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Library Subject Guides

1. Plan your Research: Starting Your Research

A guide for starting your research at University of Canterbury

First steps

  • Discuss your proposed topic with a member of academic staff who you think might be appropriate to supervise the project.
  • Have a look at the contact pages of academics on the University Web Site to see what their research interests are.
  • They may have suggestions for thesis topics  on their web pages 
  • You may be able to join in on some aspect of an existing research project  

 

You should think realistically about the practical implications of your choice

Think about 

  • Time requirement;
  • Necessary travelling;
  • Access to equipment or room space;
  • Access to the population of interest
  • Costs 
  • Sources of funding 

 

 

Develop your research question

What issue are you going to be investigating;
your argument or thesis (what you want to prove, disprove, or explore); and
the limits of your research (i.e. what you are not going to be investigating).

It is important that you establish a research problem at, or close to the start of, your project. It is one of the key tools you have, to ensure that your project keeps going in the right direction. Every task you undertake should begin with you checking your research problem and asking “will this help me address this problem?”.

What are the limits of your research question?

the limits of your research (i.e. what you are not going to be investigating).
It is important that you establish a research problem at, or close to the start of, your project. It is one of the key tools you have, to ensure that your project keeps going in the right direction. Every task you undertake should begin with you checking your research problem and asking “will this help me address this problem?”.

Be ready to revise your original plan

You may discover that the data you were hoping to analyze is not available, or you may encounter a new piece of information or a new concept while undertaking a literature search, that makes you rethink the basis of your research problem.
You should always talk to your supervisor before you make any substantial revision to your plans, and explain why you think you need to make the change.

Make your final choice

The last stage is to make your final choice of project. Does the topic really interest me and excite me? The answer needs to be ‘yes’, for you will be living with the topic for a long time so you have to feel excited about doing it. 

  • Do not choose a project that is too large. Most postgraduate students’ first ideas about a research project are too ambitious, involving large amounts of data collection and questions that are too general. Keep your project very focused on a very specific topic. 
     
  • Do not believe your research has to change the world. 
     
  • Start your project with a research question. Having a single overall question that you are investigating provides a very clear focus for your work – and you can keep asking yourself throughout your research ‘Is my work going to help answer my research question?’ to check that what you are doing is relevant. 

Books on starting your research

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