How to Setup a Research


Defined in simplest terms, research is searching for and gathering information, usually to answer a particular question or problem. In the broadest sense of the word, the definition of research includes any gathering of data, information, and facts for the advancement of knowledge.

Ways to set up a research experiment
When you are ready in conducting research work, you generally go through the steps described below, either formally or informally. Some of these are more important directly in designing the experiment to test the hypotheses required by the research work. The following steps are generally used in setting up research work.

1. Review pertinent literature
A thesis or dissertation has an essential chapter named literature review, its purpose is to:

  • Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the subject under review
  • Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration
  • Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in, previous research
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort
  • Point the way forward for further research
  • Place one’s original work (in the case of theses or dissertations) in the context of existing literature

Review related literature to learn what has been done in the field and to become familiar enough with the field to let you discuss it with others. The best ideas often cross disciplines and species, so a broad approach is important.

2. Define your objectives and the hypotheses
Define your objectives and the hypotheses that you are going to test. You can’t be vague. You must be specific. A good hypothesis is:

  • Clear enough to be tested
  • Adequate to explain the phenomenon
  • Good enough to permit further prediction
  • As simple as possible

3. Selection of the right topic
The ability to hit upon a good research topic is an important skill. An instructor may assign you a specific topic, but most often instructors require you to select your own topic of interest. There are a few things that you will need to do while deciding on a topic:

  • Brainstorm for ideas
  • Choose a topic that will enable you to read and understand the literature
  • Ensure that the topic is manageable and that material is available
  • Make a list of keywords
  • Define your topic as a focused research question
  • Research and read more about your topic
  • Formulate a thesis statement
  • Be flexible

Be aware that selecting a good topic may not be easy. It must be narrow and focused enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to find adequate information. Before selecting your topic, make sure you know what your final project should look like. Each class or instructor will likely require a different format or style of the research project.

4. Your research plan must be realistic
Your topic could be the best in the field, but do you have enough resources to finish the project? Suppose your research project involves traveling halfway around the world to conduct a field investigation. The question you must be asking yourself is: can I afford that much time and money? If not, then no matter how brilliant your idea is, you need to think of something else. Save this one for when you receive a healthy research grant. In addition, research facilities, especially laboratories, research institutes, and collaboration of the research organization are more responsible to be realistic in your research work.

5. Research timeline
Having a project timeline is everything. It keeps you on track all the time. You should have a timeline set out in the first week, stating targets that you must achieve throughout the duration of your research project. Things could go wrong here and there, and you can always adjust dates, but it is very important to have a schedule, ideally broken down further into weekly targets. Ask your supervisor about what kind of targets you should set and try to achieve these on a weekly basis. Doing this should help you avoid becoming overwhelmed.

6. Research procedure
Selection of design:
Selection of treatment design is very crucial and can make the difference between success and failure in achieving the objectives. Should seek the help of a statistical resource person (statistician) or of others more experienced in the field. Statistical help should be sought when planning an experiment rather than afterward when a statistician is expected to extract meaningful conclusions from a poorly designed experiment.

Selection of measurements to be taken:
With the computer, it is now possible to analyze large quantities of data and thus the researcher can gain considerably more information about the crop, etc. than just the effects of the imposed variables on yield. In addition, selection of the unit of observation, i.e., the individual plant, one row, or a whole plot, etc.? One animal or a group of animals?

Make an outline of statistical analyses to be performed:
Before you plant the first pot or plot or feed the first animal, you should have set up an outline of the statistical analysis of your experiment to determine whether or not you are able to test the factors you wish with the precision you desire.

7. An experiment installation
Care should be taken in measuring treatment materials (fertilizers, herbicides, or other chemicals, food rations, etc.) and the application of treatments to the experimental units. Errors here can have disastrous effects on the experimental results. In field experiments, you should personally check the bags of fertilizer or seed of varieties which should be placed on each plot, to be certain that the correct fertilizers or variety will be applied to the correct plot before any fertilizer is applied or any seed planted. Once the fertilizer is applied to a plot, it generally cannot be removed easily. With laboratory experiments or preparation of various rations for feeding trials, check calculations and reagents or ingredients, etc., and set up a system of formulating the treatments to minimize the possibility of errors.

8. Data collection
Careful measurements should be made with the appropriate instruments. It is better to collect too much data than not enough. Data should also be recorded properly in a permanent notebook.

9. Data analysis
Be sure to have a plan of analysis, e.g., which analysis and in what order will they be done? Interpret the results in light of the experimental conditions and hypotheses tested. Statistics do not prove anything and there is always the possibility that your conclusions may be wrong. One must consider the consequences of drawing an incorrect conclusion and modify the interpretation accordingly. Do not jump to a conclusion just because an effect is significant. This is especially so if the conclusion doesn’t agree with previously established facts. The experimental data should be checked very carefully if this occurs, as the results must make sense!

10. Final report of the experiment
This may be a report to the researcher. There is no such thing as a negative result. If the null hypothesis is not rejected, it is positive evidence that there may be no real difference among the treatments tested. The report may be presented through table and figure.

It is obviously more important to find out the right supervisor as having a supervisor makes research very comfortable and easy through his/ her guidance. This topic is written for Biological Science/Natural Science Research. For other domains, a little bit of change may occur in a different section of this topic.

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