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The research cycle

In this step, we move through the different stages of the research cycle.

There are multiple stages in the process of conducting a research project. Understanding the research cycle is extremely helpful in terms of comprehending the structure of research articles.

The video above outlines the stages of the research cycle and they are explained in more detail below.

Identify a research topic

This is where you consider what your research is going to be about and start to refine it.

This is key for conducting research projects and for identifying what a literature review will be about. If we take the example of Mel from earlier this week, her research topic would be wellbeing interventions for telecommunications employees.

We’ll look at identifying a research topic in more detail, later in this short course.

Design the research study

Once a researcher has decided what their research will be about, they’ll then need to consider the design of the study. The research topic will usually inform the design of the study, particularly if it concerns a theory, as this will usually be tested. When a theory informs the research question and the subsequent research design, this is known as the hypothetico-deductive model (Vogt, Gardner, and Haeffele 2012).

There are various types of research design, which we will be going through in a later short course. Broadly, research designs can be quantitative or qualitative.

Quantitative methods measure and analyse numerical data to better understand the relationships between variables. The overall purpose of quantitative research designs tends to be to generalise results (Wright et al. 2016). These types of research designs are based on positivist beliefs that a single reality can be found through the use of experimental designs (Teherani et al. 2015) and testing of scientific hypotheses.

In contrast, qualitative research designs are used to understand experiences and perspectives through non-numerical data. Qualitative research is based on a constructivist approach – the belief that instead of focusing on a single reality, researchers will seek the perceived reality of participants (Teherani et al. 2015).

Conduct research

Once a research design has been chosen, the researcher will conduct the research. This will involve collecting data. Data collection methods vary between quantitative and qualitative methods.

Quantitative research methods will usually involve collecting data through standardised measures that allow for the collection of numerical data, such as questionnaires or psychometric tests.

Data collection for qualitative research methods involves collecting rich, non-numerical data through different potential methods. These can include the researcher interviewing participants, conducting focus groups and observing participants (Barrett and Twycross 2018).

Analyse results

Once the data has been collected, the researcher will need to understand the results by analysing the data.

Quantitative data is analysed through statistical methods to investigate the relationship between variables, or differences between groups. These are covered in more detail in a future short course.

Qualitative data analysis involves the researcher interpreting non-numerical data, including text, to understand the perceived reality of others. This can be done in various ways, such as transcribing audio data, assigning initial codes to the data, and then organising them into overarching themes.

Publish results

In order for there to be changes in business psychology practice, we need to be aware of what research has happened (Edwards 2015). The next stage of the research cycle is a critical one – publishing the findings, also known as dissemination.

This can be done through various formats, such as publishing in a peer-reviewed journal or presenting findings at a conference through a poster or oral presentation.

While it is important to publish findings, it can be tempting not to publish results that are unexpected or disappointing. Furthermore, researchers may not publish due to the extended time required to prepare an article (Edwards 2015).

However, not publishing such findings can distort the literature base and lead to inaccuracies when it comes to practitioners changing practice that has been informed by a literature review (Edwards 2015).

Your task

Use the comments to discuss your experiences of each stage of the research cycle.
What do you think are the potential advantages and disadvantages of each stage?


Barrett, D., and Twycross, A. (2018) ‘Data Collection in Qualitative Research’. Evidence Based Nursing 21 (3), 63-64

Edwards, D.J. (2015) ‘Dissemination of Research Results: On the Path to Practice Change’. The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy 68 (6), 465-469

Teherani, A., Martimianakis, T., Stenfors-Hayes, T., Wadhwa, A., and Varpio, L. (2015) ‘Choosing a Qualitative Research Approach’. The Journal of Graduate Medical Education 7 (4), 669-670

Vogt, P.W., Gardner, D.C., and Haeffele, L.M. (2012) When to Use What Research Design. New York: Guilford Publications

Wright, S., O’Brien, B. C., Nimmon, L., Law, M. and Mylopoulos, M. (2016) ‘Research Design Considerations’. The Journal of Graduate Medical Education 8 (1), 97-98

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Systematic Literature Review: An Introduction

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