Conducting Research

Developing and carrying out a thesis research project is different from taking a course.

Instead of being told what to do by an instructor, for the thesis you need to design and execute a research plan yourself. Given that you might not have much experience doing this type of independent academic work, these sections can help guide you through the overall process of designing and executing research.

One of the main goals of a thesis (or thesis project) is to contribute something new to an academic field or develop a novel approach to address a fundamental question or problem. To do this type of original research work, you work through the following steps. Each step is explained in further detail on this website.

To begin the research process you need to:

  • Identify a broad area of interest
  • Gather background information about potential topics to explore

After doing this first round of investigation you then need to hone in on a specific area by:

  • Selecting particular research questions to focus your work
  • Developing testable research hypotheses - or specific goals - for your particular project
  • Formulating methods for testing your hypotheses, or for reaching your project goals
  • Designing a research plan to carry all of this out

After having gone through these steps, you will be ready to put together a thesis proposal (see Developing the Proposal). After your proposal is approved, you will then need to follow through on your research plan using the guidance provided in Creating the Thesis.

Other things you’ll learn about here in Conducting Research

  • Various research methods to consider for your thesis project
  • Issues about use of human subjects in research (if relevant to your project)
  • Academic scholarship, including appropriate use and referencing of other people’s work

Remember that the key to doing good research is selecting a good project in the first place. You want to find something to investigate that is simultaneously:

  • interesting to a wider group of people

Consider how you’d like to share your thesis results after you’ve finished.

  • of great personal interest to you

You will be putting time and energy into your thesis project for the better part of a year – it’s far easier to do this if it’s something you’re passionate about!