The first step in designing a research study start by deciding what to study followed by choosing a research topic. There are several factors that influences the decision of a researcher in choosing what to study. For instance, choosing a good research topic will largely be influence by the field within which you works. A medical doctor will be influence by health and medicine while a politician will prefer to study political science. A clinical psychologist will likely research on human or animal behavior and a medical laboratory scientist will like study topics related to his/her field.
A researcher achieves competence in the particular field of study through a combination of training and experience which typical takes years to develop an area of expertise. It will be quiet difficult for a researcher to undertake a research topic in an entirely different field. For example, it is highly unlikely that a microbiologist would undertake a study in geology or electricity. The microbiologist will easily loose interest due to lack of knowledge, training and experience in these fields making it unreasonable to study. Now, let’s turn our attention to how researchers choose the topics that they study.
Research ideas can be trigger from a researcher’s motivation to solve a particular problem. We have all come across situations in our lives that has caught our attention as being in need of change and problems in need of solution. For instance, Mosquitoes transmission of malaria which is a major cause of death among pregnant women and under five year’s old children has been around for decade. A great deal of studies are currently being conducted to eradicate this vector borne disease and in each of these research studies, researchers are attempting to solve some specific problems under this category. Another example is that of the Coronavirus pandemic with multiple research studies conducted every day in attempt to solve specific problems triggered by research questions.
Most academic research studies are based on student interest. Student develop interest to a particular field based on his/her level of exposure to the field. For instance, a practicing nurse may decide to conduct research studies because of a long standing interest from practicing experience. Interest arises from practices such as wound dressing, patient care, and treatment plan and drug administration. The nurse may want to find out or assess patient knowledge on a particular topic or evaluate patient response to a particular medication.
Research tends to raise more questions than answers and these newly raised questions often become the focus of future research studies. A research topic can be formulated based on newly raised questions from previous research studies results, conclusion and recommendation. Whether the previous research was conducted by the researcher or someone else, research results and conclusion usually leads to further research studies. Researchers may attempt to replicate a study conducted by another researcher with the aim of obtaining or comparing the results from previous research study or perhaps extending the finding of the previous research using a different sampling technique, population or settings. For instance, a research study conducted on the prevalence of Hepatitis B among healthcare workers in two district hospitals revealed a high prevalence of Hepatitis B among medical laboratory scientists compared to other healthcare workers. A new topic can be derive from these finding such as:
- Prevalence and risk factors of hospital acquire infections among medical laboratory scientist in regional hospital laboratories.
- Bacterial analysis of healthcare workers mobile phones.
Theories often serves as good sources for research ideas. They are rich source of hypothesis that can be empirically examined. For instance; a research may have a theory regarding the development of lungs cancer among cigarette smokers. In this theory, the researcher may theorize that smokers develop cancer due to carcinogenic substances found in cigarette. This hypothetical theory makes prediction and prediction can often be transformed into hypothesis that can be empirically examined in the context of a research study.
There are many other possible reasons for choosing a research topic such as excitement of discovery, in depth knowledge on a subject or field etc. but most importantly, research ideas and topic come from a variety of different sources which many are the things we commonly encounter in our day to day activities.