Starting Your Research

Basic Ingredients of a Research Project:
When starting a research project, two significant aspects must be considered: defining what the research is made of and how the study will be conducted. Consider that your study may utilize both tangible and intangible components such as a research question and hypothesis, background and significance, study design, approach and measurements, equipment, and personnel.

Before Starting a Research Project:
All students who will start a research project or plan to participate in an ongoing project must notify the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.  Please fill out the Student Research Participation Form before starting your project.  Furthermore, please ensure there are no research protections associated with your study and that you have completed all required training.

Research Protections:
For students who are planning enlisting human subjects in their research or planning on using biohazardous agents, please check the following links below for important information.

Human Subject Studies:

All research involving human subjects must get prior approval from the Burrell College IRB before conducting the study, recruiting participants, or collecting data.  The IRB protects the rights and welfare of human subjects involved in research activities and ensures compliance with Federal regulations.  Please contact the IRB or visit the IRB webpage for additional information.

Biosafety in Research:

Studies involving biohazardous or biological agents, recombinant DNA, or hazardous chemicals entails risks and must get prior approval from the Burrell College Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) before conducting the study.  The IBC ensures studies are conducted safely and in compliance with local, state, and Federal regulations.  Please contact the IBC or visit the IBC webpage for additional information.

Starting a Research Project:
1. Consider the practicalities

  • The first question to ask before starting a research project, “should I be doing research?”. As you know, medical students are busy and should place top priority on their academic efforts.
  • Consider how much time you have to offer to a research project. Put together a weekly schedule that outlines all of your activities, such as: class and study time, personal time with friends and/or family, physical activity time, meal preparation and time to eat, and most importantly time to sleep. From this list, determine how much time you have to devote to a research project. The amount of time that you have available is essential because you must consider the feasibility of the study and whether you have time to commit. Do you have 2 hours a week to devote to a project, or do you have 10 hours?

2. Choose a topic of interest

  • Start very broad to get a general area that interests you the most. Although not necessary, it is recommended to choose a familiar topic. A new topic will require more time and effort as opposed to a familiar one.
  • Select a topic that sincerely interests you. The research and reading material will be more enjoyable, and you will be more motivated to conduct the study if the topic interests you. Consider a topic in an area similar to your interests in medicine or a specialty that you plan on pursuing.

3. Identify a problem

  • Once you find an area of interest, begin to identify a problem.
  • Keep your plan realistic and considering the amount of time you have available to devote. If you cannot devote the time to complete the project, it would be better to identify something else more manageable.
  • Read journal articles to narrow down your topic further and identify gaps in the knowledge to pose your main research question.

4. Develop research questions

  • This is an essential step in the research process since the research question is the study’s objective, the main question(s) you want to answer.
  • Start with general questions and focus the research question as needed to help determine and direct the scope of the study.
  • Start by asking questions using the following:
    • What, when, where, why, who, and how
  • Your question(s) should be novel, feasible, relevant to the world right now, and ethical.

5. Create a literature review

  • Select literature that relates specifically to your research question(s). These are pieces of research that are very relevant to your subject.
  • Use the library or online resources to help you create a literature review.

6. Design a research plan to answer your questions

  • The research plan is the framework for addressing the identified problem and answering your research question. The research plan should address the following:
    • Type of data you need (qualitative vs. quantitative, primary, or secondary data).
    • Identify where the study will be conducted and by what means (will this study be done in the lab, whose lab, and in what capacity).
    • Define the methods for collecting and analyzing the data.
    • Identify if the study needs prior approvals such as IRB or IBC review.
    • Define the criteria for selecting human subject participants or the resources you will use.