Frank Rennie & Keith Smyth

Chapter 2 – Planning research

All the content relating to the chapter above is below

This chapter of the book highlights the need to effectively plan your research. You will be encouraged to think about what you want to achieve at the end of the research process and how you would like to do this. Having a clear idea of how to document the research process is essential and needs to be determined at an early stage. Planning your project effectively and allocating time to identified tasks is central to the research process. It is important to consider these goals and deadlines and this companion website will provide you with examples of the experiences of different researchers and their approaches to effectively planning research.

I think the first thing to consider when planning research is to identify a research topic which is relevant and meaningful in terms of what you want to look at, but which is also achievable. I think you need to work with your supervisor to make sure that whatever topic you’ve chosen, and whatever angle you want to pursue, that’s achievable in the timeframe you’ve got whether it’s an undergraduate or post-graduate dissertation.

I think refining your topic to make sure it is manageable and then from there identifying relevant but also clear and achievable research questions or research objectives. Then from there, I think we need to think about devising a clear achievable plan for the research project, that covers who we’re going to involve in the data collection and analysis, what we’re going to look at, the literature we’re going to interrogate and research, but also what we’ll do in terms of methodology, the data analysis process and then the write up, and I think it’s really important to have a plan which again is achievable in the timeframe that you have to work to. That will be different as an undergraduate versus a post-graduate project, but make sure you’ve got a plan that’s achievable in that timeframe.

I think there are a number of pitfalls, talking from my own experience, as an undergraduate and post-grad, and also as a lecturer and academic, I think knowing when to stop reading, is a big pitfall, and not easy, but knowing when to stop reading and stop looking for literature. I think being able to decide when you have enough data and I think also being pragmatic about what’s achievable in terms of the context of your project and it’s really important that whether it’s undergraduate or post-graduate level, that researchers see their projects as a series of tasks to be achieved, rather than one big task that has to be achieved, so think about the methodology, think about the timeframe for your lit review, think about the timeframe for data collection. Don’t worry so much about the process of writing up the dissertation until you’ve taken care of those other stages.

Comprising a series of useful top tips when writing a research proposal, including advice from experienced researchers

This You Tube clip takes the form of a Power Point presentation followed by reflections from an experienced researcher.

Educational Videos YouTube - Writing a research proposal

How to tackle your dissertation with flair

This is a link to a web page from the University of London International Programmes. It offers good guidance on approaching your dissertation and planning research. There are several links from this page to other useful resources.

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tips dissertation - Tips before you start your dissertation

The basics of planning your research project including analysis, documentation, data and data collection.

This is a 14 minute You Tube clip from Syracuse University library. It covers pretty much all you need for planning your research. It is perhaps a little unexciting, but nevertheless, it covers all the bases.

Educational Videos YouTube - Planning your research

Coverall – intro, design, data, presenting… An online handbook produced by the University of Surrey to give students an introduction to research.

A link to an extensive set of notes from the University of Surrey dealing with the whole process of documenting research. It starts with a consideration of why we do research, works through a range of planning issues that need to be considered, and concludes with a section on how research result might be utilised. Contains some embedded links.

The contents are well-defined and easy to read, in short, informative sub-sections. Not all of the sections will be appropriate to every research project, so students will need to use their own judegement, but taken as a whole, the document gives a good overview of the kinds of issues which students need to consider when preparing a research dissertation.

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university of surrey importance pilot studies - Introduction to research - handbook

A set of short dissertation writing videos from Massey University with resources for students.

These are helpfully broken-up into separate tasks, such as preparing a proposal, writing a report, editing, and so on. Each video clip gives a general overview and some guidance for students to help manage the selected task.

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massey university dissertation videos - Dissertation videos from Massey University

This links to an assemblage of video clips relating to various aspects of research and the preparation of research reports.

Individual videos deal with different forms of research, evaluation, and project planning. The clips range from 30 minutes to an hour each, so you may wish to watch them in stages, or allow time to watch, pause, and take notes. Different videos will be appropriate to different subject matter, so you may want to discuss your initial options with your supervisor before you invest time learning a research method which is not suitable for the topic of your study.

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Educational Videos YouTube - Research and the preparation of research reports (by Dr Sam Fiala)