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Starting the Research Process

The very first steps are important when you start writing your dissertation or thesis. Unfortunately, you may not know where to begin because a preliminary idea of the topic may be rather broad, leading to problems focusing on the main things or researching everything connected to it.

In this article, we are going to explain how to make the first steps in the research and concentrate on the main points without distracting the attention with unimportant ones.

So, you will learn how to:

  • choose the topic for research correctly;
  • narrow it down;
  • identify a research problem properly;
  • formulate distinct research questions;
  • make up a design of the research process;
  • put forward a research proposal.

Your academic paper will look perfect if you concentrate on these main points.

Choosing a Research Topic

Let’s suppose you have chosen your field of interest. It can result from your classes and workshops, or you would like to continue with this theme at graduate school. You may also need to write a statement of purpose while composing your application to the program. Anyway, everything you will pick out for a start will be too broad. Your next task will be to narrow it down, no matter how interesting all the ideas in the niche can be for you.

To proceed, you have to do a lot of reading. You need to have the substantial background knowledge to understand the essential points for your further research.

  • Start with collecting relevant sources.

They will become the main part of your preliminary literature review. Do not forget to take notes because large amounts of information will confuse you when you want to define the problems, questions, or gaps.

Things to consider

To choose your topic, consider:

  • instructions and academic requirements of your program;
  • amount of time you are given for this research;
  • any difficulties you may encounter while accessing to the necessary data.

Of course, you should discuss all the choices with your supervisor to be on the safe side.

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Defining a Problem

It is the next important step after identifying your niche and topic.A research problem will provide you with a clear understanding of the purpose and main concepts of the research.

Problem orientation

This problem may deal with practical issues, processes and procedures which have not been developed yet or those which already exist but do not work properly. It can also refer to certain difficulties a target group of people or community as a whole may experience without a solution to this problem.

You can also do more profound research on a theoretical idea, for instance, some phenomenon or contradictions that have not been given any specific focus before.

  • It may also concern some approaches, models, or solutions that different scholars cannot agree about.

Keep to main objectives

Your next task is to place this unresolved or underexplored problem in the current context. That will allow you to define clear objectives, which are important for creating your problem statement. Think about:

  • the influence of your research on other ideas and people;
  • why it is needed;
  • whether your project can contribute to finding an overall solution.

Making Up Research Questions

As soon as you have made a problem statement, think about several research questions. They should cover everything that you want to learn from your research.

  • Their purpose is to describe, evaluate, explain, or compare different approaches to your research idea.

To make your research questions strong and persuasive, discover whether they are specific enough to be answered clearly with the help of quantitative or qualitative methods. The research may also require some additional debate, arguments, and analysis.

Developing a Research Design

A research design will serve as a framework for your practical research. First of all, you will need to decide which methods to use, what kind of data to collect, and how to analyze it. You should also think about the place and time scale of the research. All these decisions are usually affected by a researcher’s priorities.

  • So, think about what you would prefer to take up - investigating causes and effects, understanding details in a context, or just making conclusions based on the facts you have gathered.

Your task here is also to choose the appropriate quantitative and qualitative analysis methods and decide which data - primary or secondary - will be a priority for you.

Tools for data collection

Think about the materials, tools, procedures, and techniques you will use for collecting data and analyzing them. Define specific criteria for the possible selection of your helpers, sources, or participants in further experiments.

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Writing a Final Research Proposal

After you have completed all the preliminary and preparatory stages, you are ready to write a research proposal.

  • It should include the purpose, context, and outline of your research.

Explain why it is relevant for the chosen niche and field based on the identified background, problem statement and questions for research. To demonstrate that your research can correspond to all existing works, include a literature review in your proposal. Focus on the research design to show what approaches you are going to use and how you are going to use them.


Do not start your research work before you speak to the supervisor. They should approve the proposal because they will further guide your process of writing a dissertation or thesis.

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