Step 1: Turn Your Idea Into a Research Question

Think about your research question.  It 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 interests you. Once you start looking, you’ll notice research ideas all round your workplace.

Think about the outcome you’d like from your project.  It can help shape your question. There are three types of questions:

  1. Predictions ( a hypothesis or premise that may or not be supported by your findings)
  2. Interventions (make comparisons to measure success)
  3. Explorations (focuses on why something is the way it is)

Reviewing the literature (Step 2) can help you define your question more precisely.  You will  also familiarise yourself with research already undertaken in your area. 

Use mind maps to help you organise your ideas. Here are some links to free mind mapping software:

Align your research question to your organisation’s objectives.  This will increase the likelihood of organisational support when you want to put your research findings into practice (Step 9).

It may be helpful to discuss your ideas with colleagues and people in your wider networks: 

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, use this service. 

The Research Design Service (RDS) provides free and confidential support to health and social care researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing a grant application. 

This includes research design, research methods, identifying funding sources and involving patients and the public.

NHS Research and Development Forum. (2020) – a UK–wide professional network supporting quality health research with and for NHS providers and commissioners of care.

Useful if you’re involved in managing, supporting or leading research & development (R&D) in health and social care settings .

Suggested Reading

Booth, A. (2006). Clear and present questions: formulating questions for evidence based practice . Library Hi Tech, 24(3). doi: 10.1108/07378830610692127 – models the process of question formulation and encourages you to identify your own practice-based questions.

Next Steps

Having defined your research question, you’re ready to review the literature.  Go to Step 2.