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The University of Southampton
The Learn With US Transition Programme

Choosing a topic and project planning

The beginning of a research project can often be one of the most challenging parts. Thinking of a topic and developing a feasible research question, as well as coming up with a project plan, takes time and resilience.

Getting started with a research project

It is important to remember that a well-developed question and project timeline will provide a strong foundation for the evolution of your research. Beginning your project by looking for useful tips can be a good idea.

Thinking of a topic to write your research about can be difficult – especially if you have lots of ideas. A mind map is an excellent visual learning tool that can help to establish links between different topics of interest, enabling you to narrow down your topic into a research question. For this task you could produce a mind map on paper, or using free online mind mapping sites. Consider the following when thinking about your research topic:

Planning in a notebook

A research question is a clear and structured statement of what you intend to investigate. Although there may be minor changes to the wording of your question as the project progresses, from the outset your question should reflect the scope of the research. If your initial question is too broad, it can result in a lack of direction and potential for being overwhelmed by background information. Our academic guide Posing the Question addresses the initial stages of question development on page 3.

Devising an initial plan for your research project is important; time management is key to a successful piece of work. You should ensure that you have enough time to achieve each stage of your project. There are a number of tools that you can use to achieve this - from good old-fashioned checklists or Gantt charts, to utilising free online project management tools like Trello.

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