Converting a Vague Scientific Idea into a Viable Research Paper

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As a PhD student, you are likely to think of several scientific ideas, but not all of them can be potentially converted to a viable research topic and paper. Nevertheless, scientific curiosity can be a good starting point for your research steps.

So, what are the general steps that you can take in converting your ideas into a successful research project? Here are a few:

  1. Define the research purpose.

The research purpose is to define the problem in general terms.

  1. Develop a research question from the idea.

Probably, the most critical step is to develop a research question. This can be time-consuming, as it involves multiple sub-steps. Make it general, as your research question can change in details over your further research. Think of the idea that interests you the most, and why it appeals most to you. Review your research idea by breaking it down to second-level (or even third-level) questions. For example, if your main idea is on “unemployment rate in Europe,” your sub-area topic could be on “difference in unemployment rate in western and eastern European countries.”

  1. Look for reliable sources of information.

The next step in developing your research question is to look for reliable sources of information. You can talk to your professor, who can provide inputs on the viability of this research idea. Research books and bibliography written on your specific topic can add to your overall knowledge.

  1. Read and develop your idea from relevant web articles and books.

Read or skim through relevant web articles and books at least 3-4 times to mark out references that you can potentially use in your research paper. You do not need to write much at this stage. You can also download free research paper and illustrations that you may use in your research work.

  1. Write a draft version of your research paper.

This is the final step to arrive at the research project. Create a draft paper, which includes useful notes about all the reading that you have done. Jot down a few of your thoughts about this research topic in free writing style.

It is likely that even after completing these steps, you may not be fully satisfied with the research topic that you want to work on. Do not hesitate to repeat this procedure on a different research idea.

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