Whether you’re looking ahead at your end-of-semester paper or taking on a new project in your professional career, the beginning of a research project is always a little daunting. An entire world of knowledge sits before you, and it’s your job to ask the right questions and gather reliable answers. When taking on a new project, it’s important to stay organized and productive; it will give you a solid foundation to build upon throughout the course of your research. To make your upcoming project as smooth and successful as possible, here’s our guide on how to start a new research project.
Identify a Topic
The first step of any research project or paper is to specify your topic of research. If you don’t know what you want to study, start by looking at a general field of knowledge that interests you. From there, you can start asking questions, reading previous theories and studies, and looking for a specific idea or question that you want to learn more about. You can also bounce ideas off professors, classmates, or colleagues. Once you’ve identified a specific topic to pursue, you can start to gather questions, resources, and theories into a research proposal.
Gather Key Questions and Resources
As you begin to organize your thoughts, make sure you focus on key questions that will guide your focus throughout the research project. These questions will likely start general and get more specific as you get deeper into your research. Make sure you’re asking questions that you can answer with quantitative or qualitative information. You also want to ask questions that call for complex answers that you can explore and analyze as you get further into the project. As you ask each question, start looking for relevant sources that can help you answer them. Pay attention to articles, studies, and other texts that revolve around your field of interest. By gathering resources now, you give yourself a strong foundation of knowledge to work with once you begin your more in-depth research.
Start Documenting Early
Note-taking is an essential part of your entire research project, so make sure you start early. Write down everything you learn throughout every step of starting a new research project. Keep track of all your questions, theories, and initial thoughts. You should also write down every source you gather and what kind of information you use it for. Record every problem you run into, as well as the solutions for them. Gather your notes in a sturdy, reliable scientific notebook that you can always have on hand as you work. While much of your early information might become irrelevant as your project evolves, these notes are a great way to keep track of your thoughts, research, and overall process throughout the project.