The first step in any research project is thinking about your research question. Your question is the foundation of everything that follows, from your choice of research methods through to the way you analyse your data. Finding a research idea that interest you is a good first step and, once you start looking, you’ll notice research ideas all round your workplace.
Thinking about the outcome you’d like from your project can help shape your question. There are three types of questions: predictions (which begin with a hypothesis or premise that may or not be supported by your findings), interventions (which make comparisons to measure success) and explorations (which focus on why something is the way it is).
Reviewing the literature (Step 2) can help you define your question more precisely by familiarising yourself with the research that’s already been undertaken in your area, while using mind maps can help you organise your ideas. Here are some links to free mind mapping software:
- draw.io: An intuitive free mind mapping software package
- MindMup: Free for mind maps up to 100 KB
- Simple Mind: Free mind mapping software, though limited functionality compared with the paid version
By seeking to align your research question to your organisational objectives you’ll also increase the likelihood of wider organisational support when you want to put your research findings into practice (Step 9). Discussing your ideas with colleagues and people in your wider networks can also be beneficial, including:
- CILIP accredited qualifications: This site provides programme lead contact details for all accredited courses in your local university Department of Information and Library Studies & iSchools
- CILIP’s Library and Information Research Group (LIRG): In addition to promoting the dissemination of sound research methodology and results in its journal Library and Information Research, LIRG seeks to enable you to networking with other library and knowledge service researchers, and assist in the development of emerging researchers
- JiscMail: Discussion lists help connect you with other people working in education and research sectors to discuss, debate, collaborate and communicate your research ideas. Arranged around themes, useful lists include:
- LIS-LIRG@JISCMAIL.AC.UK: A discussion list for researchers, practitioners and tutors from all LKS sectors to discuss and share experiences of all aspects of research and evaluation
- LIS-MEDICAL@JISCMAIL.AC.UK: Created and maintained by the University Health & Medical Librarians Group (UHMLG) for the UK health and medical library community
- LIS Research – The Library and Information Science Research Coalition: A useful archive of library and knowledge service research information and resources, though no longer updated following the cessation of Coalition funding
- National Directory of NHS Research Offices: The directory you’ll need to identify your local R&D lead
- Service users: Public and user involvement is commonplace in research and is often an expected as part of a funded research. INVOLVE advocates involving users at all stages of your research process. Involving users can help you identify their research priorities, defining research questions and provide new perspective into the area you’d like to research
- The Complete Universities Guide. (2020): Provides links to your local university to facilitate contact with your local health faculty research staff
- Twitter chats:
- HILJ Club. (2020). #HILJClub: A quarterly journal tweet club based on an article from the latest issue of the Health Information and Libraries Journal
- #uklibchat. (2020). #uklibchat: A monthly tweet chat on general library and knowledge issues as suggested by participants
- #ukmedlibs. (2020). #ukmedlibs: A monthly tweet chat for anyone interested in health library and knowledge issues
- Your line manager
- Your local library network
Other Useful Sources
- National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). (2020). Research Design Service: If you have a research idea but are not sure how to turn it into a funding application, the Research Design Service (RDS) is the place to go. RDS provides free and confidential support to health and social care researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing a grant application including research design, research methods, identifying funding sources and involving patients and the public
- NHS Research and Development Forum. (2020). NHS Research and Development Forum: If you’re involved in managing, supporting or leading research & development (R&D) in health and social care settings the NHS R&D Forum is for you. The forum provides a UK–wide professional network supporting quality health research with and for NHS providers and commissioners of care
- Booth, A. (2006). Clear and present questions: formulating questions for evidence based practice . Library Hi Tech, 24(3). doi: This article models the process of question formulation and encourages you to identify your own practice-based questions.
Having defined your research question, you’re ready to begin Step 2: Reviewing the Literature.