Selecting a topic
The subject, or focus, of your research project will be the specific aspect of the topic you eventually decide to investigate. Selecting a suitable subject can be likened to a filtering process. Some of the factors that should be considered when selecting a topic are summarised below.
• Ethical constraints on who participants can be
• Accessibility of secondary sources in the subject and appropriate for Level 3 study
• Access to a sample population to whom you can distribute questionnaires
• How the topic relates to health and social care
• What hypothesis or research question could you propose?
• Can you test the hypothesis or is the question answerable?
• Time scale for duration of project and planning it
• Is the scale (breadth and depth) of the topic manageable with the time and other constraints?
• Sensitivity of topic for participants
• Making the data you can collect, given the constraints, relevant to the topic
• Travel accessibility e.g. to conduct interviews, time and cost factors
• Access to specialist equipment and resources
• Personal safety when doing the primary research.
Some of the influences may be specific to the circumstances of your school or college. For example, if you are in a rural area, the cost of transport when making visits to interview a specialist might be more of an obstacle than if you lived in an urban area.
Some of the factors to record when reviewing the topic for your research project and carrying out a literature search are:
• full surname (last name) plus first name initials of every author
• if an edited book, also note full surname and first name initials of all the editors
• year of publication or day/month/year for newspapers and broadcasts
• full title of the book (as on the cover), journal, Internet/newspaper article or broadcast programme
• if using/referencing an edited book, full title of book, plus the title of the chapter read, plus its start and end page numbers
• town/city of publication (books)
• name of publisher or broadcasting company
• for all sources from the Internet
– the day/month/year accessed
– full URL reference copied from the box at the top of Internet screen.
Note: you should include all the relevant information from each source used in a literature review and project report.
Your literature search will have highlighted different aspects of the topic you are interested in but you need to analyse the topic closely. Drawing a detailed mind map of the different aspects of the topic can help narrow your focus on a specific aspect that is sufficiently small to be manageable in the time you have available.
A research question is used when the research aims to investigate a topic without making any prediction as to what the research might discover. It enables the research to be broader than when testing a hypothesis.
An example of an ‘open-ended’ research question might be ‘How do college students cope with stress?’
Select one of the following topics which interests you:
- Mental Health
- Physical Health
- Social Care provision
- Health care provision
Next, considering the current limitations we have with social distancing, think of 5 questions under your chosen topic you would like to find out the answer to.
Remember, you do not have to conduct an experiment, you could find out the answer by looking at other people's research. However, you are also encouraged to conduct your own study.
For example, my research questions might look to find out:
Topic: Mental Health
1. The impact of natural disasters vs nuclear power-plant meltdowns on the development of PTSD (secondary research)
2.The impact culture on the perception of racist behaviour (secondary research)
3. The impact of self-isolation on mental well-being (primary research)
4. The impact of the media's coverage of COVID-19 on stress levels and agoraphobia (primary research)
5. The impact of video calling on combating loneliness (primary research)
As you can see, I might take this opportunity to investigate the impact of COVID-19, or I might look at something completely different. It is up to you.
Now post your topic and 5 questions in the "Planning you research" forum which we will discuss in our tutorial and see which topic you should take further.