Lecture Series I: Formulating a Good Research Topic

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“I am about to write my research project. Please help me find 3 research topics”… Most scholars must be very familiar with this statement. We are too. Formulating a research topic is a daunting task for some hence, many resort to asking friends or checking up published works. While this may seem easier, the truth is that those who get their topics this way may find their research mechanical and uninteresting. So how do you go about formulating that interesting research topic? While several guides exist, Academic Hive will be sharing these steps as it has been proven to be effective over time.

Step I: Identify your interests.

Throughout your years of study in your respective fields, an aspect must have appealed to you. You have no issues discussing this aspect/area anytime, any day. You are excited when you read about this field. For me, during my Master (M.Sc.) Program, Service Marketing caught my interest. I was particularly interested in transportation services (air transportation to be precise). I followed up developments in the aviation sector. I listened to news on aviation with keen interest. Whenever I visited an airport, I find myself wishing that certain aspects of the Nigerian aviation sector could be improved upon. Before I got to my final year, I was certain my research would be on Aviation Service Marketing.

Step II: Brainstorm on your area of interest

You may get a group of friends to do this with you. This will put your research in perspective. It will help you understand existing operational gap(s) and how your work can help fill the gap(s). I did a lot of brainstorming with my husband, friends and colleagues. Brainstorming encourages criticism which is healthy for any good research work.

Step III: Gather relevant materials

..as many books, articles and publications on your interest  as possible. Try to spot out what they haven’t done (your work needs to stand out). You do not necessarily need to read through the whole material before spotting the differences. You may start out by identifying the following:

  1. the study area,
  2. the year or period covered by the research
  3. the research design (is it exploratory, experimental, survey)
  4. the data collection and analysis techniques

For proper organization, you can do this in a tabular form. With this format, you can clearly see what is missing from existing studies. This makes it easier for you to figure out what to do to make yours stand out from the rest. Trust me, it is embarrassing for a fellow scholar to ask you what makes your work different from others and you can’t find the right answer.

A carefully selected research topic provides the answer to questions on your research originality by up to 50 percent. So you see, with a good research topic your work is as good as half-done.

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