How to plan a research project

How to plan a research
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
How is research
• 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
• By following the steps below, you will
be able to design your own research
Step 1 – Find an
interesting topic
• Brainstorm – use mind maps and lists.
Always land on their feet
Have nine lives
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
• My question will be: ‘Do cats always land on
their feet?’
Step 3 – Search the
• 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
– 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
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!
• 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.