Biotechnology: Developing Research Questions

After meeting with your Research Advisor to discuss potential thesis ideas, you should write a two-page summary that introduces the research topic.

The summary should include:

  • A description of the research problem
  • The research question
  • Your hypothesis
  • Specific aims
  • References

For experimental studies, 2 to 3 specific aims should be organized into several proposed experiments and may include sub-aims.

For thesis projects that don’t involve experiments - such as bioinformatics tool development, prototype development, or case studies - you should organize the various stages of your thesis project into specific aims.

  • For example, if you plan to build a new program to analyze genomic data, the first aim may describe what is needed to build the tool, the next aim may describe how you propose to write the program and the third aim may focus on quality analysis and/or testing the tool

Although, you are expected to conduct an extensive literature review, your summary should include 5 to 10 references that are the most relevant to your research topic.

Students working on projects through their employer should select ideas that are not high priority. This is necessary to ensure that release of data for your thesis is approved by the legal department at your company.

Your Research Advisor will review the summary and, if appropriate, approve the scope of your project.

  • An appropriate summary will effectively justify and describe why the research objective is worth answering
  • After approval of your summary, you may then proceed to write the first draft of your proposal