How do I begin my research project?

First things first…

Writing a research must not be something mystical and/or overly complicated. With proper education and knowledge, planning, designing and completing a research should not be different from completing any other academic assignment.

The main difference between a research and other types of assignments is the depth of knowledge and commitment it requires. Nevertheless, there are certain steps that you can follow to ensure a successful researching experience and subsequent presentation, defense, and (perhaps, even) publication.

Here, you will find what I consider the basic elements that you must consider when starting your research.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the interests and abilities that you may capitalize (you already have and can use) during your research project?
  • Does your research project have a clear objective?
  • Do you know what research methods/techniques you will use?
  • Do you have the resources?
  • Do you have the abilities?
  • Do you have relevant experience in your research field?
  • Can you justify why your research should be of importance for someone else?
  • Who will consider it important?

1. Finding the problem…

  • Look around you.
  • There are many problems around you. You just must look at them from the point of view of a specialist (you are one). As an English teacher/professor, there should be common or recurring problems in your population. Try to find specific problems that you could fix or alleviate with the help of technology.

2. Establishing the problem…

Your research problem must be punctual, concrete, specific and measurable (E.g., students from X level have problems pronouncing or recognizing X phoneme in a specific situation or when a certain combination of phonemes are used.)

3. Variables

Definition of variables – Feel free to make a copy of this document (you will need a google account). Click the button.

Things to note here:

  • Conceptual definition: how do you define the variable as a concept? What is it?
  • Operational definition: how do you define the variable as an element that you will measure, including the processes involved in said measuring?
  • A very very simple example of these two definitions is the duck test:
    • Conceptual definition of duck: a waterbird with a broad blunt bill, short legs, webbed feet, and a waddling gait.
      • This is a conceptual definition because it broadly describes what a duck is -in concepts-, but pays no regard to the operational nature of the variable.
    • Operational definition of duck: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be some kind of duck.
      • This is an definition is operationalized to some extent because such reasoning suggests that tests were carried out to determine how a duck looks, swims, and quacks. In short, it determines the nature of the variable and its properties (physical appearance, movement, and sound -in this particular case).
  • Variable dimension: aspects of specific stages of the soon-to-be researched concepts. If the concept is gender violence, the dimensions would include the different types of violence, the possible perpetrators, the place where the violence take place, the consequences, etc.

Here is a more concrete example:

4. Objectives

4.1 General

Here’s the reference:

Chew, B.C. (2017). Verbs Used to Write Research Objectives, Lecture Notes Distributed in Research Methods BTMP4103 at Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, on 11th September 2017.

If you want to share the list, please cite him. He kindly shared it with us. Citing him is the least we can do.

4.2 Specific objectives

  • Sub-questions that may arise from the general objective
  • Specific steps taken to complete the general objective

5. Hypotheses

  • Hypotheses are possible answers for the research question(s). They are propositions that will be subjected to validity and are derived from the objectives.

6. Consistency Matrix

  • Feel free to make a copy of this consistency matrix to double check if your title, problem, variables, objectives, hypotheses, research methods and instruments are related to one-another.

7. Theoretical Framework (Literature review)

  • Consists on the theoretical description of the variables.
  • Remember: variables are constructs with a specific origin, characteristics, symptoms, stages, etc. They must always be defined by citing researches from different authors.
  • Your theoretical framework must have a logic content structure (like those of books).

8. Types of Research

  • Basic research: describes, explains and defines situations or phenomena.
  • Applied research: demonstrates the validity of methods, instruments and/or techniques.

9. Research Design

10. Validity and Reliability of Instruments.

  • Your evaluation instruments (tests, surveys, etc.) must be tested in terms of reliability and validity.
  • Reliability is defined as the degree to which the result of a measurement, calculation, or specification can be depended on to be accurate. Reliability is measured using Cronbach’s Alpha test.
  • Validity in data collection means that your findings truly represent the phenomenon you are claiming to measure. Valid claims are solid claims. If the test you are using was created by another researcher, the validity is assumed as long as you reference and clarify where it was used. If it was created by you, it must be validated with experts and be used in test-runs.

11. Tables, images, graphs, etc.

Whenever you add an image, table, graph or any other graphic element to your research, make sure you follow these instructions:

  • You must write the name and number of the element on top of it, centered.

You must insert the source caption below the image, in text size 10.

It must be done for all the graphic elements of your research…

All the elements… No exception…