structure a research project

How to select a suitable research project topic

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(Last updated on: 30/07/2021)

Whether you’re studying for a degree, a Master’s, a Ph.D., or a work-based qualification, it is likely that you will be required to undertake a research project as part of your studies. A research project is an individual piece of work where you are given the flexibility to undertake original research of your choice. They are also commonly referred to as a dissertation or thesis! It is a substantial piece of work that generally ranges from around 10,000 to 100,000 words and takes a considerable amount of time and effort to complete. As such, it is important that you select a suitable research project topic!

A research project will involve a critical review of existing literature, a methodology, and an analysis and discussion of data. Usually, the project will involve collecting your own primary data, but you can also complete a research project based on secondary data- check with your institution about the specific requirements that they may have. A research project is valuable because it generally has the potential for real-world application, particularly within areas such as aviation.

How to select a suitable research project topic

Why is the research project topic important?

Having a suitable research topic is imperative to the success of your research! I have supervised and graded hundreds of research projects over the past few years – trust me, I know. Having a clear and suitable topic from the beginning will help with the following:

  • Organising the project
  • Giving the project direction and coherence
  • Setting limits for the project and showing its boundaries
  • Keeping the researcher focused during the project
  • Providing a framework for writing the research project
  • Understanding what data will be needed

Criteria for a suitable research project topic

1- Relevance – The topic must clearly lie within your chosen course of study: for example, aviation management.

2- Specificity – There must be a clearly developed/defined issue, problem or hypothesis proposed.

3- Analysis – your topic CANNOT be a purely descriptive work – there should be elements of interpretation, critical awareness, and evaluation.

4- Originality – your project should attempt to build upon existing knowledge in your chosen field. This may be accomplished in an area in which there is little research, or a new insight into an area where there is a significant amount of research.

5- Feasibility – your project objectives must be realistic in terms of time and resources: money, contacts, and access to respondents.

6- Scale- Consider the scale of the project. It is important that you are not over-ambitious. 10,000 words might seem like a lot at the beginning but you’ll quickly find yourself exceeding the word count!  

7- Quality– This is more important than scale. For example, choose to conduct a local or regional study rather than national or international.

8- Methods– Consider how you might collect data relevant to your project. Is it feasible and realistic?

How to select a suitable research project topic

For an example of a research project, you can take a look at my Ph.D. in TEFL Tourism.

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