How to plan a research project A step-by-step guide What is Research? • Research is an active process through which ‘researchers’ attempt to make the unknown known. • Research can be conducted on any topic – the only limit is your imagination. How is research conducted? • There are two kinds of research: – Quantitative: where researchers look at changes in quantities and physical effects. They report their results using numbers and statistics. (physics, chemistry, biology, medical research) – Qualitative: where researchers look at peoples’ experiences and opinions. They report their results using case studies and quotations. (sociology, anthropology, political science) • These two kinds of research can be used together or separately. How to design your own project • By following the steps below, you will be able to design your own research project. Step 1 – Find an interesting topic • Brainstorm – use mind maps and lists. Always land on their feet Fur Cats Have nine lives Sleep Animals/mammals Step 2 – Think of a particular question • The most important thing in research is to have a very specific question that you want to ask. • Non-specific: How long do cats sleep for? • Specific: For how long does a cat sleep in a day? • My question will be: ‘Do cats always land on their feet?’ Step 3 – Search the literature • This is important because it will give you an idea of what other people have researched on your topic and will give you ideas about how to answer your own question. • It may enable you to form a hypothesis. • My search found that nobody has ever tested my question, but lots of people say the answer is no. There is no reason to think that cats will always land on their feet, so I hypothesise that the answer is no. Step 4 – How will you test your question? • There are a number of methods you could use: – Laboratory experiments – Observational exercises – Questionnaires • The method you use should help you to answer your question. • I will observe cats falling in a laboratory setting, and count the number of cats that land on their feet. Step 5 – How will you measure your results? • It is important to know how you will measure your results. • Will you measure them: – Using numbers? (quantitative) – Using peoples opinions? (qualitative) • What will your ‘outcome measures’ be? • I will measure my results using numbers. • My ‘outcome measure’ will be ‘a cat landing on three or more feet’. Step 6 – Is what I am planning feasible? • What time constraints do I have? – I have 2 days. • What equipment will I need? – LOTS of cats, somewhere to throw them off of, and cat food. • How expensive will it be? – How much does 100 tins of cat food cost? Step 7 – Is what I am planning ethical? • Will my research contribute something useful to society? • Does my research involve any risk to myself or anyone else? • Is my research dangerous? • What do you think? Step 8 – Write a ‘research protocol’. • It is important to write down exactly what you are planning to do and how you are planning to do it. • This is so that somebody else would be able to repeat your experiment, and also so that you remember what you are supposed to be doing! Finally… • Try to enjoy it – doing research is a rare opportunity to discover more about something that interests you. • Don’t give up – you won’t always get the results you expect, but don’t let this stop you (Remember, penicillin was discovered by accident!) The End Now it’s your turn……. In your groups, take a protocol template and use it to write a protocol for your project.