Category Archives: Formulating a research

How to write a good research proposal

1º Does it meet your institution requirements? Be sure of identifying your institution´s assessment criteria. You might develop a great research in the eyes of some journal or different institution, but if you really want to graduate or obtain a good grade, following your supervisor requirement might be crucial. For instance, some of them could emphasize the need of major theory framework, while others a more pragmatic approach. Though in many cases, the decision lies on the own students.

2º Is it linked to theory? In future posts we will emphasize the importance of linking your research to theory. So far, just take into account that regardless you are thinking of a more low-theoretical relevance research, a minimum theory makes the difference, but mainly because will allow you to meet the requirement that derives from the next question.

3º Does it provide fresh insights into the topic? In other words, to what extent your research provides new knowledge into your research topic. For this reason, having knowledge of the existing theory is crucial to know in what you may contribute.

4º Is the topic clearly stated? The research question and objectives must be formulated clearly, explaining, at the same time, which exactly insights your research contribute in.

5º Does it match you career goals? Doing your own research is doubtless a great opportunity to develop your particular area of interest, academic branch or industry sector or, in case you don´t even have it, a chance to find it.

6º Are you fascinated with it? A topic in which you are just vaguely interested will be an obstacle to do your best. What are your discipline or branch of interest?, what about your personal interests? What make you happy? (see also)

7º Is doable in the available time? Assure that your project is doable within the time provided by your instructor.

8º Is realistic in financial terms? As student, and unless you are provided with a considerable amount of funds, such methods as telephone survey are unaffordable while others like interviews or secondary data might be more appropriate.

9º Do you own the skills to do it? Or would you be able to acquire such skills in the time allowed by the course of study? It is desirable that you develop as many skills as you can throughout the course. However, be aware that some skills like those related to languages or very sophisticated software could be out of your capability in a short term.

10º Do you have access to data? It is likely to be the reason that makes many researchers reformulates some of the research objective throughout the research process. Not always the information required exists or has public access. Try to make a previous assessment of the access to data when formulating your research topic.


Becker, H. S. (2007). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article University of Chicago Press.

Camino, J. R. (2011). Cómo escribir y publicar una tesis doctoral ESIC Editorial.

Lewis, P., Saunders, M. N. K., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students Pearson.


4 crucial things to bear in mind before undertaking your own research project

There are four things all researcher must bear in mind when formulating a research topic.

1º Being open to find unexpected things. In the 1960s 3M research scientist, Spence Silver, was trying to enhance the adhesive used in tapes. However, he discovered something quite different, since the resulting adhesive was not enough strong to stick tapes. Throughout the next five years he talked about his new adhesive to people working in the company. Later, a new 3M researcher was frustrated by how the scraps of paper he used as bookmarks kept falling out of his church choir hymn book and he realised that Silver´s invention could be a solution. Soon, after the concept was developed and market research undertaken, the wildly used office product Post-it was launched in 1980. Nowadays, it is rather difficult not find it in any office. As well as in this case, the results of your research might not match the initial objective, so that be open to unexpected things.

2º Discussing your idea with others. A success factor in the Silver´s invention was the fact of having talked about to people working in the company, what highlight the importance that interaction with others has in the research process. It is quite common that students do not talk openly about their research ideas. Sometimes for fear the ideas to be plagiarized, but in most of cases just for fear to make a fool of oneself. Both sentiments must be overcome and all researches, both veterans and beginners should have a few good friends willing to listen their ideas. This is actually crucial. Far from feeling shame of your ideas, a good critic might be crucial to make research ideas and topics consistent from the beginning of the research process. On top of that, in the rise of the so called network society (Manuel Castell, 2005) the transnational research groups are emerging from a wild range of academic and professional networks. It is very recommendable to take part of the existing debates in your interest field in such group or forum. You could also test the feasibility of your research idea. It will surprise you to what extent anonymous people are willing to devote you part of their time.

3º Sustaining your professional/academic and personal interest. The first stage in any research process is always the fact of “wishing to research” which may though be obvious; it is not hold by many students. You might be interested just on obtained your graduate, which is a completely respectable position. However, researching, as well as other life´s facets, doing something that really matters and which you are fascinated with is usually a key issue. Before engaging the research world, my recommendation is to be sure you really like it. Secondly, finding your sub-branch of interest is also important. Perhaps you are passionate about doing a research in management, but at the same time, you should concretize your field of interest like, for instance, accounting or human resources. Finally, many authors suggest that research on things that really matter you from a personal point of you might be another success factor. Your commitment is going to be higher and also, regardless whether your research results are valuable for academic or professional community, at least you will be contributing to a major knowledge of yourself or the people or things around you. This one could be a good question to find a research idea: What does really make you happy? Or in terms of the philosopher Punset, what is your element? (you might be interested on this post)

4º Being sure about what you are going to research. This reminds us of the quote made by the recognised Chinese philosopher Confucio (孔子): “the wind never blows in favour of those who do not know where to go”.  Uncertainty is likely a very common obstacle for developing a good research and it definitely starts at the beginning of the process. As mentioned above, testing your research ideas among colleges and friends is essential to discard those inconsistent ideas that like everyone else you might consider when formulating your research. And this difficulty is very well illustrated in a conversation between Alice with the Cheshire Cat in Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll 1989:63-4) Here you have both the dialogue and the video of this scene:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”, said the Cat

“I don´t much care where”, said Alice.

“Then it doesn´t matter which way you walk”, said the Cat



Becker, H. S. (2007). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article University of Chicago Press.

Camino, J. R. (2011). Cómo escribir y publicar una tesis doctoral ESIC Editorial.

Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society Blackwell Publishers Oxford.

Lewis, P., Saunders, M. N. K., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students Pearson.

Punset, E. (2007). The happiness trip Chelsea Green Publishing.