Good research is the backbone of an effective thesis. From finding research gaps and preparing research questions to writing the actual thesis, you need to do thorough research to shape up your doctoral dissertation. That said, carrying out proper research requires a great deal of skill, and not everyone will be up to the task immediately. That’s alright, though. There are plenty of ways to improve your research skills and bring them up to par for thesis writing. In this article, we will discuss the strategies and tactics you can use to conduct comprehensive research for your Masters or PhD dissertation. Let’s begin.
1. Define Your Research Goals
The first thing you need to do is identify your research goals. You can start off by picking a broad topic and doing some research that helps you understand the underlying history and the type of research that’s been done so far. This process can help you identify potential research gaps and prepare relevant questions. Once you have these questions, you can dig deeper and see whether there is any existing research pertaining to the question asked.
You might not have a lot of time to research extensively on different areas of interest. We recommend developing a reading strategy that helps improve your research skills. This topic will be discussed in more detail in a later section.
2. Talk to Your Peers and Field Experts
Once you have shortlisted a few topics that you want to look up, we suggest talking to your colleagues and other relevant experts in the field about them. These conversations can help you get a deeper insight into the level of existing research on a particular subject. Moreover, these individuals can also offer you different viewpoints that may conflict with your own. Such added perspective will help broaden your horizons and allow you to approach the topic in a more holistic manner.
Besides this, it is possible that some of the people you are consulting have carried out research on similar topics. In such cases, they may be aware of the difficulties you might encounter later in the process. These insights can help you avoid potential pitfalls that may render your research redundant.
3. Avoid Getting Biased
When you are researching a particular topic, it’s important that you consider all aspects. You don’t want to develop a bias that colors your research and prevents you from presenting a comprehensive view of the topic. A lot of researchers stick to looking up information that could confirm their theories. They may avoid searching for sources that do the opposite.
This faulty approach can compromise your integrity as a researcher and prevent you from being objective. It can also leave you vulnerable to rebuttals from other people in academia and could render your research useless.
4. Triple Check Your Sources
We can’t say this enough. Verifying your sources is incredibly important when you are trying to research a particular topic. Not every internet source or book offers accurate information. You need to be able to identify which sources are legitimate and which are not. To do this, you can focus on the following aspects:
- How plausible is the information presented?
- Does it come from a credible source?
- Is the information like what you might find elsewhere?
- Is there evidence supporting it?
- Is there a conflict of interest in the author’s views with respect to the topic?
Remember, using unverifiable resources could derail your dissertation, so exercising caution here can save you a lot of trouble in the future.
5. Use a Research Journal
Research can be equivalent to falling down a rabbit hole. The further you go, the more convoluted things can become. As you learn more about your area of interest, your ideas may also evolve and turn into something entirely different. Keeping a research journal can prove helpful here. You can use it to track your progress and stay focused.
Some of the things you can consider making a note of here include:
- Why did you select this particular topic and area of study?
- What were the difficulties you faced with respect to the research?
- Were you able to overcome these challenges? If so, how?
- What were the ideas that inspired you?
- Were there any critical turning points that shaped your research?
You could note these ideas down in an actual notebook or a Word document. You could also record audio files. Whatever you choose, be sure to maintain some kind of backup.
6. Develop a Strategy for Reading the Research Material
Reading vast amounts of research can be an overwhelming process. Some of the biggest concerns you may have about this include:
- The volume and variety of literature at your disposal.
- Deciding which literature is relevant to your topic.
- Assessing and evaluating the competing arguments against your topic.
There are several reading strategies that you can utilize here. One, you can try to read as much as you can from as many sources as you can. These sources can include journals, books, reports, popular media, etc. Reading literature reviews is also very useful.
Two, you can opt for a selective reading approach. This method involves focusing on key texts that are relevant to your topic. You can then supplement your reading efforts by focusing on broader sources that offer other information.
You can also opt for a critical reading strategy. This tactic focuses on carefully examining what other sources say on a particular topic. This challenge is a vital research skill you need to develop. Some of the things you can consider here include:
- Has the author presented proper evidence and convincing arguments to support his claims?
- Is the data utilized by the source reliable?
- Has the author expressed her views in a consistent manner?
Mastering these reading strategies can greatly improve your research skills and make sure you don’t miss out on any vital information.
Wrapping It Up
Developing your research skills can make it easier for you to write a sound thesis supported by convincing arguments, reliable data, and credible sources. It also allows you to identify existing research gaps and focus on topics that can add value to your field of interest. Good luck!