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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsCHRIS: One of the best things with undertaking an academic research project is the freedom that you get to choose to study something you want to choose, you get to forge your own question. I mean, the idea that you can just pick any subject or anything because maybe you're really good at it or it's something that you want to study at a higher level or just even because it's something that's piqued your curiosity; one of those things you just really want to know more about.

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 secondsEMMA: However, it can be a little bit overwhelming because there's... well you can see how much there is that you could possibly study or however many ways of structuring a research question that you might just end up researching and carrying on finding things that you find are really interesting, but you never narrow down a research question. So it's all about doing that research to work out what you're interested in, but not coming up with a list of everything that you're interested in, but rather picking something and sticking to it and creating a research question from that.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 secondsAnd I think, for me, that's where writing things down in a book, having some kind of research log to document my thoughts as I've gone along stops me from duplicating any thought process or any work that I've done before.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 secondsCHRIS: Yeah, I think that's a really important thing to consider with a research project is that having all this curiosity, having all this enthusiasm is a really good thing, but you do have to learn how to harness that, how to actually direct that to make sure that what you're doing is a structured project rather than just anything you're interested in in any sort of way. And one of the things that's going to happen with that project is it is going to evolve over time. A research project is never perfect at the beginning. And most students through their academic careers, they get used to the idea that mistakes are bad.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 secondsAnd we've all seen that where you make a mistake in a piece of work or in an essay, and the first thing you do is kind of furiously scribble it out so no one knows you've done it or just screw it up, you know, throw it away. You don't want it anymore. But actually, in reality, in a research project, that's not a bad thing. Those mistakes are actually, they are a key component to a good product.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 secondsEMMA: Well, they're crucial. You have to make those mistakes to evolve and to grow and make something a little bit better.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 secondsCHRIS: So this week, we're going to be looking through how to come up with a proposal, how to come up with research questions, and how you can actually use those questions to come up with your hypothesis or your title. And also, understand that that title is likely to change through the course of your project.

The freedom to choose your topic ...

One of the greatest things with taking on a research project is the freedom you have to choose a topic and forge your own question.

But this freedom can also be intimidating.

In this video, Chris and Emma guide you on how to focus your curiosity so that you can identify an appropriate research topic.


Through this week’s activities we encourage you to:

  • document your thoughts as you go along in a learning / research log (this may also be a requirement of your research project)

  • home in on a research topic that meets your requirements

  • develop a draft hypothesis that is broad enough to give you scope to explore but narrow enough to be manageable

  • share your draft research proposal (approximately 200 words) and provide feedback on each other’s ideas to develop them further

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This video is from the free online course:

Developing Your Research Project

University of Southampton

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: