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Planning and conducting a dissertation research project

2. Don’t be shy, ask!

❶Types of research, and some suggestions for each "Academic" research This term refers here to seeking facts, general information on a topic, historical background, study results, etc.

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Many articles will state some of the unanswered questions and speculate on future directions or suggest experiments that will be necessary in the future. Use these as a springboard for your own ideas. Perform a comprehensive literature search.

You may have done a brief literature search to help you develop a research question, but now you must really do your homework. Read the current literature as well as some of the seminal papers that established the field. The literature search will help you design the experiments and determine the proper experimental conditions to use. Take detailed notes as you read through the literature. You will likely be writing a paper on this information after your study is complete and this information will be the basis of your introduction.

Revise the research question. A good research question is clear, specific, refers directly to the problem, and identifies a target group of participants. Using your new knowledge, make your research question or questions more specific.

A hypothesis is testable generalization or prediction about an observable phenomenon. A hypothesis can describe cause and effect or a relationship between the variables you are studying.

Outline your research plan. The research plan is the roadmap for your studies. When working on a research plan, keep in mind that the final objective is usually publication. Design your experiments with this in mind. Who or what is the study population? Do you need ethical approvals to work with the necessary subjects?

How is the data collected? How do you define success in a study? What type of statistics will you use to analyze the data? If an experiment will not produce data that you would include in a paper, is it necessary to the understanding of the problem?

This is called negative data and can help you view your problem from a different perspective or be used as a reference to revise your experiment. Determine the sample size. In order for your experiment to be meaningful, you need to have an experimental sample size large enough to perform statistical analyses on. In order to determine this, you need to know some information about your experimental population and use a power analysis calculator.

Identify all of the necessary solutions and equipment. When designing the experiment you need to know all of the solutions you will need to use and the type of equipment you will need access to.

Many universities have core facilities with instruments you can use if your specific lab does not have all of the equipment necessary. You may need to be trained on the equipment and develop the proper expertise before you can start your experiments. Keep this in mind when planning a timeline. State all experimental conditions. The key to a well-designed experiment is to have a manageable number of testable conditions.

You will likely have to do a few smaller experiments to optimize the test conditions you will use in the final experiments. Literature searches can help you identify time points, dosages, and treatment conditions relevant to your studies.

Include the necessary controls. Experimental data is useless without the proper control conditions to compare them to. A control is a condition that is kept constant and used to measure the change of the experimental condition. A proper experiment has only one variable and multiple controls to ensure that any changes seen in the results are due specifically to the variable that was changed. To test different variables, you will need to perform multiple experiments.

Define the experimental outcomes. In research you must identify and define what the outcome is for your study. If you are studying a biological process, the outcome may be the measure of the amount of a specific protein produced. Save this one for when you receive a healthy research grant. Having a project timeline is everything. It keeps you on track all the time. You should have a timeline set out in the first week, stating targets that you must achieve throughout the duration of your research project.

Things could go wrong here and there, and you can always adjust dates, but it is very important to have a schedule, ideally broken down further into weekly targets. Ask your supervisor about what kind of targets you should set and try to achieve these on a weekly basis. Doing this should help you avoid becoming overwhelmed. Start writing from day one. This is something I learned the hard way. Documenting the whole process as you go will help you finalize the project in a very effective way.

Remember, it only has to make sense once the whole project is finished. So even if it seems raw, keep on writing and get regular feedback from your supervisor. These are some general rules that apply to every research project.

You will definitely have to alter a few things here and there depending on your area of interest and your topic. I wish you good luck for this.

Finally, remember that persistence is the key. Want more content like this? Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed. Thank you very much zain.. It's very good and detailed path to pursue any research project. I also did research internship with Carnegie Mellon university and found similar points. In fact, they're probably working and paying taxes. It's only the 15 still in jail that taxpayers are funding.

Any advocacy requires some basic research, but there are times when research is particularly valuable. Often, the research needed here is statistical. What percent of teens drop out of high school in the community, and how does that compare to other, similar communities? Have there been increases in homelessness over the past year, or the past several years? Are there more homeless families than there were?

Has youth violence increased in the community, and, if so, who are its victims? Numbers are what's required here, so that people can see trends in issues of importance to the community. Mark Twain said that "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. If there has been a five-year upward trend in homelessness, for instance, one group may state that and stop there, while another may point out that the trend in fact peaked three years ago, and has been heading downward since.

It may not have gotten down to where it was five years ago, but it's headed in that direction. So two groups, using the same statistic, can come to different conclusions: An intelligent opponent - and, if you have opponents, you should always assume they're at least as smart as you are, and that they'll do their homework - could demolish your argument if you aren't careful how you use the numbers you find.

Your research has to be impeccable - always make certain that information that seems to prove your point actually does so, that you don't exaggerate to make your case stronger, and that you pay attention to anything that seems to show the opposite. You should never have to argue about whose numbers are "right. If they don't agree with what you're advocating, you can reframe your issue - present it in a different way, or restate the problem it presents.

In the case of homelessness, for instance, you may want to argue that whether it's rising or declining, it's still a serious problem that the community should tackle: Even one is too many, and we have If your research in fact shows that you're dead wrong about what you're trying to prove, you may have to rethink it. No matter how much you may "know" emotionally that you're right, if the evidence says otherwise, you have to admit it and make sense of that.

Research can serve to find the proof that exposes corrupt, dishonest, or unethical officials. From the small town treasurer who helps herself to a few thousand dollars from municipal funds to Richard Nixon, whose coverup of the Watergate break-in cost him the Presidency, officials who violate the law are generally caught by careful research rather than by some dramatic event.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's interviews with various participants in the Watergate affair, for instance, eventually led them to the source known as "Deep Throat" who blew the whistle on the Nixon administration. At some times, there are things the public, even in a democratic society, should not know.

If, in World War II, the press had routinely published the locations of Allied ships, for instance, the enemy would have been extremely pleased - and the ships in question would have been sunk.

When the government or another entity lies to the detriment of the public good, however, or to protect itself politically, that is another matter. The source of acid rain in the eastern U.

If you're wondering why there are no more fish in the local river, or if there's some question about your drinking water, you might want to look into acid rain effects, or spend some time in the town archives and in the library finding out what substances local factories are dumping in the river, and what chemical effects those substances have.

Environmental threats to public well-being aren't the only kinds of harm that research can help prevent. Looking into the effects of proposed government policies can save citizens from unfortunate social or economic consequences Research into the relationships among corporations, accounting firms, and Wall Street analysts could perhaps have saved investors from such financial disasters as the collapse of Enron, one of the largest American corporations. Many thousands of middle-income citizens lost their retirement money in that debacle, either directly or through pension fund investments.

In these situations, you may not be looking for anything specific. Health care advocates, for instance, often conduct research to determine a community's health care needs, and what could best meet those needs, so that they'll know exactly what to advocate for. Since, as we'll discuss in more detail below, there are many different types of research, there's no one set method for doing all types.

We will, however, propose some general guidelines that apply to any kind of advocacy research, and try to give you some more specific pointers on conducting each of the types of research you're likely to encounter. You don't necessarily have to do everything yourself. There may be many possibilities for assistance out there. There may already be studies relating to the issue you're concerned with, or someone else in the community may already have spent weeks finding the information you're looking for.

Don't make life any more difficult than it has to be: Your research will do you no good if it isn't accurate and to the point. If there are laws involved, make sure you have read and understood them before you look for evidence that they've been broken, or need to be changed.

If you suspect that someone might be violating professional ethics, find out whether that profession has a formal code of ethics, and study it carefully. If there's an environmental issue, learn the science behind it, at least well enough so that you can explain it, and so that you can understand and counter arguments against your position.

If you read something you don't understand, find help. Consult an attorney or legislator, a science teacher, your brother-in-law - whomever you can find that actually knows about the area you need to understand. If your information is wrong, or if you don't fully understand what you're talking about, you'll undermine your position, and your advocacy will fall on deaf ears.

Knowing the reason for gathering the information will help you decide exactly what to look for, how much you need, and what form it needs to be in. Some common reasons for advocacy research:. This is a situation in which your research must be, as we mentioned before, impeccable. Don't fudge anything - someone will be waiting for the opportunity to pounce on the least inaccuracy or error, and to use it to try to discredit your whole argument.

Use only real, reliable figures, and don't over- or underestimate their meaning. Don't stretch a point - assuming that all high school dropouts are illiterate, for instance - or it will come back to haunt you.

Don't mistake anecdote for fact: Perhaps most important, don't give in to the natural tendency to overestimate the value of a piece of information that supports your point of view. If you can't make a strong case with the information as it is, you may need to reexamine your assumptions. All sources of information are not equally reliable. Reputable news organs like the New York Times , the Washington Post , and Newsweek , for instance, demand that all stories be carefully checked before they're published.

That doesn't mean that they never get anything wrong, but it does mean that they're less likely to than, say, the National Enquirer. The Internet is a great source of information, but there's no guarantee that any of it is accurate. Anyone can establish a website and put on it practically anything she wants to, without regard to whether it's accurate or not. If you find information on the Internet, unless it's from the website of a generally reliable source - the New York Times , the Encyclopedia Britannica , your state university, the U.

Treasury Department - it's best to be cautious about using it without first checking it elsewhere. As mentioned several times in this section, if your facts - even facts that aren't necessarily an important part of your argument - are wrong, your opposition will make you pay for it. Even something as apparently reliable as a chemistry textbook might not be trustworthy.

If it was published 30 years ago, it might contain "facts" that have since been reinterpreted. Always check your findings if your source is even the slightest bit questionable. Information may be difficult and tedious to find. An agency or organization - not necessarily one you're researching - may throw up roadblocks.

You may have to cut through mountains of red tape just to gain access to a paper you want to see, or to get some small piece of information. It's common for citizens' groups to have to sue under the Freedom of Information Act see below to get the government to release public documents. Keeping at it is perhaps the most important research tool there is. This term refers here to seeking facts, general information on a topic, historical background, study results, etc.

There are a number of ways to get this kind of information:. Use the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to public documents. FOIA applies only to federal government documents, however, and only to those of government agencies and other parts of the executive branch. It doesn't apply, for instance, to the records of Congress, a corporation, a private organization or institution - for-profit or nonprofit - that receives no public money, or a private citizen although some of these may be public documents as well.

However, most states do have their own versions of the FOIA often called Public Records Acts that cover state and local agencies and officials. Use other government and corporate documents. There are a number of websites of watchdog organizations that try to hold governments or corporations accountable for what they do. They keep track of the activities of these entities, and try to publicize them when they are not in the public interest. When the information you're looking for concerns the community's past experience with an issue, the relationships between key people, what's happening inside that factory, or someone's personal experience, the best way to find it is usually by talking to individuals.

You may use informal conversations, structured interviews, or something in between, but the purpose in all cases is to get as much information as possible. How to find and talk to the right people:. A structured interview is constructed in a particular way in order to yield particular information. Formal studies that depend upon interview information from participants usually use structured interviews in order to assure to the extent possible that all participants respond to the same questions.

In informal research, you might not be quite as careful, but the structured format really does assure that various people's answers to the questions are comparable.

If you want to know what most people in the community think about something, or how many people would take advantage of a service if it were available, a survey is a way to reach a lot of people quickly. A survey usually consists of a list of simple questions on a topic, and may include as well some chance for respondents to express a broader opinion or comment on the issue. You can conduct surveys by mail, by phone, in person, by e-mail, on a website, or by making them available in public places leaving fliers in doctors' offices, for instance, or publishing them in the newspaper and providing drop boxes for returning them.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Try to ensure randomization of your sample. If you want to get an accurate idea of the community opinion - or, more likely, the diversity of community opinion - about anything, you have to get a cross-section of the community to respond to your survey.

That means males and females from all walks of life, all ages, races, cultures and ethnicities, etc. A special case of survey technique, one that shares some elements of a survey and some of a structured interview, is a focus group.

This is a group, recruited either from a random sample or from a particular population, that then engages in a structured discussion with a facilitator who tries to gain specific information from the group members without telling them directly what that information is. The idea is to get information that's more accurate because group members won't edit what they say in relation to the topic. Focus groups can be a useful research tool in some situations. A study is an investigation, based on the principles of the natural or social sciences, of a phenomenon or issue.

Studies are used for such purposes as looking at the effectiveness of an intervention, finding ways to prevent or treat a medical condition, or examining the economic and other effects of a social condition homelessness, for instance on a community and its members. Studies can be conducted in different ways. For instance, they can be quantitative - with results dependent on numbers and statistical procedures - or qualitative - based on observations of behavior, participants' reports of how they or their lives have changed, etc.

Some studies seek to understand cause and effect - what causes something else to happen. Others look for correlations - connections - between two factors.

Still others are concerned only with the answers to very specific questions: How quickly can participants learn a new skill using method A as opposed to method B? If you're planning to conduct a study, or to have someone else - a university researcher, a watchdog organization - conduct one for you, consider these important points:. A better-designed study would have at least two groups: A comparison of those groups would give more accurate information than looking at the target group and a random group.

Even then, you have to be aware of the difference between correlation and cause and effect. If two factors go together - e. The cause may in fact be genetic: Understanding that issues like these can be involved in research will help you prepare for countering opponents and bolstering your own argument. A badly conceived or badly run study not only will yield no useful information, but can discredit your argument, or even your whole effort.

If you're doing a study, and don't have the expertise yourself, then confer with experts, get professional researchers to help you, attach yourself to the coattails of a larger organization - do whatever it takes to make sure that the results of the study are accurate and will be respected. The investigation of facts, events, etc. They would check all their devices, call the US Weather Service, and determine that it was sunny, but would rain later that day.

Kent would do all that, but then, a minute before the broadcast, he'd stick his head out the window, come on TV, and say, "It's raining hard in Boston at the moment, and it should continue into the evening. For the most part, that's the kind of detective work we're talking about here.

Do you want to know what the physical conditions in that housing project are really like? Go down there and look for yourself. Talk to tenants, walk around, and take notes or pictures, or both. Don't rely on your media "experience" alone. We've become used to thinking we know what other neighborhoods or other places are like, but what TV - even TV news - or movies show us may be far from reality.

Especially if you're gathering information to use as a base for advocacy, the best way to understand conditions is to explore them yourself: Detective work may also involve sifting through documents of some sort. The real Erin Brockovich, whose story was told in the movie of the same name, went through water department records and other documents, looking for water quality ratings and for the chemical substances found in the water that people in Hinkley, CA, were drinking.

Her detective work called for enormous attention to detail and amazing patience; but it paid off in the evidence that led to a huge settlement for people who'd been sickened and otherwise injured by the tainted water.

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Suppose your research project involves travelling halfway around the world to conduct a field investigation. The question you must be asking yourself is: can I afford that much time and money? If not, then no matter how brilliant your idea is, you need to think of something else.

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When you are involved in conducting a research project, you generally go through the steps described below, either formally or informally. Some of these are directly involved in designing the experiment to test the hypotheses required by the project. The following steps are generally used in conducting a research project. 1.

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This guide addresses the task of planning and conducting a small research project, such as for an undergraduate or masters’ level dissertation. It aims to help you develop a clear sense of direction early on in the project, and to support you in organising, planning, and monitoring your project. Feb 21,  · How to Conduct Scientific Research Four Parts: Planning a Research Project Designing an Experiment Conducting the Experiments Analyzing and Publishing the Data Community Q&A If you want to contribute knowledge to the scientific community by conducting a scientific research project, you need to know the basic steps%(59).

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Conduct Research Students are assigned research projects and papers throughout their schooling. Employees are tasked to present information to clients and employers. Conducting Research Projects. Overview. These resources are intended to help residents and students understand the basic steps and principles of conducting practice-based research projects. Pharmacists who want to conduct practice-based projects can also benefit from the information presented. These presentations start with generating the.