Undertaking a research project is your opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and abilities you have developed throughout your course. This section will help you to think about what topic you want to research, how you formulate research questions and develop aims and objectives.
Your school may provide you with ideas for topics or give you a specific project or research question to answer. In most cases however, you are expected to think of and refine the topic yourself. This can be a difficult task; considering the following questions may help to focus your thoughts:
You do not have to research a completely new area; you will be building on existing research, but you might take a different approach, or research it from a new angle. For example, you may wish to replicate a study but apply different criteria to test, such as using another framework/theory, limiting to a specific country, gender, industry etc.
Discuss any topic ideas with your supervisor as early as possible to ensure that you are researching an appropriate area.
Even just getting started and deciding on a topic can feel really daunting for many students. To help ease any concerns you may have, we asked students who have recently finished their degree to talk about how they overcame some common worries and what advice and top tips they would give to students who are starting their research.
Video - How did you go about choosing your topic?
Once you have decided on a topic you will need to narrow down your focus. You need a clear idea of what you want to find out and why. It is helpful to turn your topic into a research question, or set of research questions, to answer even if you do not explicitly state these in your project write up. This will help guide your whole research project.
Research questions should be:
These are all just points to consider; your project does not have to do all of these things!
You may find that your research question evolves as you work through your project.
Here are some examples of research questions. We have provided links where possible to the full projects so you can get a sense of how they discussed their research question without always explicitly stating it:
How western fashion has influenced fashion in Iran (School of Design)
Tehran Fashion: Key political and social influences 20th century to present day.
How have the youths of Tehran reinterpreted western practices of fashion presentation since 1925 to modern day?
Experience of dealing with anorexia-nervosa (School of Psychology)
Experiences of parents of people with anorexia nervosa: an interpretative phenomenological analysis.
How do parents of adult children with anorexia nervosa make sense of their experiences of interactions with healthcare services and professionals?
Margaret Thatcher’s foreign policy (School of History)
Dispelling the mythology: a critical examination of the effect that Margaret Thatcher's purported ideological principles had on Britain's implementation of a libertarian foreign policy.
How committed was Margaret Thatcher to the expression of libertarian ideals in foreign policy, and what were key reasons for British cases of governmental non-conformance?
Counter-terrorism and the law (School of Law)
Radicalisation and Universities: A Critical Analysis of the Effectiveness and Consequences of the Prevent Duty.
How effective is Prevent in combatting radicalisation in universities? What are the consequences of Prevent for universities?
Quantum effects (School of Physics and Astronomy)
Quantum effects in Biology.
What is the effect of quantum coherence in the efficiency of energy transfer in photosynthesis and what is the role of the radical pair mechanism in the avian magnetoreception?
Once you have a clearer idea of your research topic and focus, you need to identify your aims and objectives - this will define your project and help to keep you focused. You may be asked to include these explicitly in your project, but this will not always be the case - check your module handbook and ask your supervisor.
This is a statement(s) which expresses the purpose of your research – what do you want to achieve by the end of your research project?
They set out the steps you will need to take to achieve your overall aim(s). They should be specific, measureable, realistic, achievable and time constrained.