Important Guide on How to Carry Out Academic Research
If you are a student in a higher institution of learning be it university or college, you will most likely have to carry out a research especially in your final year when you have to do your project. It is important for you to know the best approach for your work, projects in the sciences will likely take a different process from other faculties as laboratory work or experiments are involved. Some of the basic things you should put in mind to effectively do your research are discussed below:
Choose Your Research Question
While this may be determined by your supervisor or you, ensure that you have a clear research question. What problem do you want to solve? What is the problem statement that you will like to work on? Your research question will help you to know exactly what you are to focus on and guide other decisions you will have to make as regards the research. Ensure that your research question is relevant to studies being carried out in your field and let it be as clear as possible.
Have a Clear Objective
Let your goal be, not just to recycle existing knowledge, but to fill a lacuna, that is close up a knowledge gap. Or to organise and arrange existing knowledge in a new way.
Have a Good Rapport with Your Supervisor?
This is a very crucial point for you to really take seriously, you have to be deliberate about it. Of course, there are supervisors who are more approachable than others, and some may prove difficult. Regardless of how easy going or tough your supervisor is, you should be intentional about having a good flow of communication with him/her both online and physically (face to face). Let your supervisor see seriousness in you and readiness to work, comply with instructions promptly, but the most important thing probably is to ask as many questions as possible. Give regular reports of your progress with your work, carry your supervisor along as much as possible. When your supervisor is okay with your attitude, it will go a long way in helping you during the research process and will also contribute to your overall success as regards the research work. Not having a good flow with your supervisor could impact on your project work and grades negatively.
Coin the Right Topic
After establishing your research question and what area of interest you want to focus on, you should carefully choose your topic. Make sure it is something interesting and something you really want to carry out study on. This will serve to help your motivation and interest in the course of the research work.
Locate Available Information Sources
Search for all available sources of information, online and offline. Know what search engines will be very okay for your search, identify different databases that you can explore. download journals, as many as possible and as are relevant. Create a folder for your journals on your PC and ensure you read as many journals as possible on the topic. This will help you to have a very good background knowledge on your chosen research area.
Validate Your Research Question/Topic in Light of Available Resources
If resources are not so available on the topic for a good literature review, you may want to consider going for another topic. You need as much relevant information as necessary to be able to execute a good research study.
Validate Your Research Topic in the Light of Time and Money
Another thing to really consider before you dive into the research work directly is to consider the scope of your research work in terms of time and money. Will you be able to fully prosecute that research study within the span of time you officially have, as slated by the school to do your work? If the project is likely going to take longer than the available time, then choose another topic that you can do within the given time. Also, consider the financial implications of the topic chosen. If your financial capacity cannot carry it at that time, then find a way of adjusting or changing the topic to something you can handle. You can reserve the former topic for another time when you have opportunity for grants.
Draw a Good Plan
Like every other important project, drawing a good plan is something you should do. Plan how you want to go about the whole thing. What are the steps involved? Attach a time to everything on the list, how do you want to go about it? Are you involving anybody? Do you have to buy some materials, reagents, specimens? Where, when and how do you want to go about that? Make your plan feasible and achievable. This will help you keep track of all you are doing. You will be able to measure your progress, know what next to do and know the things that are still to be done.
Have a Deadline
While there is likely going to be a general deadline by your department, you should set a personal deadline for yourself to complete the research work. Try to make your deadline closer than the deadline issued officially. Put into cognisance everything you have to do as regards your work before setting a deadline, don't set one that is not feasible, let it be realistic and be determined to meet your own deadline. With this, you will be able to avoid the pressure of the late hour when the official deadline is around the corner.
Jot and Keep Writing
As you gather your journals and materials for the work, you don't want to mix up information and their sources. It's therefore important for you jot down relevant things and sources for every information you are gathering. Eventually when you are organising your write-up and references, things will be easier. Also ensure you start writing early enough, record everything you do and every result you get, try as much as possible to document the entire process. It is better to have to remove irrelevant information you don't eventually need, than to miss out relevant information.
Collect Your Data
Your research is as good as the data involved, you must ensure that you establish your means of data collection and set the right criteria to gather appropriate data. Data collection tools involves the tools you use in collecting data. Questionnaires, surveys, interviews, observation, existing data are some tools and methods for data collection. Depending on the type of data you want to collect, it could involve experimental research which is basically quantitative, focus groups or interviews which are qualitative methods or others. Choose your data collection method correctly in a way to get data that will answer your research questions.
Analyse Your Data
After collecting your data appropriately, prepare your data for analysis. When your data is ready, go ahead to carry out analysis for your collected data using the appropriate method for the type of data you've collected, quantitative or qualitative.
Organise Your Work
Arrange your write-up appropriately. Organise your work following the appropriate format.
Ensure your in-text citation and referencing at the end of your work are properly done. Be informed about the accepted referencing style in your institution and use that appropriately.
While carrying out your research work, develop the persistence to follow through till you are done with it. Don't be easily thrown off by problems that you encounter in the process, find a way to work around challenging situations to ensure you are making progress.
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