Easy but Effective Steps to Planning your Research Paper
March 31 2019, By Anuoluwapo Dorcas Oni
Three years ago I was a final year student in a higher institution. Research project is one of the requirements to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree. Being a final year student it was time to write my own research project. Each student was assigned a specific supervisor to guide on the project.
To say the truth, I literally had no idea of how to do a research project or how to write a thesis. Not even close!
So I went to see my project supervisor to put me through, hoping she would give me topic to work on.
"Is there any issue in the society we need to address?” She said out of a subtle curiosity.
As her words rang in my head, I asked myself, "What has this got to do with planning a research project?"
And before long, she broke the silence. She said in a seemingly awakening tone, "Sleep on it".
So, I left her office and headed back to my hostel. I pondered on it, as her words replayed in my head. Then suddenly, I realized a deep secret, without a pinch of doubt. A big truth. Here is it:
Without a problem to solve —the problem statement, there can never be a research topic.
That is a huge fact. I want you to hold on to it.
In that token, solutions dwell amongst problems. Without one the other don't exist. In fact, they are two sides of a coin.
Now, what is the essence of that story? Obviously, I was simply trying to tell you how I began my own research project, as many students often make the mistake that a research project begins with a topic. But I'm here to break the news-The First and most important step in planning a research project begins with a zeal to solve a problem!
So, it was then I learned a lot of lessons that I want to share. One may not know if you have an important project at hand. In case you do, follow these simple steps:
1. Get a Project Supervisor, Discuss Problem Areas and Ask Questions
As mentioned earlier, each student was assigned to a specific supervisor. Luckily for me I was assigned to the Head of Department. She was everything I could pray for. She drilled me on everything I needed to know. Each time I felt like giving up, she was there to motivate me. She was patient with me. In fact, I couldn't have asked for anything better. Having such a supervisor makes the research journey smooth and comfortable.
Establish a good relationship with your supervisor by discussing possible research problem areas with Him or Her. This is further create a cordial working relationship between the two of you.
…If in Doubt, Ask!
A great man once said that asking questions open doors to infinite possibilities. And I believe that matches with what we've been discussing here.
Remember, earlier on, I didn't have any clue of how to do a research project. That was my reality, and I didn’t try to hide it. I made my weakness known to my supervisor. The result: She assured me and she always got my back.
In short, what I am trying to communicate is to have a good rapport with your supervisor. Ask as many questions as you need to. He/she is there to help you out.
2. Select a Good Research Area
Now, listen closely. This is one of the most important, if not the most important.
Passion rules. Why? Passion plus purpose equals mission.
You must select a research area that interests you. See if there is any issue you want to investigate, a problem to solve or area to improve on. When you have been able to discover this, then, you can pick it up from there and discuss with your supervisor. The journey begins....
This will not only determine your project topic, it will also make it interesting. Can you write on happily about building architecture in India, when you are just a fighter in the suburb of Sambisa Forest?
3. Make Sure There are tons of Journals and Literature on the Subject Matter.
You can come up with the best research area and topic in your field, but you need to ask yourself some honest questions like:
Do I have enough resources to complete the project?
If I needed to travel halfway around the world for the project, can I afford the time and the money?
…Be ruthlessly honest.
If your response to those question is NO, then, you need to get another research area or topic you can handle. Alternatively, you can look for other means to fund your project like a research grant.
4. Set Your Research Objectives Straight!
Once you have identified a research area and a research topic crafted from it has been approved, you need to write down the research objectives down. What do I want to achieve with this research? A very good way to write a research objective is by reflecting on the problems on ground and WHY you chose the research topic at the first instance.
5. Plan on the most appropriate Research Method
Your research methods are the tools and techniques you will use in achieving your research objectives. You can liken it a means of transportation. If I am in Abuja and I need to get to Lagos in less than 2 hours. I will have to choose the best means of transportation (in this case a plane) that will aid me achieve my goal. The same principle is applied to planning a research paper. You need to adopt the best sampling technique, data measurement instruments, data analysis tools and techniques.
6. Set a Project Timeline and Budget
This is very crucial to the success of every research paper or project. Everything required for a smooth research must be put into consideration. You should prepare a timeline right from the onset of the project. Stating targets you must achieve throughout the duration of your research will keep you on track. While a lot of things could go wrong here and there, but, it's highly essential to have a schedule which you can adjust later. You can simply ask your supervisor to put you through this aspect.
Also, prepare a budget on how money will be spent on the project. Every item needed for the research project should be itemized and appropriate provisions for funding met. With this, time and financial constraints will be mitigated.