematic analysis , which helps identify patterns and themes within the data. While qualitative research typically does not focus on drawing statistical conclusions, integrating basic statistical methods can sometimes add depth to the data interpretation, especially in mixed-methods research where quantitative data complements qualitative insights.

In each of the research process steps, researchers utilize various research tools and techniques to conduct research and analyze the data systematically. This may include computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) such as ATLAS.ti, which assists in organizing, sorting, and coding the data efficiently. It can also host the research diary and apply analysis methods such as word frequencies and network visualizations.

steps for research project

Interpretation, conclusion and presentation of research findings

Interpreting research findings.

By meticulously following systematic procedures and working through the data, researchers can ensure that their interpretations are grounded in the actual data collected, enhancing the trustworthiness and credibility of the research findings.

The interpretation of data is not merely about extracting information but also involves making sense of the data in the context of the existing literature and research objectives. This step is not only about what the data is, but what it means in the broader context of the study, enabling researchers to draw insightful conclusions that contribute to the academic and practical understanding of the field.

Concluding and presenting research findings

The final step is concluding and presenting the research data which are crucial for transforming analyzed data into meaningful insights and credible findings.

The results are typically shared in a research report or academic paper, detailing the findings and contextualizing them within the broader field. This document outlines how the insights contribute to existing knowledge, suggests areas for future research, and may propose practical applications.

Effective presentation is key to ensuring that these findings reach and impact the intended audience. This involves not just articulating the conclusions clearly but also using engaging formats and visual aids to enhance comprehension and engagement with the research.

steps for research project

The research process is a dynamic journey, characterized by a series of systematic research process steps designed to guide researchers successfully from inception to conclusion. Each step—from designing the study and collecting data to analyzing results and drawing conclusions—plays a critical role in ensuring the integrity and credibility of the research.

Qualitative research is guided by key principles designed to ensure the rigour and depth of the research study. Credibility is crucial, achieved through accurate representations of participant experiences, often verified by peer-review revision. Transferability is addressed by providing rich context, allowing others to evaluate the applicability of findings to similar settings. Dependability emphasizes the stability and consistency of data, maintained through detailed documentation of the research process (such as in a research diary), facilitating an audit trail. This aligns with confirmability, where the neutrality of the data is safeguarded by documenting researcher interpretations and decisions, ensuring findings are shaped by participants and not researcher predispositions.

Ethical integrity is paramount, upholding standards like informed consent and confidentiality to protect participant rights throughout the research journey. Qualitative research also strives for a richness and depth of data that captures the complex nature of human experiences and interactions, often exploring these phenomena through an iterative learning process. This involves cycles of data collection and analysis, allowing for ongoing adjustments based on emerging insights. Lastly, a holistic perspective is adopted to view phenomena in their entirety, considering all aspects of the context and environment, which enriches the understanding and relevance of the research outcomes. Together, these principles ensure qualitative research is both profound and ethically conducted, yielding meaningful and applicable insights.

steps for research project

Daft, R. L. (1995). Organization Theory and Design. West Publishing Company.

Willig, C. (2001). Introducing Qualitative Research in Psychology: Adventures in Theory and Method. McGraw-Hill Companies, Incorporated.

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How To Write A Research Proposal – Step-by-Step [Template]

Table of Contents

How To Write a Research Proposal

How To Write a Research Proposal

Writing a Research proposal involves several steps to ensure a well-structured and comprehensive document. Here is an explanation of each step:

1. Title and Abstract

  • Choose a concise and descriptive title that reflects the essence of your research.
  • Write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes. It should provide a brief overview of your proposal.

2. Introduction:

  • Provide an introduction to your research topic, highlighting its significance and relevance.
  • Clearly state the research problem or question you aim to address.
  • Discuss the background and context of the study, including previous research in the field.

3. Research Objectives

  • Outline the specific objectives or aims of your research. These objectives should be clear, achievable, and aligned with the research problem.

4. Literature Review:

  • Conduct a comprehensive review of relevant literature and studies related to your research topic.
  • Summarize key findings, identify gaps, and highlight how your research will contribute to the existing knowledge.

5. Methodology:

  • Describe the research design and methodology you plan to employ to address your research objectives.
  • Explain the data collection methods, instruments, and analysis techniques you will use.
  • Justify why the chosen methods are appropriate and suitable for your research.

6. Timeline:

  • Create a timeline or schedule that outlines the major milestones and activities of your research project.
  • Break down the research process into smaller tasks and estimate the time required for each task.

7. Resources:

  • Identify the resources needed for your research, such as access to specific databases, equipment, or funding.
  • Explain how you will acquire or utilize these resources to carry out your research effectively.

8. Ethical Considerations:

  • Discuss any ethical issues that may arise during your research and explain how you plan to address them.
  • If your research involves human subjects, explain how you will ensure their informed consent and privacy.

9. Expected Outcomes and Significance:

  • Clearly state the expected outcomes or results of your research.
  • Highlight the potential impact and significance of your research in advancing knowledge or addressing practical issues.

10. References:

  • Provide a list of all the references cited in your proposal, following a consistent citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).

11. Appendices:

  • Include any additional supporting materials, such as survey questionnaires, interview guides, or data analysis plans.

Research Proposal Format

The format of a research proposal may vary depending on the specific requirements of the institution or funding agency. However, the following is a commonly used format for a research proposal:

1. Title Page:

  • Include the title of your research proposal, your name, your affiliation or institution, and the date.

2. Abstract:

  • Provide a brief summary of your research proposal, highlighting the research problem, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes.

3. Introduction:

  • Introduce the research topic and provide background information.
  • State the research problem or question you aim to address.
  • Explain the significance and relevance of the research.
  • Review relevant literature and studies related to your research topic.
  • Summarize key findings and identify gaps in the existing knowledge.
  • Explain how your research will contribute to filling those gaps.

5. Research Objectives:

  • Clearly state the specific objectives or aims of your research.
  • Ensure that the objectives are clear, focused, and aligned with the research problem.

6. Methodology:

  • Describe the research design and methodology you plan to use.
  • Explain the data collection methods, instruments, and analysis techniques.
  • Justify why the chosen methods are appropriate for your research.

7. Timeline:

8. Resources:

  • Explain how you will acquire or utilize these resources effectively.

9. Ethical Considerations:

  • If applicable, explain how you will ensure informed consent and protect the privacy of research participants.

10. Expected Outcomes and Significance:

11. References:

12. Appendices:

Research Proposal Template

Here’s a template for a research proposal:

1. Introduction:

2. Literature Review:

3. Research Objectives:

4. Methodology:

5. Timeline:

6. Resources:

7. Ethical Considerations:

8. Expected Outcomes and Significance:

9. References:

10. Appendices:

Research Proposal Sample

Title: The Impact of Online Education on Student Learning Outcomes: A Comparative Study

1. Introduction

Online education has gained significant prominence in recent years, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This research proposal aims to investigate the impact of online education on student learning outcomes by comparing them with traditional face-to-face instruction. The study will explore various aspects of online education, such as instructional methods, student engagement, and academic performance, to provide insights into the effectiveness of online learning.

2. Objectives

The main objectives of this research are as follows:

  • To compare student learning outcomes between online and traditional face-to-face education.
  • To examine the factors influencing student engagement in online learning environments.
  • To assess the effectiveness of different instructional methods employed in online education.
  • To identify challenges and opportunities associated with online education and suggest recommendations for improvement.

3. Methodology

3.1 Study Design

This research will utilize a mixed-methods approach to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. The study will include the following components:

3.2 Participants

The research will involve undergraduate students from two universities, one offering online education and the other providing face-to-face instruction. A total of 500 students (250 from each university) will be selected randomly to participate in the study.

3.3 Data Collection

The research will employ the following data collection methods:

  • Quantitative: Pre- and post-assessments will be conducted to measure students’ learning outcomes. Data on student demographics and academic performance will also be collected from university records.
  • Qualitative: Focus group discussions and individual interviews will be conducted with students to gather their perceptions and experiences regarding online education.

3.4 Data Analysis

Quantitative data will be analyzed using statistical software, employing descriptive statistics, t-tests, and regression analysis. Qualitative data will be transcribed, coded, and analyzed thematically to identify recurring patterns and themes.

4. Ethical Considerations

The study will adhere to ethical guidelines, ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of participants. Informed consent will be obtained, and participants will have the right to withdraw from the study at any time.

5. Significance and Expected Outcomes

This research will contribute to the existing literature by providing empirical evidence on the impact of online education on student learning outcomes. The findings will help educational institutions and policymakers make informed decisions about incorporating online learning methods and improving the quality of online education. Moreover, the study will identify potential challenges and opportunities related to online education and offer recommendations for enhancing student engagement and overall learning outcomes.

6. Timeline

The proposed research will be conducted over a period of 12 months, including data collection, analysis, and report writing.

The estimated budget for this research includes expenses related to data collection, software licenses, participant compensation, and research assistance. A detailed budget breakdown will be provided in the final research plan.

8. Conclusion

This research proposal aims to investigate the impact of online education on student learning outcomes through a comparative study with traditional face-to-face instruction. By exploring various dimensions of online education, this research will provide valuable insights into the effectiveness and challenges associated with online learning. The findings will contribute to the ongoing discourse on educational practices and help shape future strategies for maximizing student learning outcomes in online education settings.

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How to Do Your Research Project: A Guide for Students

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Work your way through  interactive exercises  for each stage of the research project roadmap and watch  videos   from your pocket supervisor, Gary Thomas. Explore real-world practice through  case studies   and  journal articles . Reflect, revise, and take your learning on the go with  worksheets  and get to grips with key terms and concepts using digital  flashcards .

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Roadmap 1

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How to do a research project for your academic study

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Writing a research report is part of most university degrees, so it is essential you know what one is and how to write one. This guide on how to do a research project for your university degree shows you what to do at each stage, taking you from planning to finishing the project.

What is a research project? 

The big question is: what is a research project? A research project for students is an extended essay that presents a question or statement for analysis and evaluation. During a research project, you will present your own ideas and research on a subject alongside analysing existing knowledge. 

How to write a research report 

The next section covers the research project steps necessary to producing a research paper. 

Developing a research question or statement 

Research project topics will vary depending on the course you study. The best research project ideas develop from areas you already have an interest in and where you have existing knowledge. 

The area of study needs to be specific as it will be much easier to cover fully. If your topic is too broad, you are at risk of not having an in-depth project. You can, however, also make your topic too narrow and there will not be enough research to be done. To make sure you don’t run into either of these problems, it’s a great idea to create sub-topics and questions to ensure you are able to complete suitable research. 

A research project example question would be: How will modern technologies change the way of teaching in the future? 

Finding and evaluating sources 

Secondary research is a large part of your research project as it makes up the literature review section. It is essential to use credible sources as failing to do so may decrease the validity of your research project.

Examples of secondary research include:

  • Peer-reviewed journals
  • Scholarly articles
  • Newspapers 

Great places to find your sources are the University library and Google Scholar. Both will give you many opportunities to find the credible sources you need. However, you need to make sure you are evaluating whether they are fit for purpose before including them in your research project as you do not want to include out of date information. 

When evaluating sources, you need to ask yourself:

  • Is the information provided by an expert?
  • How well does the source answer the research question?
  • What does the source contribute to its field?
  • Is the source valid? e.g. does it contain bias and is the information up-to-date?

It is important to ensure that you have a variety of sources in order to avoid bias. A successful research paper will present more than one point of view and the best way to do this is to not rely too heavily on just one author or publication. 

Conducting research 

For a research project, you will need to conduct primary research. This is the original research you will gather to further develop your research project. The most common types of primary research are interviews and surveys as these allow for many and varied results. 

Examples of primary research include: 

  • Interviews and surveys 
  • Focus groups 
  • Experiments 
  • Research diaries 

If you are looking to study in the UK and have an interest in bettering your research skills, The University of Sheffield is a  world top 100 research university  which will provide great research opportunities and resources for your project. 

Research report format  

Now that you understand the basics of how to write a research project, you now need to look at what goes into each section. The research project format is just as important as the research itself. Without a clear structure you will not be able to present your findings concisely. 

A research paper is made up of seven sections: introduction, literature review, methodology, findings and results, discussion, conclusion, and references. You need to make sure you are including a list of correctly cited references to avoid accusations of plagiarism. 


The introduction is where you will present your hypothesis and provide context for why you are doing the project. Here you will include relevant background information, present your research aims and explain why the research is important. 

Literature review  

The literature review is where you will analyse and evaluate existing research within your subject area. This section is where your secondary research will be presented. A literature review is an integral part of your research project as it brings validity to your research aims. 

What to include when writing your literature review:

  • A description of the publications
  • A summary of the main points
  • An evaluation on the contribution to the area of study
  • Potential flaws and gaps in the research 


The research paper methodology outlines the process of your data collection. This is where you will present your primary research. The aim of the methodology section is to answer two questions: 

  • Why did you select the research methods you used?
  • How do these methods contribute towards your research hypothesis? 

In this section you will not be writing about your findings, but the ways in which you are going to try and achieve them. You need to state whether your methodology will be qualitative, quantitative, or mixed. 

  • Qualitative – first hand observations such as interviews, focus groups, case studies and questionnaires. The data collected will generally be non-numerical. 
  • Quantitative – research that deals in numbers and logic. The data collected will focus on statistics and numerical patterns.
  • Mixed – includes both quantitative and qualitative research.

The methodology section should always be written in the past tense, even if you have already started your data collection. 

Findings and results 

In this section you will present the findings and results of your primary research. Here you will give a concise and factual summary of your findings using tables and graphs where appropriate. 


The discussion section is where you will talk about your findings in detail. Here you need to relate your results to your hypothesis, explaining what you found out and the significance of the research. 

It is a good idea to talk about any areas with disappointing or surprising results and address the limitations within the research project. This will balance your project and steer you away from bias.

Some questions to consider when writing your discussion: 

  • To what extent was the hypothesis supported?
  • Was your research method appropriate?
  • Was there unexpected data that affected your results?
  • To what extent was your research validated by other sources?


The conclusion is where you will bring your research project to a close. In this section you will not only be restating your research aims and how you achieved them, but also discussing the wider significance of your research project. You will talk about the successes and failures of the project, and how you would approach further study. 

It is essential you do not bring any new ideas into your conclusion; this section is used only to summarise what you have already stated in the project. 


As a research project is your own ideas blended with information and research from existing knowledge, you must include a list of correctly cited references. Creating a list of references will allow the reader to easily evaluate the quality of your secondary research whilst also saving you from potential plagiarism accusations. 

The way in which you cite your sources will vary depending on the university standard.

If you are an international student looking to  study a degree in the UK , The University of Sheffield International College has a range of  pathway programmes  to prepare you for university study. Undertaking a Research Project is one of the core modules for the  Pre-Masters programme  at The University of Sheffield International College.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the best topic for research .

It’s a good idea to choose a topic you have existing knowledge on, or one that you are interested in. This will make the research process easier; as you have an idea of where and what to look for in your sources, as well as more enjoyable as it’s a topic you want to know more about.

What should a research project include? 

There are seven main sections to a research project, these are:

  • Introduction – the aims of the project and what you hope to achieve
  • Literature review – evaluating and reviewing existing knowledge on the topic
  • Methodology – the methods you will use for your primary research
  • Findings and results – presenting the data from your primary research
  • Discussion – summarising and analysing your research and what you have found out
  • Conclusion – how the project went (successes and failures), areas for future study
  • List of references – correctly cited sources that have been used throughout the project. 

How long is a research project? 

The length of a research project will depend on the level study and the nature of the subject. There is no one length for research papers, however the average dissertation style essay can be anywhere from 4,000 to 15,000+ words. 

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11.2 Steps in Developing a Research Proposal

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the steps in developing a research proposal.
  • Choose a topic and formulate a research question and working thesis.
  • Develop a research proposal.

Writing a good research paper takes time, thought, and effort. Although this assignment is challenging, it is manageable. Focusing on one step at a time will help you develop a thoughtful, informative, well-supported research paper.

Your first step is to choose a topic and then to develop research questions, a working thesis, and a written research proposal. Set aside adequate time for this part of the process. Fully exploring ideas will help you build a solid foundation for your paper.

Choosing a Topic

When you choose a topic for a research paper, you are making a major commitment. Your choice will help determine whether you enjoy the lengthy process of research and writing—and whether your final paper fulfills the assignment requirements. If you choose your topic hastily, you may later find it difficult to work with your topic. By taking your time and choosing carefully, you can ensure that this assignment is not only challenging but also rewarding.

Writers understand the importance of choosing a topic that fulfills the assignment requirements and fits the assignment’s purpose and audience. (For more information about purpose and audience, see Chapter 6 “Writing Paragraphs: Separating Ideas and Shaping Content” .) Choosing a topic that interests you is also crucial. You instructor may provide a list of suggested topics or ask that you develop a topic on your own. In either case, try to identify topics that genuinely interest you.

After identifying potential topic ideas, you will need to evaluate your ideas and choose one topic to pursue. Will you be able to find enough information about the topic? Can you develop a paper about this topic that presents and supports your original ideas? Is the topic too broad or too narrow for the scope of the assignment? If so, can you modify it so it is more manageable? You will ask these questions during this preliminary phase of the research process.

Identifying Potential Topics

Sometimes, your instructor may provide a list of suggested topics. If so, you may benefit from identifying several possibilities before committing to one idea. It is important to know how to narrow down your ideas into a concise, manageable thesis. You may also use the list as a starting point to help you identify additional, related topics. Discussing your ideas with your instructor will help ensure that you choose a manageable topic that fits the requirements of the assignment.

In this chapter, you will follow a writer named Jorge, who is studying health care administration, as he prepares a research paper. You will also plan, research, and draft your own research paper.

Jorge was assigned to write a research paper on health and the media for an introductory course in health care. Although a general topic was selected for the students, Jorge had to decide which specific issues interested him. He brainstormed a list of possibilities.

If you are writing a research paper for a specialized course, look back through your notes and course activities. Identify reading assignments and class discussions that especially engaged you. Doing so can help you identify topics to pursue.

  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) in the news
  • Sexual education programs
  • Hollywood and eating disorders
  • Americans’ access to public health information
  • Media portrayal of health care reform bill
  • Depictions of drugs on television
  • The effect of the Internet on mental health
  • Popularized diets (such as low-carbohydrate diets)
  • Fear of pandemics (bird flu, HINI, SARS)
  • Electronic entertainment and obesity
  • Advertisements for prescription drugs
  • Public education and disease prevention

Set a timer for five minutes. Use brainstorming or idea mapping to create a list of topics you would be interested in researching for a paper about the influence of the Internet on social networking. Do you closely follow the media coverage of a particular website, such as Twitter? Would you like to learn more about a certain industry, such as online dating? Which social networking sites do you and your friends use? List as many ideas related to this topic as you can.

Narrowing Your Topic

Once you have a list of potential topics, you will need to choose one as the focus of your essay. You will also need to narrow your topic. Most writers find that the topics they listed during brainstorming or idea mapping are broad—too broad for the scope of the assignment. Working with an overly broad topic, such as sexual education programs or popularized diets, can be frustrating and overwhelming. Each topic has so many facets that it would be impossible to cover them all in a college research paper. However, more specific choices, such as the pros and cons of sexual education in kids’ television programs or the physical effects of the South Beach diet, are specific enough to write about without being too narrow to sustain an entire research paper.

A good research paper provides focused, in-depth information and analysis. If your topic is too broad, you will find it difficult to do more than skim the surface when you research it and write about it. Narrowing your focus is essential to making your topic manageable. To narrow your focus, explore your topic in writing, conduct preliminary research, and discuss both the topic and the research with others.

Exploring Your Topic in Writing

“How am I supposed to narrow my topic when I haven’t even begun researching yet?” In fact, you may already know more than you realize. Review your list and identify your top two or three topics. Set aside some time to explore each one through freewriting. (For more information about freewriting, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .) Simply taking the time to focus on your topic may yield fresh angles.

Jorge knew that he was especially interested in the topic of diet fads, but he also knew that it was much too broad for his assignment. He used freewriting to explore his thoughts so he could narrow his topic. Read Jorge’s ideas.

Conducting Preliminary Research

Another way writers may focus a topic is to conduct preliminary research . Like freewriting, exploratory reading can help you identify interesting angles. Surfing the web and browsing through newspaper and magazine articles are good ways to start. Find out what people are saying about your topic on blogs and online discussion groups. Discussing your topic with others can also inspire you. Talk about your ideas with your classmates, your friends, or your instructor.

Jorge’s freewriting exercise helped him realize that the assigned topic of health and the media intersected with a few of his interests—diet, nutrition, and obesity. Preliminary online research and discussions with his classmates strengthened his impression that many people are confused or misled by media coverage of these subjects.

Jorge decided to focus his paper on a topic that had garnered a great deal of media attention—low-carbohydrate diets. He wanted to find out whether low-carbohydrate diets were as effective as their proponents claimed.

Writing at Work

At work, you may need to research a topic quickly to find general information. This information can be useful in understanding trends in a given industry or generating competition. For example, a company may research a competitor’s prices and use the information when pricing their own product. You may find it useful to skim a variety of reliable sources and take notes on your findings.

The reliability of online sources varies greatly. In this exploratory phase of your research, you do not need to evaluate sources as closely as you will later. However, use common sense as you refine your paper topic. If you read a fascinating blog comment that gives you a new idea for your paper, be sure to check out other, more reliable sources as well to make sure the idea is worth pursuing.

Review the list of topics you created in Note 11.18 “Exercise 1” and identify two or three topics you would like to explore further. For each of these topics, spend five to ten minutes writing about the topic without stopping. Then review your writing to identify possible areas of focus.

Set aside time to conduct preliminary research about your potential topics. Then choose a topic to pursue for your research paper.


Please share your topic list with a classmate. Select one or two topics on his or her list that you would like to learn more about and return it to him or her. Discuss why you found the topics interesting, and learn which of your topics your classmate selected and why.

A Plan for Research

Your freewriting and preliminary research have helped you choose a focused, manageable topic for your research paper. To work with your topic successfully, you will need to determine what exactly you want to learn about it—and later, what you want to say about it. Before you begin conducting in-depth research, you will further define your focus by developing a research question , a working thesis, and a research proposal.

Formulating a Research Question

In forming a research question, you are setting a goal for your research. Your main research question should be substantial enough to form the guiding principle of your paper—but focused enough to guide your research. A strong research question requires you not only to find information but also to put together different pieces of information, interpret and analyze them, and figure out what you think. As you consider potential research questions, ask yourself whether they would be too hard or too easy to answer.

To determine your research question, review the freewriting you completed earlier. Skim through books, articles, and websites and list the questions you have. (You may wish to use the 5WH strategy to help you formulate questions. See Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” for more information about 5WH questions.) Include simple, factual questions and more complex questions that would require analysis and interpretation. Determine your main question—the primary focus of your paper—and several subquestions that you will need to research to answer your main question.

Here are the research questions Jorge will use to focus his research. Notice that his main research question has no obvious, straightforward answer. Jorge will need to research his subquestions, which address narrower topics, to answer his main question.

Using the topic you selected in Note 11.24 “Exercise 2” , write your main research question and at least four to five subquestions. Check that your main research question is appropriately complex for your assignment.

Constructing a Working ThesIs

A working thesis concisely states a writer’s initial answer to the main research question. It does not merely state a fact or present a subjective opinion. Instead, it expresses a debatable idea or claim that you hope to prove through additional research. Your working thesis is called a working thesis for a reason—it is subject to change. As you learn more about your topic, you may change your thinking in light of your research findings. Let your working thesis serve as a guide to your research, but do not be afraid to modify it based on what you learn.

Jorge began his research with a strong point of view based on his preliminary writing and research. Read his working thesis statement, which presents the point he will argue. Notice how it states Jorge’s tentative answer to his research question.

One way to determine your working thesis is to consider how you would complete sentences such as I believe or My opinion is . However, keep in mind that academic writing generally does not use first-person pronouns. These statements are useful starting points, but formal research papers use an objective voice.

Write a working thesis statement that presents your preliminary answer to the research question you wrote in Note 11.27 “Exercise 3” . Check that your working thesis statement presents an idea or claim that could be supported or refuted by evidence from research.

Creating a Research Proposal

A research proposal is a brief document—no more than one typed page—that summarizes the preliminary work you have completed. Your purpose in writing it is to formalize your plan for research and present it to your instructor for feedback. In your research proposal, you will present your main research question, related subquestions, and working thesis. You will also briefly discuss the value of researching this topic and indicate how you plan to gather information.

When Jorge began drafting his research proposal, he realized that he had already created most of the pieces he needed. However, he knew he also had to explain how his research would be relevant to other future health care professionals. In addition, he wanted to form a general plan for doing the research and identifying potentially useful sources. Read Jorge’s research proposal.

Read Jorge's research proposal

Before you begin a new project at work, you may have to develop a project summary document that states the purpose of the project, explains why it would be a wise use of company resources, and briefly outlines the steps involved in completing the project. This type of document is similar to a research proposal. Both documents define and limit a project, explain its value, discuss how to proceed, and identify what resources you will use.

Writing Your Own Research Proposal

Now you may write your own research proposal, if you have not done so already. Follow the guidelines provided in this lesson.

Key Takeaways

  • Developing a research proposal involves the following preliminary steps: identifying potential ideas, choosing ideas to explore further, choosing and narrowing a topic, formulating a research question, and developing a working thesis.
  • A good topic for a research paper interests the writer and fulfills the requirements of the assignment.
  • Defining and narrowing a topic helps writers conduct focused, in-depth research.
  • Writers conduct preliminary research to identify possible topics and research questions and to develop a working thesis.
  • A good research question interests readers, is neither too broad nor too narrow, and has no obvious answer.
  • A good working thesis expresses a debatable idea or claim that can be supported with evidence from research.
  • Writers create a research proposal to present their topic, main research question, subquestions, and working thesis to an instructor for approval or feedback.

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.

How to write a research plan: Step-by-step guide

Last updated

30 January 2024

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Today’s businesses and institutions rely on data and analytics to inform their product and service decisions. These metrics influence how organizations stay competitive and inspire innovation. However, gathering data and insights requires carefully constructed research, and every research project needs a roadmap. This is where a research plan comes into play.

Read this step-by-step guide for writing a detailed research plan that can apply to any project, whether it’s scientific, educational, or business-related.

  • What is a research plan?

A research plan is a documented overview of a project in its entirety, from end to end. It details the research efforts, participants, and methods needed, along with any anticipated results. It also outlines the project’s goals and mission, creating layers of steps to achieve those goals within a specified timeline.

Without a research plan, you and your team are flying blind, potentially wasting time and resources to pursue research without structured guidance.

The principal investigator, or PI, is responsible for facilitating the research oversight. They will create the research plan and inform team members and stakeholders of every detail relating to the project. The PI will also use the research plan to inform decision-making throughout the project.

  • Why do you need a research plan?

Create a research plan before starting any official research to maximize every effort in pursuing and collecting the research data. Crucially, the plan will model the activities needed at each phase of the research project .

Like any roadmap, a research plan serves as a valuable tool providing direction for those involved in the project—both internally and externally. It will keep you and your immediate team organized and task-focused while also providing necessary definitions and timelines so you can execute your project initiatives with full understanding and transparency.

External stakeholders appreciate a working research plan because it’s a great communication tool, documenting progress and changing dynamics as they arise. Any participants of your planned research sessions will be informed about the purpose of your study, while the exercises will be based on the key messaging outlined in the official plan.

Here are some of the benefits of creating a research plan document for every project:

Project organization and structure

Well-informed participants

All stakeholders and teams align in support of the project

Clearly defined project definitions and purposes

Distractions are eliminated, prioritizing task focus

Timely management of individual task schedules and roles

Costly reworks are avoided

  • What should a research plan include?

The different aspects of your research plan will depend on the nature of the project. However, most official research plan documents will include the core elements below. Each aims to define the problem statement , devising an official plan for seeking a solution.

Specific project goals and individual objectives

Ideal strategies or methods for reaching those goals

Required resources

Descriptions of the target audience, sample sizes , demographics, and scopes

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Project background

Research and testing support

Preliminary studies and progress reporting mechanisms

Cost estimates and change order processes

Depending on the research project’s size and scope, your research plan could be brief—perhaps only a few pages of documented plans. Alternatively, it could be a fully comprehensive report. Either way, it’s an essential first step in dictating your project’s facilitation in the most efficient and effective way.

  • How to write a research plan for your project

When you start writing your research plan, aim to be detailed about each step, requirement, and idea. The more time you spend curating your research plan, the more precise your research execution efforts will be.

Account for every potential scenario, and be sure to address each and every aspect of the research.

Consider following this flow to develop a great research plan for your project:

Define your project’s purpose

Start by defining your project’s purpose. Identify what your project aims to accomplish and what you are researching. Remember to use clear language.

Thinking about the project’s purpose will help you set realistic goals and inform how you divide tasks and assign responsibilities. These individual tasks will be your stepping stones to reach your overarching goal.

Additionally, you’ll want to identify the specific problem, the usability metrics needed, and the intended solutions.

Know the following three things about your project’s purpose before you outline anything else:

What you’re doing

Why you’re doing it

What you expect from it

Identify individual objectives

With your overarching project objectives in place, you can identify any individual goals or steps needed to reach those objectives. Break them down into phases or steps. You can work backward from the project goal and identify every process required to facilitate it.

Be mindful to identify each unique task so that you can assign responsibilities to various team members. At this point in your research plan development, you’ll also want to assign priority to those smaller, more manageable steps and phases that require more immediate or dedicated attention.

Select research methods

Once you have outlined your goals, objectives, steps, and tasks, it’s time to drill down on selecting research methods . You’ll want to leverage specific research strategies and processes. When you know what methods will help you reach your goals, you and your teams will have direction to perform and execute your assigned tasks.

Research methods might include any of the following:

User interviews : this is a qualitative research method where researchers engage with participants in one-on-one or group conversations. The aim is to gather insights into their experiences, preferences, and opinions to uncover patterns, trends, and data.

Field studies : this approach allows for a contextual understanding of behaviors, interactions, and processes in real-world settings. It involves the researcher immersing themselves in the field, conducting observations, interviews, or experiments to gather in-depth insights.

Card sorting : participants categorize information by sorting content cards into groups based on their perceived similarities. You might use this process to gain insights into participants’ mental models and preferences when navigating or organizing information on websites, apps, or other systems.

Focus groups : use organized discussions among select groups of participants to provide relevant views and experiences about a particular topic.

Diary studies : ask participants to record their experiences, thoughts, and activities in a diary over a specified period. This method provides a deeper understanding of user experiences, uncovers patterns, and identifies areas for improvement.

Five-second testing: participants are shown a design, such as a web page or interface, for just five seconds. They then answer questions about their initial impressions and recall, allowing you to evaluate the design’s effectiveness.

Surveys : get feedback from participant groups with structured surveys. You can use online forms, telephone interviews, or paper questionnaires to reveal trends, patterns, and correlations.

Tree testing : tree testing involves researching web assets through the lens of findability and navigability. Participants are given a textual representation of the site’s hierarchy (the “tree”) and asked to locate specific information or complete tasks by selecting paths.

Usability testing : ask participants to interact with a product, website, or application to evaluate its ease of use. This method enables you to uncover areas for improvement in digital key feature functionality by observing participants using the product.

Live website testing: research and collect analytics that outlines the design, usability, and performance efficiencies of a website in real time.

There are no limits to the number of research methods you could use within your project. Just make sure your research methods help you determine the following:

What do you plan to do with the research findings?

What decisions will this research inform? How can your stakeholders leverage the research data and results?

Recruit participants and allocate tasks

Next, identify the participants needed to complete the research and the resources required to complete the tasks. Different people will be proficient at different tasks, and having a task allocation plan will allow everything to run smoothly.

Prepare a thorough project summary

Every well-designed research plan will feature a project summary. This official summary will guide your research alongside its communications or messaging. You’ll use the summary while recruiting participants and during stakeholder meetings. It can also be useful when conducting field studies.

Ensure this summary includes all the elements of your research project . Separate the steps into an easily explainable piece of text that includes the following:

An introduction: the message you’ll deliver to participants about the interview, pre-planned questioning, and testing tasks.

Interview questions: prepare questions you intend to ask participants as part of your research study, guiding the sessions from start to finish.

An exit message: draft messaging your teams will use to conclude testing or survey sessions. These should include the next steps and express gratitude for the participant’s time.

Create a realistic timeline

While your project might already have a deadline or a results timeline in place, you’ll need to consider the time needed to execute it effectively.

Realistically outline the time needed to properly execute each supporting phase of research and implementation. And, as you evaluate the necessary schedules, be sure to include additional time for achieving each milestone in case any changes or unexpected delays arise.

For this part of your research plan, you might find it helpful to create visuals to ensure your research team and stakeholders fully understand the information.

Determine how to present your results

A research plan must also describe how you intend to present your results. Depending on the nature of your project and its goals, you might dedicate one team member (the PI) or assume responsibility for communicating the findings yourself.

In this part of the research plan, you’ll articulate how you’ll share the results. Detail any materials you’ll use, such as:

Presentations and slides

A project report booklet

A project findings pamphlet

Documents with key takeaways and statistics

Graphic visuals to support your findings

  • Format your research plan

As you create your research plan, you can enjoy a little creative freedom. A plan can assume many forms, so format it how you see fit. Determine the best layout based on your specific project, intended communications, and the preferences of your teams and stakeholders.

Find format inspiration among the following layouts:

Written outlines

Narrative storytelling

Visual mapping

Graphic timelines

Remember, the research plan format you choose will be subject to change and adaptation as your research and findings unfold. However, your final format should ideally outline questions, problems, opportunities, and expectations.

  • Research plan example

Imagine you’ve been tasked with finding out how to get more customers to order takeout from an online food delivery platform. The goal is to improve satisfaction and retain existing customers. You set out to discover why more people aren’t ordering and what it is they do want to order or experience. 

You identify the need for a research project that helps you understand what drives customer loyalty . But before you jump in and start calling past customers, you need to develop a research plan—the roadmap that provides focus, clarity, and realistic details to the project.

Here’s an example outline of a research plan you might put together:

Project title

Project members involved in the research plan

Purpose of the project (provide a summary of the research plan’s intent)

Objective 1 (provide a short description for each objective)

Objective 2

Objective 3

Proposed timeline

Audience (detail the group you want to research, such as customers or non-customers)

Budget (how much you think it might cost to do the research)

Risk factors/contingencies (any potential risk factors that may impact the project’s success)

Remember, your research plan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel—it just needs to fit your project’s unique needs and aims.

Customizing a research plan template

Some companies offer research plan templates to help get you started. However, it may make more sense to develop your own customized plan template. Be sure to include the core elements of a great research plan with your template layout, including the following:

Introductions to participants and stakeholders

Background problems and needs statement

Significance, ethics, and purpose

Research methods, questions, and designs

Preliminary beliefs and expectations

Implications and intended outcomes

Realistic timelines for each phase

Conclusion and presentations

How many pages should a research plan be?

Generally, a research plan can vary in length between 500 to 1,500 words. This is roughly three pages of content. More substantial projects will be 2,000 to 3,500 words, taking up four to seven pages of planning documents.

What is the difference between a research plan and a research proposal?

A research plan is a roadmap to success for research teams. A research proposal, on the other hand, is a dissertation aimed at convincing or earning the support of others. Both are relevant in creating a guide to follow to complete a project goal.

What are the seven steps to developing a research plan?

While each research project is different, it’s best to follow these seven general steps to create your research plan:

Defining the problem

Identifying goals

Choosing research methods

Recruiting participants

Preparing the brief or summary

Establishing task timelines

Defining how you will present the findings

Should you be using a customer insights hub?

Do you want to discover previous research faster?

Do you share your research findings with others?

Do you analyze research data?

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  • What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples

What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples

Published on June 7, 2021 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023 by Pritha Bhandari.

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question  using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about:

  • Your overall research objectives and approach
  • Whether you’ll rely on primary research or secondary research
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods
  • The procedures you’ll follow to collect data
  • Your data analysis methods

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research objectives and that you use the right kind of analysis for your data.

Table of contents

Step 1: consider your aims and approach, step 2: choose a type of research design, step 3: identify your population and sampling method, step 4: choose your data collection methods, step 5: plan your data collection procedures, step 6: decide on your data analysis strategies, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research design.

  • Introduction

Before you can start designing your research, you should already have a clear idea of the research question you want to investigate.

There are many different ways you could go about answering this question. Your research design choices should be driven by your aims and priorities—start by thinking carefully about what you want to achieve.

The first choice you need to make is whether you’ll take a qualitative or quantitative approach.

Qualitative approach Quantitative approach
and describe frequencies, averages, and correlations about relationships between variables

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible and inductive , allowing you to adjust your approach based on what you find throughout the research process.

Quantitative research designs tend to be more fixed and deductive , with variables and hypotheses clearly defined in advance of data collection.

It’s also possible to use a mixed-methods design that integrates aspects of both approaches. By combining qualitative and quantitative insights, you can gain a more complete picture of the problem you’re studying and strengthen the credibility of your conclusions.

Practical and ethical considerations when designing research

As well as scientific considerations, you need to think practically when designing your research. If your research involves people or animals, you also need to consider research ethics .

  • How much time do you have to collect data and write up the research?
  • Will you be able to gain access to the data you need (e.g., by travelling to a specific location or contacting specific people)?
  • Do you have the necessary research skills (e.g., statistical analysis or interview techniques)?
  • Will you need ethical approval ?

At each stage of the research design process, make sure that your choices are practically feasible.

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Within both qualitative and quantitative approaches, there are several types of research design to choose from. Each type provides a framework for the overall shape of your research.

Types of quantitative research designs

Quantitative designs can be split into four main types.

  • Experimental and   quasi-experimental designs allow you to test cause-and-effect relationships
  • Descriptive and correlational designs allow you to measure variables and describe relationships between them.
Type of design Purpose and characteristics
Experimental relationships effect on a
Quasi-experimental )

With descriptive and correlational designs, you can get a clear picture of characteristics, trends and relationships as they exist in the real world. However, you can’t draw conclusions about cause and effect (because correlation doesn’t imply causation ).

Experiments are the strongest way to test cause-and-effect relationships without the risk of other variables influencing the results. However, their controlled conditions may not always reflect how things work in the real world. They’re often also more difficult and expensive to implement.

Types of qualitative research designs

Qualitative designs are less strictly defined. This approach is about gaining a rich, detailed understanding of a specific context or phenomenon, and you can often be more creative and flexible in designing your research.

The table below shows some common types of qualitative design. They often have similar approaches in terms of data collection, but focus on different aspects when analyzing the data.

Type of design Purpose and characteristics
Grounded theory

Your research design should clearly define who or what your research will focus on, and how you’ll go about choosing your participants or subjects.

In research, a population is the entire group that you want to draw conclusions about, while a sample is the smaller group of individuals you’ll actually collect data from.

Defining the population

A population can be made up of anything you want to study—plants, animals, organizations, texts, countries, etc. In the social sciences, it most often refers to a group of people.

For example, will you focus on people from a specific demographic, region or background? Are you interested in people with a certain job or medical condition, or users of a particular product?

The more precisely you define your population, the easier it will be to gather a representative sample.

  • Sampling methods

Even with a narrowly defined population, it’s rarely possible to collect data from every individual. Instead, you’ll collect data from a sample.

To select a sample, there are two main approaches: probability sampling and non-probability sampling . The sampling method you use affects how confidently you can generalize your results to the population as a whole.

Probability sampling Non-probability sampling

Probability sampling is the most statistically valid option, but it’s often difficult to achieve unless you’re dealing with a very small and accessible population.

For practical reasons, many studies use non-probability sampling, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations and carefully consider potential biases. You should always make an effort to gather a sample that’s as representative as possible of the population.

Case selection in qualitative research

In some types of qualitative designs, sampling may not be relevant.

For example, in an ethnography or a case study , your aim is to deeply understand a specific context, not to generalize to a population. Instead of sampling, you may simply aim to collect as much data as possible about the context you are studying.

In these types of design, you still have to carefully consider your choice of case or community. You should have a clear rationale for why this particular case is suitable for answering your research question .

For example, you might choose a case study that reveals an unusual or neglected aspect of your research problem, or you might choose several very similar or very different cases in order to compare them.

Data collection methods are ways of directly measuring variables and gathering information. They allow you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.

You can choose just one data collection method, or use several methods in the same study.

Survey methods

Surveys allow you to collect data about opinions, behaviors, experiences, and characteristics by asking people directly. There are two main survey methods to choose from: questionnaires and interviews .

Questionnaires Interviews

Observation methods

Observational studies allow you to collect data unobtrusively, observing characteristics, behaviors or social interactions without relying on self-reporting.

Observations may be conducted in real time, taking notes as you observe, or you might make audiovisual recordings for later analysis. They can be qualitative or quantitative.

Quantitative observation

Other methods of data collection

There are many other ways you might collect data depending on your field and topic.

Field Examples of data collection methods
Media & communication Collecting a sample of texts (e.g., speeches, articles, or social media posts) for data on cultural norms and narratives
Psychology Using technologies like neuroimaging, eye-tracking, or computer-based tasks to collect data on things like attention, emotional response, or reaction time
Education Using tests or assignments to collect data on knowledge and skills
Physical sciences Using scientific instruments to collect data on things like weight, blood pressure, or chemical composition

If you’re not sure which methods will work best for your research design, try reading some papers in your field to see what kinds of data collection methods they used.

Secondary data

If you don’t have the time or resources to collect data from the population you’re interested in, you can also choose to use secondary data that other researchers already collected—for example, datasets from government surveys or previous studies on your topic.

With this raw data, you can do your own analysis to answer new research questions that weren’t addressed by the original study.

Using secondary data can expand the scope of your research, as you may be able to access much larger and more varied samples than you could collect yourself.

However, it also means you don’t have any control over which variables to measure or how to measure them, so the conclusions you can draw may be limited.

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As well as deciding on your methods, you need to plan exactly how you’ll use these methods to collect data that’s consistent, accurate, and unbiased.

Planning systematic procedures is especially important in quantitative research, where you need to precisely define your variables and ensure your measurements are high in reliability and validity.


Some variables, like height or age, are easily measured. But often you’ll be dealing with more abstract concepts, like satisfaction, anxiety, or competence. Operationalization means turning these fuzzy ideas into measurable indicators.

If you’re using observations , which events or actions will you count?

If you’re using surveys , which questions will you ask and what range of responses will be offered?

You may also choose to use or adapt existing materials designed to measure the concept you’re interested in—for example, questionnaires or inventories whose reliability and validity has already been established.

Reliability and validity

Reliability means your results can be consistently reproduced, while validity means that you’re actually measuring the concept you’re interested in.

Reliability Validity
) )

For valid and reliable results, your measurement materials should be thoroughly researched and carefully designed. Plan your procedures to make sure you carry out the same steps in the same way for each participant.

If you’re developing a new questionnaire or other instrument to measure a specific concept, running a pilot study allows you to check its validity and reliability in advance.

Sampling procedures

As well as choosing an appropriate sampling method , you need a concrete plan for how you’ll actually contact and recruit your selected sample.

That means making decisions about things like:

  • How many participants do you need for an adequate sample size?
  • What inclusion and exclusion criteria will you use to identify eligible participants?
  • How will you contact your sample—by mail, online, by phone, or in person?

If you’re using a probability sampling method , it’s important that everyone who is randomly selected actually participates in the study. How will you ensure a high response rate?

If you’re using a non-probability method , how will you avoid research bias and ensure a representative sample?

Data management

It’s also important to create a data management plan for organizing and storing your data.

Will you need to transcribe interviews or perform data entry for observations? You should anonymize and safeguard any sensitive data, and make sure it’s backed up regularly.

Keeping your data well-organized will save time when it comes to analyzing it. It can also help other researchers validate and add to your findings (high replicability ).

On its own, raw data can’t answer your research question. The last step of designing your research is planning how you’ll analyze the data.

Quantitative data analysis

In quantitative research, you’ll most likely use some form of statistical analysis . With statistics, you can summarize your sample data, make estimates, and test hypotheses.

Using descriptive statistics , you can summarize your sample data in terms of:

  • The distribution of the data (e.g., the frequency of each score on a test)
  • The central tendency of the data (e.g., the mean to describe the average score)
  • The variability of the data (e.g., the standard deviation to describe how spread out the scores are)

The specific calculations you can do depend on the level of measurement of your variables.

Using inferential statistics , you can:

  • Make estimates about the population based on your sample data.
  • Test hypotheses about a relationship between variables.

Regression and correlation tests look for associations between two or more variables, while comparison tests (such as t tests and ANOVAs ) look for differences in the outcomes of different groups.

Your choice of statistical test depends on various aspects of your research design, including the types of variables you’re dealing with and the distribution of your data.

Qualitative data analysis

In qualitative research, your data will usually be very dense with information and ideas. Instead of summing it up in numbers, you’ll need to comb through the data in detail, interpret its meanings, identify patterns, and extract the parts that are most relevant to your research question.

Two of the most common approaches to doing this are thematic analysis and discourse analysis .

Approach Characteristics
Thematic analysis
Discourse analysis

There are many other ways of analyzing qualitative data depending on the aims of your research. To get a sense of potential approaches, try reading some qualitative research papers in your field.

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.

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


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

Research bias

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

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question . It defines your overall approach and determines how you will collect and analyze data.

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.

Quantitative research designs can be divided into two main categories:

  • Correlational and descriptive designs are used to investigate characteristics, averages, trends, and associations between variables.
  • Experimental and quasi-experimental designs are used to test causal relationships .

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible. Common types of qualitative design include case study , ethnography , and grounded theory designs.

The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:

  • Your research questions and/or hypotheses
  • Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
  • The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
  • Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests  or thematic analysis )

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.

Operationalization means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioral avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalize the variables that you want to measure.

A research project is an academic, scientific, or professional undertaking to answer a research question . Research projects can take many forms, such as qualitative or quantitative , descriptive , longitudinal , experimental , or correlational . What kind of research approach you choose will depend on your topic.

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How to Get Started With a Research Project

Last Updated: October 3, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Chris Hadley, PhD . Chris Hadley, PhD is part of the wikiHow team and works on content strategy and data and analytics. Chris Hadley earned his PhD in Cognitive Psychology from UCLA in 2006. Chris' academic research has been published in numerous scientific journals. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 313,237 times.

You'll be required to undertake and complete research projects throughout your academic career and even, in many cases, as a member of the workforce. Don't worry if you feel stuck or intimidated by the idea of a research project, with care and dedication, you can get the project done well before the deadline!

Development and Foundation

Step 1 Brainstorm an idea or identify a problem or question.

  • Don't hesitate while writing down ideas. You'll end up with some mental noise on the paper – silly or nonsensical phrases that your brain just pushes out. That's fine. Think of it as sweeping the cobwebs out of your attic. After a minute or two, better ideas will begin to form (and you might have a nice little laugh at your own expense in the meantime).

Step 2 Use the tools you've already been given.

  • Some instructors will even provide samples of previously successful topics if you ask for them. Just be careful that you don't end up stuck with an idea you want to do, but are afraid to do because you know someone else did it before.

Step 4 Think from all angles.

  • For example, if your research topic is “urban poverty,” you could look at that topic across ethnic or sexual lines, but you could also look into corporate wages, minimum wage laws, the cost of medical benefits, the loss of unskilled jobs in the urban core, and on and on. You could also try comparing and contrasting urban poverty with suburban or rural poverty, and examine things that might be different about both areas, such as diet and exercise levels, or air pollution.

Step 5 Synthesize specific topics.

  • Think in terms of questions you want answered. A good research project should collect information for the purpose of answering (or at least attempting to answer) a question. As you review and interconnect topics, you'll think of questions that don't seem to have clear answers yet. These questions are your research topics.

Step 7 Brush across information you have access to.

  • Don't limit yourself to libraries and online databases. Think in terms of outside resources as well: primary sources, government agencies, even educational TV programs. If you want to know about differences in animal population between public land and an Indian reservation, call the reservation and see if you can speak to their department of fish and wildlife.
  • If you're planning to go ahead with original research, that's great – but those techniques aren't covered in this article. Instead, speak with qualified advisors and work with them to set up a thorough, controlled, repeatable process for gathering information.

Step 8 Clearly define your project.

  • If your plan comes down to “researching the topic,” and there aren't any more specific things you can say about it, write down the types of sources you plan to use instead: books (library or private?), magazines (which ones?), interviews, and so on. Your preliminary research should have given you a solid idea of where to begin.

Expanding Your Idea with Research

Step 1 Start with the basics.

  • It's generally considered more convincing to source one item from three different authors who all agree on it than it is to rely too heavily on one book. Go for quantity at least as much as quality. Be sure to check citations, endnotes, and bibliographies to get more potential sources (and see whether or not all your authors are just quoting the same, older author).
  • Writing down your sources and any other relevant details (such as context) around your pieces of information right now will save you lots of trouble in the future.

Step 2 Move outward.

  • Use many different queries to get the database results you want. If one phrasing or a particular set of words doesn't yield useful results, try rephrasing it or using synonymous terms. Online academic databases tend to be dumber than the sum of their parts, so you'll have to use tangentially related terms and inventive language to get all the results you want.

Step 3 Gather unusual sources.

  • If it's sensible, consider heading out into the field and speaking to ordinary people for their opinions. This isn't always appropriate (or welcomed) in a research project, but in some cases, it can provide you with some excellent perspective for your research.
  • Review cultural artifacts as well. In many areas of study, there's useful information on attitudes, hopes, and/or concerns of people in a particular time and place contained within the art, music, and writing they produced. One has only to look at the woodblock prints of the later German Expressionists, for example, to understand that they lived in a world they felt was often dark, grotesque, and hopeless. Song lyrics and poetry can likewise express strong popular attitudes.

Step 4 Review and trim.

Expert Q&A

Chris Hadley, PhD

  • Start early. The foundation of a great research project is the research, which takes time and patience to gather even if you aren't performing any original research of your own. Set aside time for it whenever you can, at least until your initial gathering phase is complete. Past that point, the project should practically come together on its own. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
  • When in doubt, write more, rather than less. It's easier to pare down and reorganize an overabundance of information than it is to puff up a flimsy core of facts and anecdotes. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

steps for research project

  • Respect the wishes of others. Unless you're a research journalist, it's vital that you yield to the wishes and requests of others before engaging in original research, even if it's technically ethical. Many older American Indians, for instance, harbor a great deal of cultural resentment towards social scientists who visit reservations for research, even those invited by tribal governments for important reasons such as language revitalization. Always tread softly whenever you're out of your element, and only work with those who want to work with you. Thanks Helpful 8 Not Helpful 2
  • Be mindful of ethical concerns. Especially if you plan to use original research, there are very stringent ethical guidelines that must be followed for any credible academic body to accept it. Speak to an advisor (such as a professor) about what you plan to do and what steps you should take to verify that it will be ethical. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 2

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  • ↑ http://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/research/research_paper.html
  • ↑ https://www.nhcc.edu/academics/library/doing-library-research/basic-steps-research-process
  • ↑ https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185905
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/research_papers/choosing_a_topic.html
  • ↑ https://www.unr.edu/writing-speaking-center/student-resources/writing-speaking-resources/using-an-interview-in-a-research-paper
  • ↑ https://www.science.org/content/article/how-review-paper

About This Article

Chris Hadley, PhD

The easiest way to get started with a research project is to use your notes and other materials to come up with topics that interest you. Research your favorite topic to see if it can be developed, and then refine it into a research question. Begin thoroughly researching, and collect notes and sources. To learn more about finding reliable and helpful sources while you're researching, continue reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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steps for research project

Illustration by James Round

How to plan a research project

Whether for a paper or a thesis, define your question, review the work of others – and leave yourself open to discovery.

by Brooke Harrington   + BIO

is professor of sociology at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Her research has won international awards both for scholarly quality and impact on public life. She has published dozens of articles and three books, most recently the bestseller Capital without Borders (2016), now translated into five languages.

Edited by Sam Haselby

Need to know

‘When curiosity turns to serious matters, it’s called research.’ – From Aphorisms (1880-1905) by Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Planning research projects is a time-honoured intellectual exercise: one that requires both creativity and sharp analytical skills. The purpose of this Guide is to make the process systematic and easy to understand. While there is a great deal of freedom and discovery involved – from the topics you choose, to the data and methods you apply – there are also some norms and constraints that obtain, no matter what your academic level or field of study. For those in high school through to doctoral students, and from art history to archaeology, research planning involves broadly similar steps, including: formulating a question, developing an argument or predictions based on previous research, then selecting the information needed to answer your question.

Some of this might sound self-evident but, as you’ll find, research requires a different way of approaching and using information than most of us are accustomed to in everyday life. That is why I include orienting yourself to knowledge-creation as an initial step in the process. This is a crucial and underappreciated phase in education, akin to making the transition from salaried employment to entrepreneurship: suddenly, you’re on your own, and that requires a new way of thinking about your work.

What follows is a distillation of what I’ve learned about this process over 27 years as a professional social scientist. It reflects the skills that my own professors imparted in the sociology doctoral programme at Harvard, as well as what I learned later on as a research supervisor for Ivy League PhD and MA students, and then as the author of award-winning scholarly books and articles. It can be adapted to the demands of both short projects (such as course term papers) and long ones, such as a thesis.

At its simplest, research planning involves the four distinct steps outlined below: orienting yourself to knowledge-creation; defining your research question; reviewing previous research on your question; and then choosing relevant data to formulate your own answers. Because the focus of this Guide is on planning a research project, as opposed to conducting a research project, this section won’t delve into the details of data-collection or analysis; those steps happen after you plan the project. In addition, the topic is vast: year-long doctoral courses are devoted to data and analysis. Instead, the fourth part of this section will outline some basic strategies you could use in planning a data-selection and analysis process appropriate to your research question.

Step 1: Orient yourself

Planning and conducting research requires you to make a transition, from thinking like a consumer of information to thinking like a producer of information. That sounds simple, but it’s actually a complex task. As a practical matter, this means putting aside the mindset of a student, which treats knowledge as something created by other people. As students, we are often passive receivers of knowledge: asked to do a specified set of readings, then graded on how well we reproduce what we’ve read.

Researchers, however, must take on an active role as knowledge producers . Doing research requires more of you than reading and absorbing what other people have written: you have to engage in a dialogue with it. That includes arguing with previous knowledge and perhaps trying to show that ideas we have accepted as given are actually wrong or incomplete. For example, rather than simply taking in the claims of an author you read, you’ll need to draw out the implications of those claims: if what the author is saying is true, what else does that suggest must be true? What predictions could you make based on the author’s claims?

In other words, rather than treating a reading as a source of truth – even if it comes from a revered source, such as Plato or Marie Curie – this orientation step asks you to treat the claims you read as provisional and subject to interrogation. That is one of the great pieces of wisdom that science and philosophy can teach us: that the biggest advances in human understanding have been made not by being correct about trivial things, but by being wrong in an interesting way . For example, Albert Einstein was wrong about quantum mechanics, but his arguments about it with his fellow physicist Niels Bohr have led to some of the biggest breakthroughs in science, even a century later.

Step 2: Define your research question

Students often give this step cursory attention, but experienced researchers know that formulating a good question is sometimes the most difficult part of the research planning process. That is because the precise language of the question frames the rest of the project. It’s therefore important to pose the question carefully, in a way that’s both possible to answer and likely to yield interesting results. Of course, you must choose a question that interests you, but that’s only the beginning of what’s likely to be an iterative process: most researchers come back to this step repeatedly, modifying their questions in light of previous research, resource limitations and other considerations.

Researchers face limits in terms of time and money. They, like everyone else, have to pose research questions that they can plausibly answer given the constraints they face. For example, it would be inadvisable to frame a project around the question ‘What are the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict?’ if you have only a week to develop an answer and no background on that topic. That’s not to limit your imagination: you can come up with any question you’d like. But it typically does require some creativity to frame a question that you can answer well – that is, by investigating thoroughly and providing new insights – within the limits you face.

In addition to being interesting to you, and feasible within your resource constraints, the third and most important characteristic of a ‘good’ research topic is whether it allows you to create new knowledge. It might turn out that your question has already been asked and answered to your satisfaction: if so, you’ll find out in the next step of this process. On the other hand, you might come up with a research question that hasn’t been addressed previously. Before you get too excited about breaking uncharted ground, consider this: a lot of potentially researchable questions haven’t been studied for good reason ; they might have answers that are trivial or of very limited interest. This could include questions such as ‘Why does the area of a circle equal π r²?’ or ‘Did winter conditions affect Napoleon’s plans to invade Russia?’ Of course, you might be able to make the argument that a seemingly trivial question is actually vitally important, but you must be prepared to back that up with convincing evidence. The exercise in the ‘Learn More’ section below will help you think through some of these issues.

Finally, scholarly research questions must in some way lead to new and distinctive insights. For example, lots of people have studied gender roles in sports teams; what can you ask that hasn’t been asked before? Reinventing the wheel is the number-one no-no in this endeavour. That’s why the next step is so important: reviewing previous research on your topic. Depending on what you find in that step, you might need to revise your research question; iterating between your question and the existing literature is a normal process. But don’t worry: it doesn’t go on forever. In fact, the iterations taper off – and your research question stabilises – as you develop a firm grasp of the current state of knowledge on your topic.

Step 3: Review previous research

In academic research, from articles to books, it’s common to find a section called a ‘literature review’. The purpose of that section is to describe the state of the art in knowledge on the research question that a project has posed. It demonstrates that researchers have thoroughly and systematically reviewed the relevant findings of previous studies on their topic, and that they have something novel to contribute.

Your own research project should include something like this, even if it’s a high-school term paper. In the research planning process, you’ll want to list at least half a dozen bullet points stating the major findings on your topic by other people. In relation to those findings, you should be able to specify where your project could provide new and necessary insights. There are two basic rhetorical positions one can take in framing the novelty-plus-importance argument required of academic research:

  • Position 1 requires you to build on or extend a set of existing ideas; that means saying something like: ‘Person A has argued that X is true about gender; this implies Y, which has not yet been tested. My project will test Y, and if I find evidence to support it, that will change the way we understand gender.’
  • Position 2 is to argue that there is a gap in existing knowledge, either because previous research has reached conflicting conclusions or has failed to consider something important. For example, one could say that research on middle schoolers and gender has been limited by being conducted primarily in coeducational environments, and that findings might differ dramatically if research were conducted in more schools where the student body was all-male or all-female.

Your overall goal in this step of the process is to show that your research will be part of a larger conversation: that is, how your project flows from what’s already known, and how it advances, extends or challenges that existing body of knowledge. That will be the contribution of your project, and it constitutes the motivation for your research.

Two things are worth mentioning about your search for sources of relevant previous research. First, you needn’t look only at studies on your precise topic. For example, if you want to study gender-identity formation in schools, you shouldn’t restrict yourself to studies of schools; the empirical setting (schools) is secondary to the larger social process that interests you (how people form gender identity). That process occurs in many different settings, so cast a wide net. Second, be sure to use legitimate sources – meaning publications that have been through some sort of vetting process, whether that involves peer review (as with academic journal articles you might find via Google Scholar) or editorial review (as you’d find in well-known mass media publications, such as The Economist or The Washington Post ). What you’ll want to avoid is using unvetted sources such as personal blogs or Wikipedia. Why? Because anybody can write anything in those forums, and there is no way to know – unless you’re already an expert – if the claims you find there are accurate. Often, they’re not.

Step 4: Choose your data and methods

Whatever your research question is, eventually you’ll need to consider which data source and analytical strategy are most likely to provide the answers you’re seeking. One starting point is to consider whether your question would be best addressed by qualitative data (such as interviews, observations or historical records), quantitative data (such as surveys or census records) or some combination of both. Your ideas about data sources will, in turn, suggest options for analytical methods.

You might need to collect your own data, or you might find everything you need readily available in an existing dataset someone else has created. A great place to start is with a research librarian: university libraries always have them and, at public universities, those librarians can work with the public, including people who aren’t affiliated with the university. If you don’t happen to have a public university and its library close at hand, an ordinary public library can still be a good place to start: the librarians are often well versed in accessing data sources that might be relevant to your study, such as the census, or historical archives, or the Survey of Consumer Finances.

Because your task at this point is to plan research, rather than conduct it, the purpose of this step is not to commit you irrevocably to a course of action. Instead, your goal here is to think through a feasible approach to answering your research question. You’ll need to find out, for example, whether the data you want exist; if not, do you have a realistic chance of gathering the data yourself, or would it be better to modify your research question? In terms of analysis, would your strategy require you to apply statistical methods? If so, do you have those skills? If not, do you have time to learn them, or money to hire a research assistant to run the analysis for you?

Please be aware that qualitative methods in particular are not the casual undertaking they might appear to be. Many people make the mistake of thinking that only quantitative data and methods are scientific and systematic, while qualitative methods are just a fancy way of saying: ‘I talked to some people, read some old newspapers, and drew my own conclusions.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. In the final section of this guide, you’ll find some links to resources that will provide more insight on standards and procedures governing qualitative research, but suffice it to say: there are rules about what constitutes legitimate evidence and valid analytical procedure for qualitative data, just as there are for quantitative data.

Circle back and consider revising your initial plans

As you work through these four steps in planning your project, it’s perfectly normal to circle back and revise. Research planning is rarely a linear process. It’s also common for new and unexpected avenues to suggest themselves. As the sociologist Thorstein Veblen wrote in 1908 : ‘The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before.’ That’s as true of research planning as it is of a completed project. Try to enjoy the horizons that open up for you in this process, rather than becoming overwhelmed; the four steps, along with the two exercises that follow, will help you focus your plan and make it manageable.

Key points – How to plan a research project

  • Planning a research project is essential no matter your academic level or field of study. There is no one ‘best’ way to design research, but there are certain guidelines that can be helpfully applied across disciplines.
  • Orient yourself to knowledge-creation. Make the shift from being a consumer of information to being a producer of information.
  • Define your research question. Your question frames the rest of your project, sets the scope, and determines the kinds of answers you can find.
  • Review previous research on your question. Survey the existing body of relevant knowledge to ensure that your research will be part of a larger conversation.
  • Choose your data and methods. For instance, will you be collecting qualitative data, via interviews, or numerical data, via surveys?
  • Circle back and consider revising your initial plans. Expect your research question in particular to undergo multiple rounds of refinement as you learn more about your topic.

Good research questions tend to beget more questions. This can be frustrating for those who want to get down to business right away. Try to make room for the unexpected: this is usually how knowledge advances. Many of the most significant discoveries in human history have been made by people who were looking for something else entirely. There are ways to structure your research planning process without over-constraining yourself; the two exercises below are a start, and you can find further methods in the Links and Books section.

The following exercise provides a structured process for advancing your research project planning. After completing it, you’ll be able to do the following:

  • describe clearly and concisely the question you’ve chosen to study
  • summarise the state of the art in knowledge about the question, and where your project could contribute new insight
  • identify the best strategy for gathering and analysing relevant data

In other words, the following provides a systematic means to establish the building blocks of your research project.

Exercise 1: Definition of research question and sources

This exercise prompts you to select and clarify your general interest area, develop a research question, and investigate sources of information. The annotated bibliography will also help you refine your research question so that you can begin the second assignment, a description of the phenomenon you wish to study.

Jot down a few bullet points in response to these two questions, with the understanding that you’ll probably go back and modify your answers as you begin reading other studies relevant to your topic:

  • What will be the general topic of your paper?
  • What will be the specific topic of your paper?

b) Research question(s)

Use the following guidelines to frame a research question – or questions – that will drive your analysis. As with Part 1 above, you’ll probably find it necessary to change or refine your research question(s) as you complete future assignments.

  • Your question should be phrased so that it can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
  • Your question should have more than one plausible answer.
  • Your question should draw relationships between two or more concepts; framing the question in terms of How? or What? often works better than asking Why ?

c) Annotated bibliography

Most or all of your background information should come from two sources: scholarly books and journals, or reputable mass media sources. You might be able to access journal articles electronically through your library, using search engines such as JSTOR and Google Scholar. This can save you a great deal of time compared with going to the library in person to search periodicals. General news sources, such as those accessible through LexisNexis, are acceptable, but should be cited sparingly, since they don’t carry the same level of credibility as scholarly sources. As discussed above, unvetted sources such as blogs and Wikipedia should be avoided, because the quality of the information they provide is unreliable and often misleading.

To create an annotated bibliography, provide the following information for at least 10 sources relevant to your specific topic, using the format suggested below.

Name of author(s):
Publication date:
Title of book, chapter, or article:
If a chapter or article, title of journal or book where they appear:
Brief description of this work, including main findings and methods ( c 75 words):
Summary of how this work contributes to your project ( c 75 words):
Brief description of the implications of this work ( c 25 words):
Identify any gap or controversy in knowledge this work points up, and how your project could address those problems ( c 50 words):

Exercise 2: Towards an analysis

Develop a short statement ( c 250 words) about the kind of data that would be useful to address your research question, and how you’d analyse it. Some questions to consider in writing this statement include:

  • What are the central concepts or variables in your project? Offer a brief definition of each.
  • Do any data sources exist on those concepts or variables, or would you need to collect data?
  • Of the analytical strategies you could apply to that data, which would be the most appropriate to answer your question? Which would be the most feasible for you? Consider at least two methods, noting their advantages or disadvantages for your project.

Links & books

One of the best texts ever written about planning and executing research comes from a source that might be unexpected: a 60-year-old work on urban planning by a self-trained scholar. The classic book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) by Jane Jacobs (available complete and free of charge via this link ) is worth reading in its entirety just for the pleasure of it. But the final 20 pages – a concluding chapter titled ‘The Kind of Problem a City Is’ – are really about the process of thinking through and investigating a problem. Highly recommended as a window into the craft of research.

Jacobs’s text references an essay on advancing human knowledge by the mathematician Warren Weaver. At the time, Weaver was director of the Rockefeller Foundation, in charge of funding basic research in the natural and medical sciences. Although the essay is titled ‘A Quarter Century in the Natural Sciences’ (1960) and appears at first blush to be merely a summation of one man’s career, it turns out to be something much bigger and more interesting: a meditation on the history of human beings seeking answers to big questions about the world. Weaver goes back to the 17th century to trace the origins of systematic research thinking, with enthusiasm and vivid anecdotes that make the process come alive. The essay is worth reading in its entirety, and is available free of charge via this link .

For those seeking a more in-depth, professional-level discussion of the logic of research design, the political scientist Harvey Starr provides insight in a compact format in the article ‘Cumulation from Proper Specification: Theory, Logic, Research Design, and “Nice” Laws’ (2005). Starr reviews the ‘research triad’, consisting of the interlinked considerations of formulating a question, selecting relevant theories and applying appropriate methods. The full text of the article, published in the scholarly journal Conflict Management and Peace Science , is available, free of charge, via this link .

Finally, the book Getting What You Came For (1992) by Robert Peters is not only an outstanding guide for anyone contemplating graduate school – from the application process onward – but it also includes several excellent chapters on planning and executing research, applicable across a wide variety of subject areas. It was an invaluable resource for me 25 years ago, and it remains in print with good reason; I recommend it to all my students, particularly Chapter 16 (‘The Thesis Topic: Finding It’), Chapter 17 (‘The Thesis Proposal’) and Chapter 18 (‘The Thesis: Writing It’).

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Beginner’s Guide to Research

Click here to download a .pdf copy of our Beginner’s Guide to Research !

Last updated : July 18, 2024

Consider keeping a printed copy to have when writing and revising your resume!  If you have any additional questions, make an appointment or email us at [email protected] !

Most professors will require the use of academic (AKA peer-reviewed) sources for student writing. This is because these sources, written for academic audiences of specific fields, are helpful for developing your argument on many topics of interest in the academic realm, from history to biology. While popular sources like news articles also often discuss topics of interest within academic fields, peer-reviewed sources offer a depth of research and expertise that you cannot find in popular sources. Therefore, knowing how to (1) identify popular vs. academic sources, (2) differentiate between primary and secondary sources, and (3) find academic sources is a vital step in writing research. Below are definitions of the two ways scholars categorize types of sources based on when they were created (i.e. time and place) and how (i.e. methodology):

Popular vs. academic sources:

  • Popular sources are publicly accessible periodicals–newspapers, magazines, and blogs–such as The Washington Post or The New Yorker . These sources are most often written for non-academic audiences, but can be helpful for finding general information and a variety of opinions on your topic.
  • Academic sources , known also as peer reviewed or scholarly articles, are those that have undergone peer review before being published. Typically, these articles are written for other scholars in the field and are published in academic journals, like Feminist Studies or The American Journal of Psychology . Literature reviews, research projects, case studies, and notes from the field are common examples.

Primary vs. secondary sources:

  • Primary sources are articles written by people directly involved in what they were writing about, including: News reports and photographs, diaries and novels, films and videos, speeches and autobiographies, as well as original research and statistics.
  • Secondary sources , on the other hand, are second hand accounts written about a topic based on primary sources. Whether a journal article or other academic publication is considered a secondary source depends on how you use it.

How to Find Academic Sources

Finding appropriate academic sources from the hundreds of different journal publications can be daunting. Therefore, it is important to find databases –digital collections of articles–relevant to your topic to narrow your search. Albertson’s Library has access to several different databases, which can be located by clicking the “Articles and Databases” tab on the website’s homepage, and navigating to “Databases A-Z” to refine your search. Popular databases include: Academic Search Premier and Proquest Central (non-specific databases which include a wide variety of articles), JSTOR (humanities and social sciences, from literature to history), Web of Science (formal sciences and natural sciences such as biology and chemistry), and Google Scholar (a web search engine that searches scholarly literature and academic sources). If you are unable to access articles from other databases, make sure you’re signed in to Alberton’s Library through Boise State!

Performing a Database Search

Databases include many different types of sources besides academic journals, however, including book reviews and other periodicals. Using the search bar , you can limit search results to those containing specific keywords or phrases like “writing center” or “transfer theory.” Utilizing keywords in your search–names of key concepts, authors, or ideas–rather than questions is the most effective way to find articles in databases. When searching for a specific work by title, placing the title in quotation marks will ensure your search includes only results in that specific word order. In the example below, search terms including the author (“Virginia Woolf”) and subject (“feminism”) are entered into the popular database EBSCOhost:

A screen capture of search results on EBSCOhost. Green highlighting points out the search function, with the caption "Search bar with basic search terms." In the highlighted search bar is the query "virginia Woolf and feminism." Below are search results, with text matching the search term(s) in bold.

Refining Your Search Results

Many databases have a bar on the left of the screen where you can further refine your results. For example, if you are only interested in finding complete scholarly articles, or peer-reviewed ones, you can toggle these different options to further limit your search. These options are located under the “Refine Results” bar in EBSCOhost, divided into different sections, with a display of currently selected search filters and filter options to refine your search based on your specific needs, as seen in the figure below:

Another screen capture of EBSCOhost, this time with green highlighting pointing out the refine results area to the left. The first caption, located at the top, points to the "Current Search" box and reads "Displays your selected filters." The second caption, pointing to the "Limit To" and "Subject" boxes, reads "Options to filter your search."

Search results can also be limited by subject : If you search “Romeo and Juliet” on Academic Search Premier to find literary analysis articles for your English class, you’ll find a lot of other sources that include this search term, such as ones about theater production or ballets based on Shakespeare’s play. However, if you’re writing a literary paper on the text of the play itself, you might limit your search results to “fiction” to see only articles that discuss the play within the field of literature. Alternatively, for a theater class discussing the play, you might limit your search results to “drama.”

The Writing Center

15 Steps to Good Research

  • Define and articulate a research question (formulate a research hypothesis). How to Write a Thesis Statement (Indiana University)
  • Identify possible sources of information in many types and formats. Georgetown University Library's Research & Course Guides
  • Judge the scope of the project.
  • Reevaluate the research question based on the nature and extent of information available and the parameters of the research project.
  • Select the most appropriate investigative methods (surveys, interviews, experiments) and research tools (periodical indexes, databases, websites).
  • Plan the research project. Writing Anxiety (UNC-Chapel Hill) Strategies for Academic Writing (SUNY Empire State College)
  • Retrieve information using a variety of methods (draw on a repertoire of skills).
  • Refine the search strategy as necessary.
  • Write and organize useful notes and keep track of sources. Taking Notes from Research Reading (University of Toronto) Use a citation manager: Zotero or Refworks
  • Evaluate sources using appropriate criteria. Evaluating Internet Sources
  • Synthesize, analyze and integrate information sources and prior knowledge. Georgetown University Writing Center
  • Revise hypothesis as necessary.
  • Use information effectively for a specific purpose.
  • Understand such issues as plagiarism, ownership of information (implications of copyright to some extent), and costs of information. Georgetown University Honor Council Copyright Basics (Purdue University) How to Recognize Plagiarism: Tutorials and Tests from Indiana University
  • Cite properly and give credit for sources of ideas. MLA Bibliographic Form (7th edition, 2009) MLA Bibliographic Form (8th edition, 2016) Turabian Bibliographic Form: Footnote/Endnote Turabian Bibliographic Form: Parenthetical Reference Use a citation manager: Zotero or Refworks

Adapted from the Association of Colleges and Research Libraries "Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction" , which are more complete and include outcomes. See also the broader "Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education."

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Starting steps for research project success

steps for research project

Research projects are an important part of a student’s academic career. They’re an integral part of the learning process, providing students with the opportunity to explore a particular topic in-depth, develop research skills, and make an original contribution to their field of study.

That said, they can also be a source of stress for many students, particularly if it’s their first time writing a research project. The best way to approach a project of this size is to break it down into smaller steps and ensure you’ve laid the groundwork before you even begin writing.

In this article, we’ll look at different elements of beginning a research project, including writing a proposal, starting steps, and how to use monday.com to organize all your research and tasks in one place.

What is a research project?

A research project is an organized effort to investigate a specific question or topic. It can involve either quantitative or qualitative research methods and can include surveys, interviews, or literature reviews.

The goal of a research project is to answer a question or hypothesis by exploring new ideas and testing theories.

In an academic setting, research projects are typically conducted by students, faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, or graduate students, and may involve collaborations with outside organizations.

How to write a research project proposal

Before beginning to write a research project, you need to first write a proposal. A research project proposal is a document used to outline the specific goals, methods, and resources required for a research project. It’s used to present the planned research to potential sponsors or other stakeholders in order to receive approval to proceed with the project.

There are several elements to include in a project proposal that will not only help guide your research but help show why your topic is relevant and worth pursuing.

  • Title: Develop a clear and concise title for your research project proposal.
  • Introduction: Give background, including the purpose and importance of the research.
  • Objectives: List the specific objectives of your research project.
  • Methodology: Describe the methods and techniques you will use.
  • Resources: Describe the resources you will need to carry out your project.
  • Timeline: Provide a timeline for completion and bring up any potential obstacles or risks.
  • Expected outcomes: Identify the expected outcomes, including possible implications.
  • Budget: Estimate the costs of completing the project and any necessary funding.
  • References: Provide references that you’ll cite that help prove your topic is relevant.

Looking at examples of other research project proposals will be helpful to visualize what yours should look like. Here are examples of successful project proposals in the field of social policy and criminology as well as a Ph.D. project in politics .

A project proposal template from monday.com can help you build out your project proposal. This template will ensure that you aren’t missing any essential elements that can result in your research project getting rejected or needing to edit and resubmit a new proposal.

5 starting steps for writing a research project

While there are many different steps to the writing portion of a research project, the initial setup of your project will not only set you up for success but will make the writing go a lot more smoothly. Here are five steps you should take when you’re just starting your research project.

1. Find the right supervisor

A good supervisor will provide guidance on the design, methods, and structure of your research project, as well as advice on how to best analyze and interpret data. A good way to find the right supervisor is to speak with faculty members in a department, a trusted professor, or a colleague to discuss who might be the best fit. When you have a list of potential advisors, send them an email to introduce yourself and your project before asking to meet to discuss the next steps.

2. Choose your topic

After finding a supervisor, they may be able to help you narrow down your topic. The more specific your topic, the better you’ll be able to sharpen the direction of your research so that you can explore your topic in greater depth. It can also save time by allowing you to tighten the scope of your research and focus on the most relevant aspects of the topic.

3. Develop a thesis

A thesis serves as the main point or argument and provides direction and focus to a project, allowing you to collect and organize information more efficiently. A clear and concise thesis statement guides readers in understanding the project’s purpose and ensures that readers will be able to follow the main thread of your argument.

4. Create a timeline

When you begin your research, it’s important to create a timeline to set a framework for the project and ensure that it’s completed on time. It also keeps you organized on various tasks and ensures all steps are accounted for, from researching to writing and editing. Finally, a timeline can help you stay motivated and on track.

5. Write your outline

Outlines provide structure and clarity and allow you to organize your thoughts in a logical order. An outline serves as a roadmap for your research, allowing you to focus on the important points and not get sidetracked. It may also help identify gaps in your research, which can be addressed before beginning the writing process.

monday.com can help you organize your research project

Given all the different steps to take before you even begin writing, staying organized and on top of each task will ensure your project runs seamlessly. Project management tools such as monday.com can help you stay organized so that you don’t overlook an important step in your project. There are a few specific monday.com features that make it an excellent tool for anyone working on a research project.

Track your project with timelines

project timeline in monday.com

Create a timeline to see when different elements of your research project are due and see if you’re on time with your project proposal’s timeline.

Organize your tasks in one place

task management in monday.com

There are tons of small tasks in each research project, from planning a project, collecting and organizing data, communications, surveying, and more. With monday.com’s task management tools, you can make sure you’ve accounted for all tasks you need to complete so that you don’t miss a thing.

Use a template to make a visual plan

The student planner template allows you to visualize your project plan. Not only is this a good place to track tasks, but you can also add in information such as budgets, contact information, priorities, and even attach files for each access to your project’s information all in one place.

How do you start a research project?

When starting a research project, the first step is to create a research question or hypothesis that will be the focus of the project. Next, you’ll want to begin gathering information, finding a supervisor, forming your thesis, and outlining your project.

What are some examples of research projects?

Research projects vary widely depending on the field. For example, in biology, some research projects have focused on investigating the effects of a medication or therapy on a specific group of patients or looking at the role of genetics in disease.

How do I find a research project topic?

There are many different ways to find a topic. For starters, consider which topics interest you. From there, you can research online, speak with professors or advisors, and attend conferences and workshops to find ideas.

Make sure you have all you need to start writing

Writing a research project takes a lot of time, dedication, and focus. They can also be stressful, especially if it’s your first time writing one. Following the steps and guidelines here will make your research project more successful. Additionally, using a project management work tool like monday.com to organize your research project is one of the best ways to alleviate the stress of staying on top of your tasks and timeline so that you can better focus on the research itself.

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How to Do a Research Project?


  • Updated on  
  • Mar 21, 2023

Research Project

To begin your thesis, the first step is to find a suitable topic per your interests and selecting a good topic is only the beginning of it all. Carrying out a research project, scholars aim to provide answers to the research questions through an in-depth study of the topic. Many universities require their students to submit a research project as part of their course, especially at the master’s level of study and doctoral degrees . So if you are wondering how to do a research project, this blog is for you! Read on to know the different steps to follow to write an excellent research project.

This Blog Includes:

Select a topic of your interest, find a supervisor, invest time in secondary research, locate and analyse primary sources, start drafting your paper, put proper citations, proofread the research project, tips & tricks for doing a research project.

The first step towards doing a research project is choosing a relevant topic. Many students find it difficult to select a topic for their research project since they want to research a popular but less researched topic, something which is difficult to find. Browse through the recent studies and works in your chosen field and then find the best one that you are inclined towards. It is essential to have an innate interest and passion for the topic you have chosen since it will help you work out through all the challenges and hurdles during your research.

An expert supervisor plays an essential role in mentoring the student throughout the journey of the research project. Supervisors are generally professors and scholars in a university who guide students throughout their research addressing their queries regarding the topic along with familiarising them with different research methodologies and processes. So choosing a research knowledgeable supervisor in your field of study is very important in the development of your research project.

You need to have a good grasp of the contemporary work and studies done related to your topic to find out the gaps that you can address in your research project. For this, you need to invest your time in reading the published papers related to your topic diligently. Reading a huge volume of secondary sources will add to your knowledge about the topic and also present you with different primary sources which you can look for.

Primary sources are the backbone of your research. You can look for primary sources in different archives or libraries depending on your discipline, and you can also find out about primary sources and their location from papers already published on your chosen and related topics. Make sure to find and analyse the primary sources in detail and note down your findings.

Use your notes while drafting your paper. Remember that you need to make any changes through multiple drafts before you come up with a paper worthy of commendation. Make sure to send your drafts to your supervisor for feedback and corrections and doubts, and work on the suggestions they provide on your paper.

Citations are an important part of your research project. Not putting proper citations can mark your project as plagiarized. Since universities take plagiarism quite seriously, it is better to know the proper way of citation as specified by the research project format provided by your university. You can also get in touch with your research mentor or supervisor and ask for their advice on citing the sources in your project. 

You should not skip proofreading your paper after completing it. Spelling or grammar mistakes are inevitable while working on a lengthy research project and therefore it is necessary to check it multiple times for such errors. Re-reading your draft can not only help you in making it better by fixing the errors, but also you may identify any gaps or issues in the paper that you can rectify. 

Now that you are familiar with the process of doing a research project, here are some more tips and tricks that you might find useful:

  • Create a schedule mapping down every step of your research and adhere to the same.
  • Research your topic online and offline to know about the different sources you can explore.
  • List down all the sources, both primary and secondary that you consulted for your project as this will help you in adding the citations. 
  • Always keep notes to write new ideas and findings of your research as you can easily use them later to add to your project.
  • Stay in touch with your supervisor throughout the course of your research project as they can help you efficiently tackle all the challenges and problems and make your thesis as comprehensive as possible.

Ans. These types of questions you can ask in a research project What exactly do you want to study? What is your research question or questions? Why is it worth studying? What is the purpose or significance of your study? Does the proposed study have practical significance?

Ans. There should be no uncertainty in the research topic. Clarity also requires that the research topic be goal-oriented and that it establish the entire research methodology. Half of the formula for good research is a clearly defined and well-phrased research topic.

Ans. Research is the process of looking for solutions to a certain issue. It can be carried out to comprehend a phenomenon, observe behaviour, or test a theory, among other things. Systematic research is carried out, adding to the corpus of knowledge and bolstering numerous theories.

Thus, carrying out a research project is not everyone’s cup of tea as it will need meticulous studying and preparation to finally accomplish it as you have hypothesized. Planning to pursue a research degree? Our Study Abroad experts are here to help you find the best course and university along with sorting out the admission process to ensure that you send a winning application. Sign up for a free session with us today!

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Program Management

5 steps in the research process overview, step 1 – locating and defining issues or problems, step 2 – designing the research project, the research design involves the following steps:, step 3 – collecting data, data collection techniques can include:, step 4 – interpreting research data, analysis steps, step 5 – report research findings, research reporting formats:, typical formal research report format, acqnotes tutorial, research process lessons learned, qualitative research in the research process, acqlinks and references:, leave a reply.

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Research Misconduct

Learn what research misconduct is, how allegations are handled, and find resources to address misconduct.

NIH aims to enable scientific discovery while assuring honesty, transparency, integrity, fair merit-based competition, and protection of intellectual capital and proprietary information. As the largest public funder of biomedical research, NIH sets the standard for innovation and scientific discovery. We promote the highest levels of scientific integrity and public accountability in the conduct of science.

The scientific research enterprise is built on a deep foundation of trust and shared values. As the National Academies wrote in their 2019 On Being a Scientist report, "this trust will endure only if the scientific community devotes itself to exemplifying and transmitting the values associated with ethical scientific conduct" Falsifying, fabricating, or plagiarizing data—all forms of research misconduct—are contrary to these values and ethical conduct.

What is Research Integrity?

Failing to uphold research integrity undermines the public’s confidence and trust in the outcomes of NIH supported research. Research integrity includes:

  • the use of honest and verifiable methods in proposing, performing, and evaluating research
  • reporting research results with particular attention to adherence to rules, regulations, and guidelines
  • following commonly accepted professional codes or norms

Shared values in scientific research

  • Honesty: convey information truthfully and honoring commitments
  • Accuracy: report findings precisely and take care to avoid errors
  • Efficiency: use resources wisely and avoid waste
  • Objectivity: let the facts speak for themselves and avoid bias

How does research integrity affect you?

  • Researchers rely on trustworthy results of other researchers to make scientific progress.
  • Researchers rely on public support, whether through public investments or their voluntary participation in research, to further science.
  • The public relies on scientific progress to better the lives of everyone.
  • The public could actually be harmed by researchers who are dishonest and act without regards to integrity

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About Research Misconduct

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Reporting a Concern

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Process for Handling Allegations of Research Misconduct

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NIH Expectations, Policies, and Requirements

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Collaborate with ccqder, at a glance.

  • The Collaborating Center for Questionnaire Design and Evaluation Research (CCQDER) works with internal and external groups and partners to evaluate their survey questions.
  • Most CCQDER projects follow a seven-step process.
  • Project size and complexity affect how long each step takes.

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Working with CCQDER

The Collaborating Center for Questionnaire Design and Evaluation Research (CCQDER) works with internal and external partners to help develop and evaluate survey questions. These partners include—

  • Other programs in the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)
  • Other centers within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Other agencies across the federal government

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Most CCQDER projects use cognitive interviews to evaluate questions . Cognitive interviewing projects generally follow this seven-step process.

The time required for each step varies depending on several factors, including the project's size and complexity.

Step 1: Request

A program contacts CCQDER to request help with a question evaluation project. Before any project work can begin, CCQDER and the requesting program create an agreement that outlines project details.

Step 2: Clearance

CCQDER staff develop clearance packages for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). and for CDC's Institutional Review Board (IRB) that reviews and approves all research involving human subjects . These packages will include all project details.

Step 3: Recruitment

CCQDER staff design and carry out a plan to recruit and screen respondents. CCQDER screens respondents to ensure that they meet all study requirements.

Step 4: Interviewing

CCQDER staff conduct in-depth cognitive interviews with respondents.

Step 5: Analysis

CCQDER staff analyze interview data using a software tool called Q-Notes . CCQDER developed Q-Notes to support data management and analysis of cognitive interview data. Using Q-Notes, staff can conduct a fast, thorough, and systematic analysis of data to identify patterns in respondents' interpretations of each question. Q-Notes also helps to identify whether different groups of respondents have interpreted questions differently.

Step 6: Documentation

CCQDER staff write a final project report about findings from their analysis of the interview data. The report also includes a description of the methods used. All findings are supported by empirical evidence directly observed during the interviews. This ensures research transparency and accountability.

Step 7: Publication

All final reports are submitted to Q-Bank , an online database for cognitive interviewing and other question evaluation reports. Everyone can access Q-Bank, including other researchers, other federal statistical agencies, and the public.

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Microsoft Researchers Are Teaching AI to Read Spreadsheets

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It can be difficult to make a generative AI model understand a spreadsheet. In order to try to solve this problem, Microsoft researchers published a paper on July 12 on Arxiv describing SpreadsheetLLM , an encoding framework to enable large language models to “read” spreadsheets.

SpreadsheetLLM could “transform spreadsheet data management and analysis, paving the way for more intelligent and efficient user interactions,” the researchers wrote.

One advantage of SpreadsheetLLM for business would be to use formulas in spreadsheets without learning how to use them by asking questions of the AI model in natural language.

Why are spreadsheets a challenge for LLMs?

Spreadsheets are a challenge for LLMs for several reasons.

  • Spreadsheets can be very large, exceeding the number of characters a LLM can digest at one time.
  • Spreadsheets are “two-dimensional layouts and structures,” as the report puts it, as opposed to the “linear and sequential input” LLMs work well with.
  • LLMs aren’t usually trained to interpret cell addresses and specific spreadsheet formats.

Microsoft researchers used multiple-step technique to parse spreadsheets

There are two main parts of SpreadsheetLLM:

  • SheetCompressor , which is a framework to shrink spreadsheets down into formats LLMs can understand.
  • Chain of Spreadsheet , which is a methodology for teaching a LLM how to identify the right parts of a compressed spreadsheet to “look at” when presented with a question and for generating a response.

A diagram of how the SpreadsheetLLM framework “reads” a spreadsheet by performing multiple processes.

SheetCompressor has three modules:

  • Structural anchors that help LLMs identify the rows and columns in the spreadsheet.
  • A method for reducing the number of tokens it costs for the LLM to interpret the spreadsheet.
  • A technique for improving efficiency by clustering similar cells together.

Using these modules, the team reduced the tokens needed for spreadsheet encoding by 96%. This, in turn, enabled a slight (12.3%) improvement over another leading research team’s work into helping LLMs understand spreadsheets. The researchers tried their spreadsheet identification method with these LLMs:

  • OpenAI’s GPT-4 and GPT-3.5.
  • Meta’s Llama 2 and Llama 3 .
  • Microsoft’s Phi-3.
  • Mistral AI’s Mistral-v2.

For the Chain of Spreadsheet capabilities, they used GPT-4.

What does SpreadsheetLLM mean for Microsoft’s AI efforts?

The obvious advantage for Microsoft here is in enabling its AI assistant Copilot , which works in many Microsoft 365 suite applications, to do more in Excel. SpreadsheetLLM represents the ongoing effort to make generative AI practical – and opening up Excel to people who haven’t been trained on its more advanced features might be a good niche for generative AI to expand into.

SEE: How deeply your business engages with Microsoft Copilot will affect which – if any – version is right for your work. 

Real-world usage and next steps for this Microsoft research

A 12.3% improvement over a previous, leading research team’s findings is more academically significant than economically significant for now. Generative AI is infamous for making things up , and hallucinations cascading through a spreadsheet could render huge swaths of data useless. As the researchers point out, getting an LLM to understand a spreadsheet’s format – that is, what a spreadsheet usually looks like and how it functions – is different from getting the LLM to generate comprehensible, accurate data inside those cells.

In addition, this methodology takes a lot of computing power and multiple passes through a LLM to generate an answer. Plus, your office’s Excel wizard might be able to pull an answer in a few minutes without using nearly as much energy.

Going forward, the research team wants to include a way to encode details like the background color of cells and to deepen the LLMs’ understanding of how words within the cells relate to one another.

TechRepublic has reached out to Microsoft for more information.

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Seven graduate students honored with Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships

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MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (7/18/2024) – Seven graduate students advised by Department of Chemistry faculty members were recently awarded the University of Minnesota’s Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. The seven students honored by this prestigious award are Kaylee Barr, Brylon Denman, Madeline Honig, Chris Seong, Sneha Venkatachalapathy, Murphi Williams, and Caini Zheng.

Kaylee Barr , a Chemical Engineering and Materials Science PhD student, is entering her fifth year in the Reineke Group . Before making the move to Minnesota, she received her BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kansas. “I came to the University of Minnesota because of the department's developments in polymer science, and because I was interested in the intersection of polymer science and drug delivery in Theresa Reineke's lab,” she says. Here at UMN, Kaylee studies how bottlebrush polymer architecture affects pH-responsive oral drug delivery. This summer, she is excited to grow professionally and as a scientist in an intern position at Genentech.

Brylon Denman is a Chemistry PhD candidate in the Roberts Group . She joined the UMN community in 2020 after completing her BS in Biochemistry at St. Louis University. “My research in the Roberts group seeks to resolve regioselectivity and reactivity issues within aryne methodology via ligand control,” Brylon says. “To accomplish this task, I have taken a mechanistic and hypothesis driven approach to understand how key molecular parameters modify regioselectivity and reactivity. I hope to use the knowledge I have gained from these studies to both improve the synthetic utility of aryne intermediates, and improve the sustainability of aryne reactions.” Brylon is also passionate about sustainable and green chemistry. As a founding member of the Sustainable and Green Chemistry committee, Brylon strives to collaborate with other department teammates to strengthen the culture of green and sustainable chemistry through integration into teaching, research, and community engagement. “In my career I aim to continue this advocacy and use my breadth of knowledge to enact sustainable change at a major pharmaceutical company as emphasizing sustainability on such a large scale can lead to a large impact,” she says. As she works through her internship at AbbVie this summer, Brylon is looking towards the future to outline her next steps after graduation.

Madeline Honig first experienced Chemistry at UMN during a summer REU experience in the Bühlmann Lab . She formally joined the Prof. Bühlmann's team in Fall 2020 after earning her BA in Chemistry from Earlham College. Her research here at UMN  has focused on the development and improved understanding of polymeric membrane-based ion-selective electrodes (ISEs). “One of my projects involves developing a quantitative parameter to better define the upper detection limits of these sensors which can be used to more accurately define sensor performance and predict the working range under different conditions,” Madeline says. “This research led us to investigate the unexplained 'super-Nernstian' responses of some pH-selective electrodes and expand the phase boundary model (the quantitative model that predicts ISE behavior) to include the formation of complexes between protonated ionophores and counter-ions in the sensing membrane. ISEs have been widely used for decades in clinical blood analysis among many other applications so it's exciting that I was still able to add to our fundamental understanding of how these sensors function.” One of Madeline’s goals is to use her research to enable the development of improved sensors that can be used in a wider range of conditions. Over the course of her graduate studies, Madeline has had the opportunity to be a graduate student mentor for two other students: Ariki Haba, a visiting master's student from Japan, and Katie O'Leary, a summer REU student, who both made significant contributions to the project. “Acting as a graduate mentor was really cool and I hope I can also make graduate-level chemistry research more approachable for everyone that I work with,” Madeline says. For her significant research efforts, Madeline was also recently selected in a national competition as one of the four winners of the 2024 Eastern Analytical Symposium Graduate Student Research Award. She will accept the award in November in Plainsboro NJ at the Eastern Analytical Symposium.

Chris Seong , an international student from New Zealand and PhD candidate in the Roberts Group, came to UMN after completing his BA with Distinction in Chemistry at St. Olaf College in 2020. Chris’ overarching chemistry interests involve the development of methods to utilize naturally abundant carboxylic acids as feedstock to synthesize medicinally relevant products, which are traditionally made with non-renewable starting materials derived from fossil fuels. “My earlier work has been focused on making alkyl-alkyl bonds through decarboxylation, but lately, in true Roberts Group fashion, I have turned my attention to using a similar mechanism to do aryne chemistry,” Chris says. He is currently working to publish a paper on the aryne project that he has been working on with two talented group mates; Sal Kargbo and Felicia Yu. “I am really excited to share this cool chemistry with the world,” he says. Outside of the lab, Chris is working on expanding his network to apply for jobs in the pharmaceutical industry – specifically in the early process space.

Sneha Venkatachalapathy is a member of the Distefano Group and an international student from India. She completed her BS in Chemistry with a minor degree in Biotechnology from Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida, India in 2020. “Chemistry has always been my passion since high school. I still remember my first successful brown ring test that has left a remarkable fascination and interest towards chemistry,” Sneha says. “This early fascination has driven my academic journey, guided by mentors like Dr. Subhabrata Sen, who encouraged me to pursue a PhD in the United States.” Sneha was drawn towards working in the Chemical Biology research field where she could directly contribute to developing human life. “Joining Dr. Mark Distefano’s lab at UMN provided me with the chance to collaborate with Dr. Mohammad Rashidian from Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Together, we work towards expanding the scope of protein prenylation to construct protein-based cancer diagnostic tools,” she says. Sneha’s goal for her time in the UMN PhD program is to create innovative protein-based tools for cancer detection and treatment, aiming to enhance patient’s quality of life. She says she is looking forward to continuing to develop her leadership skills as she continues her doctorate, and is also exploring future opportunities beyond UMN. “One thing that motivates me daily is the belief that my research contributions to the scientific community would enhance our understanding of cancer diagnostic methods, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes worldwide,” she says.

Murphi Williams  completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, then joined the Bhagi-Damodaran at UMN in 2020. When it comes to research, Murphi is interested in chemical biology, more specifically, looking into proteins involved in important biological problems. “One of my major projects is developing and characterizing a potential inhibitor for  Mycobacterium tuberculosis , the bacteria that causes tuberculosis,” Murphi says. “Tuberculosis is the leading infectious disease so my projects center on understanding and inhibiting heme proteins important for the bacteria. Specifically, a previous lab member identified a small molecule that I've been characterizing the activity of in cells.” Her current research goal is to express and purify the protein targets for her small molecule inhibitor in the lab to further demonstrate the in vitro activity. She is also contemplating a future career in science communication. Outside of the lab, she enjoys working on her garden. 

Caini Zheng joined the Chemistry at the UMN in 2019 after finishing her undergraduate studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. She is currently a sixth-year graduate student co-advised by Profs. Tim Lodge and Ilja Siepmann . Her research focuses on the phase behavior of soft materials, including polymers and oligomers. Her DDF statement is titled "Self-Assembly of Polymers and Amphiphiles into Bicontinuous Phases". Caini is currently working on a project to elucidate the self-assembly of glycolipids through molecular dynamics simulations coupled with machine learning methods. In the future, she wants to work in the industry on bridging data science with traditional material research.

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  1. Infographic: Steps in the Research Process

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  2. Research Process: 8 Steps in Research Process

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

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  4. [steps of research]

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  5. [DIAGRAM] Diagram Of Steps To Follow When Planning A Research Project

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

    Step 4: Create a research design. 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 ...

  2. Research Process Steps: What they are + How To Follow

    Step 1: Identify the Problem. Finding an issue or formulating a research question is the first step. A well-defined research problem will guide the researcher through all stages of the research process, from setting objectives to choosing a technique. There are a number of approaches to get insight into a topic and gain a better understanding ...

  3. Research Process

    Research Process Steps. Research Process Steps are as follows: Identify the Research Question or Problem. ... Start with a clear research question: A well-defined research question is the foundation of a successful research project. It should be specific, relevant, and achievable within the given time frame and resources. ...

  4. Basic Steps in the Research Process

    Step 1: Identify and develop your topic. Selecting a topic can be the most challenging part of a research assignment. Since this is the very first step in writing a paper, it is vital that it be done correctly. Here are some tips for selecting a topic: Select a topic within the parameters set by the assignment.

  5. Key Steps in the Research Process

    Step 4: Develop a Research Plan. Having formulated a precise research question, the ensuing phase involves developing a detailed research plan. This plan, integral to the research process steps, acts as a navigational guide for your project, keeping you organized, concentrated, and on a clear path to accomplishing your research objectives.

  6. The Research Process

    Designing the research project. A good research design involves data analysis methods suited to the research question, and where data collection generates appropriate data for the analysis method (Willig, 2001). Designing a qualitative study is a critical step in the research process, serving as the blueprint for the research study.

  7. How To Write A Research Proposal

    Here is an explanation of each step: 1. Title and Abstract. Choose a concise and descriptive title that reflects the essence of your research. Write an abstract summarizing your research question, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes. It should provide a brief overview of your proposal. 2.

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  13. How to Write a Research Plan: A Step by Step Guide

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    Just be careful that you don't end up stuck with an idea you want to do, but are afraid to do because you know someone else did it before. 4. Think from all angles. If you have at least a little direction based on the project guidelines, take that basic direction and start turning it over and over in your mind.

  16. How to plan a research project

    Step 3: Review previous research. In academic research, from articles to books, it's common to find a section called a 'literature review'. The purpose of that section is to describe the state of the art in knowledge on the research question that a project has posed.

  17. Beginner's Guide to Research

    Therefore, knowing how to (1) identify popular vs. academic sources, (2) differentiate between primary and secondary sources, and (3) find academic sources is a vital step in writing research. Below are definitions of the two ways scholars categorize types of sources based on when they were created (i.e. time and place) and how (i.e. methodology):

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    15 Steps to Good Research. Define and articulate a research question (formulate a research hypothesis). How to Write a Thesis Statement (Indiana University) Identify possible sources of information in many types and formats. Georgetown University Library's Research & Course Guides. Judge the scope of the project.

  19. How to Research: 5 Steps in the Research Process

    How to Research: 5 Steps in the Research Process. Written by MasterClass. Last updated: Mar 18, 2022 • 3 min read. Research is an essential process to keep yourself informed on any topic with reliable sources of information. Research is an essential process to keep yourself informed on any topic with reliable sources of information.

  20. What Are the Steps of the Research Process? (Plus Tips)

    1. Identify the project topic. A successful research process often begins with a clearly defined intent for the research project. You can focus on a topic in nearly any field of study, as the research process broadly applies across all academic and professional fields. The more precisely you identify the topic for your research, the more ...

  21. Starting steps for research project success

    Here are five steps you should take when you're just starting your research project. 1. Find the right supervisor. A good supervisor will provide guidance on the design, methods, and structure of your research project, as well as advice on how to best analyze and interpret data.

  22. How to Do a Research Project: Step-by-Step Process |Leverage Edu

    The first step towards doing a research project is choosing a relevant topic. Many students find it difficult to select a topic for their research project since they want to research a popular but less researched topic, something which is difficult to find. Browse through the recent studies and works in your chosen field and then find the best ...

  23. 5 Steps in the Research Process

    The following steps outline a simple and effective process for conducting both basic and practical research. The five (5) steps in the research process are: [1] Step 1: Locating and Defining Issues or Problems - Understanding the questions that need to be answered or studied. Step 2: Designing the Research Project - Creating a research plan.

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