The development of a well-designed and concise research plan is the key to any successful research project. Good research plans provide a detailed map for the conceptual and logistical frameworks that serve as the support structure for your research project.
An important first step toward providing a sound conceptual foundation for your research project is the development of solid research questions and hypotheses. This process typically begins with a preliminary review of the existing literature for your topic. A research question poses a relationship between two or more variables but phrases the relationship in terms of some question.
A well researched and thought out question will help focus your ideas and ensure you are collecting the appropriate data. This is a critical step in the research process. The research question determines what, where, when, and how the data are collected and is an important link between the conceptual and logistic aspects of your research plan.
While reviewing the current literature and formulating your ideas, keep the following questions in mind:
- Why is this research important? What is it that we don’t know or fully understand?
- What have other researchers in my field done?
- What areas need further exploration?
- Can my study help fill in these gaps or lead to greater understanding?
Once your research questions are firmly established the next logical step is to develop a set of hypotheses based on the questions posed by your study. A hypothesis is a declarative statement that attempts to predict the relationship between two or more variables based on statistical consideration.
- Give insight into the proposed research question;
- Are measurable and testable;
- Are developed directly from the experiences of the researcher;
- Should be concise, as a rule, no more than three hypotheses should be proposed for any given project;
- There should be a well-founded rationale for all proposed hypotheses.
- Why did you make these predictions?
- Why are they important?
- Provide alternative possibilities for the hypotheses that could be tested.
- Why did you choose the ones you did over others?
You might find it helpful to consult a statistician once your research questions and corresponding hypotheses are finalized to discuss experimental design, data collection, and statistical analyses.
Ultimately, the success and quality of research is a direct product of the amount of time and effort invested in the development of your research ideas. Thorough planning and design will help facilitate data acquisition and analysis and help alleviate research stress during the next phase of the research process.
The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research is part of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and is collocated with Brooke Army Medical Center. Its mission is to provide requirements-driven combat casualty care medical solutions and products for injured soldiers, from self-aid through definitive care across the full spectrum of military operations; provide state-of-the-art trauma, burn, and critical care to Department of Defense beneficiaries around the world and civilians in our trauma region; and provide Burn Special Medical Augmentation Response Teams.
The Joint Theater Trauma System is an organized approach to providing improved trauma care across the continuum of the Levels of Care to trauma patients, especially in the battlefield environment.