It can be difficult to know where to begin while writing a thesis or dissertation, but there are some simple procedures to follow.

The research process frequently starts with a broad concept for a topic you’d like to learn more about. To identify a problem, you conduct preliminary research. You can lay the foundations of your research design after refining your research questions, leading to a proposal that outlines your ideas and plans.

This article will walk you through the first steps of the research process, assisting you in narrowing your options and laying a solid foundation for your research project.

Step 1: Decide on a topic.

You must first generate some concepts. Your thesis or dissertation topic may begin with a broad scope. Consider the broad area or field in which you’re interested—perhaps you already have specific research interests based on classes you’ve taken, or perhaps you had to think about your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose.

Even if you already have a decent notion of what you want to do, you’ll need to read a lot to have a good foundation and start narrowing down your options. To begin gathering relevant sources, conduct an initial literature review. Take notes while you read and try to spot issues, questions, arguments, contradictions, and holes. Your goal is to narrow down a large area of interest into a niche.

Consider the practicalities: your program’s requirements, the amount of time you have to complete the research, and how difficult it will be to find sources and data on the subject. It’s a good idea to discuss the topic with your thesis supervisor before going on to the next stage.

>>Learn more about selecting a study topic.

Step 2: Identify the issue

So you’ve decided on a topic and a niche—but what will your study look into, and why is it important? You must define a research problem to offer your project focus and purpose.

The issue could be a practical one, such as a poorly performing procedure or practice, an area of concern in an organization’s performance, or a challenge experienced by a certain group of individuals in society.

You might also look into a theoretical issue, such as an understudied phenomena or relationship, a discrepancy between multiple models or theories, or an unsolved argument among academics.

You can develop a problem statement to put the situation in context and outline your goals. This section explains who is affected by the problem, why study is needed, and how your research project will help to solve it.

>>Learn how to define a research problem.

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Step 3: Make a list of research questions.

You must then construct one or more research questions based on the problem statement. These are specific to the information you seek. They may choose to describe, compare, evaluate, or explain the research problem.

A good research question should be specific enough that you can fully answer it using qualitative or quantitative research methods. It should also be complicated enough to necessitate extensive research, analysis, and argument. For a thesis or dissertation, questions that can be answered with a simple “yes/no” or with readily available facts are not complex enough.

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

>>Examples of research questions

Step 4: Make a research plan.

The research design is a useful tool for addressing your research questions. It entails deciding what kind of data you’ll need, how you’ll collect and analyze it, and where and how long you’ll conduct your research.

When it comes to answering your inquiries, there are often several options. Your priorities will influence some of your decisions. Do you wish to know about causes and effects, draw generalizable conclusions, or learn about the specifics of a situation?

You must choose between primary and secondary data, as well as qualitative and quantitative methodologies. You must also decide on the tools, techniques, and materials you will use to gather and evaluate your data, as well as the criteria you will use to pick participants or sources.

>>Learn more about designing a research study.

Step 5: Come up with a research idea.

Finally, you are ready to write a research proposal after completing these procedures. The context, relevance, objective, and plan of your research are all outlined in the proposal.

The proposal should include a literature analysis that illustrates how your study will fit into existing work on the topic, in addition to the background, problem description, and research questions. The research design section outlines your strategy and discusses what you’ll be doing.

You may need to receive your supervisor’s approval before you begin, and it will assist you through the process of writing your thesis or dissertation.