Planning Research

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You may have chosen your research topic or only have a vague idea of an area or problem you would like to explore, and you may have done some preliminary or background reading already, but do not worry if you have not reviewed much literature yet. You will become more focused in your reading as you plan your research. Once you have an idea and sense of a question or problem you would like to research, you will be keen to forge ahead. Yet, how do you know if you have a viable research project? This is where preparing and planning your research are essential for you to ensure a successful research outcome.

Having a great idea is only the beginning of the journey a researcher embarks on. Research ideas need to be made to happen and that means being aware of everything that is required to bring your idea to life. Carrying out the research, such as conducting interviews or implementing surveys, is the fun part of being a researcher. However, researchers of all levels of experience (including professors) have to convince or persuade others that not only is the idea a worthy research topic but also that they are the right person to carry it out. This is why being able to plan your research well matters—you will need to convince your supervisors that you are capable of carrying out and completing your project on time for it to be assessed. This will require proposing your topic in such a way that meets academic standards and requirements; simply put, you will need to sell your ideas and convince your supervisors and other interested parties, such as research ethics committees, of the merit of your idea and your ability to bring it to fruition.

This may be your first experience as a researcher, yet equipped with a viable plan, a convincing proposal and a sense of direction should enhance both your confidence and competence, and enable you to complete your project.

By the end of this Skill, you should be able to

  • Pull your ideas for research together into a viable project plan
  • Identify the resources you need to conduct your research and include them in your plan
  • Create milestones and set goals that help you to maintain momentum and to deliver your project
  • Monitor your progress as well as identify any risks or threats to your research plans and manage them appropriately
  • Appreciate your own strengths as a researcher and identify the support you need during your research journey
  • Seek out critical friends and value their feedback
  • “Sell” your idea in the form of a research proposal
A picture shows a keyboard, a marker, and a few empty sticky notes on a wooden surface.

Source: Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

Did You Know?

There’s a glossary of terms and concepts available for this entire Module in the Beginning Your Research Skill.

Suggested Readings

Sharp, J. A., Peters, J., & Howard, K.(2002). The management of a student research project (
3rd ed.
). Gower Publishing.
Denicolo, P., & Becker, L.(2012). Developing research proposals. SAGE Publications, Ltd.
Kearns, H., & Gardiner, M.(2017). The seven secrets of highly successful research students (
6th ed.
). ThinkWell.
Barker, S., & Cole, R.(2012). Brilliant project management: What the best project managers know, do and say (
3rd ed.
). Pearson.
Buzan, T.(2002). How to mind map: The ultimate thinking tool that will change your life.Thorsons.
Resilience tool - (accessed 10 July 2021)