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PHS 475: Health Science Capstone

The research process

The Research Process


The graphic to the left lists the different stages of the research process.  "Research" is a concept with a broad range of definitions.  This graphic presupposes an active component, where a researcher does original work in the field (steps 4 and 5).  Particularly at the undergraduate level, not all coursework involves such a component -- much of your coursework will ask you to review the literature on your topic, and then discuss, interpret, and add your own thoughts to this material.  Coursework of this nature may be considered "research" too, and the graphic can accommodate this form of research in addition to research with an active component.  When this happens, omit steps 4 and 5, and instead proceed from step 3 to step 6.

Proceeding step-by-step through each yields the following structure:

  1. Research topics are often alternately described as research problems -- you, the researcher, perceive a gap, discrepancy, or unanswered question in the existing knowledge within your field of study.  Your first task is to define this issue, and why addressing it is worthy of study.  The identifying a topic page linked to the left can help you with this process.
  2. Review the literature -- what have other researchers in the field written on this topic or research question?  How does your idea or question fit into that literature?  The identifying search terms, finding background information, and books, ebooks, and articles pages linked to the left can help you with this process.
  3. Formulate a hypothesis -- based upon your current knowledge, what do you anticipate you will discover by conducting your research?
  4. (For active research projects) How do you want to select and measure variables that will provide data or evidence to address your topic or question?  What population will you measure?  What tool(s) or forums will you use, such as surveys or focus groups?
  5. (For active research projects) Conduct your research!
  6. Having assembled and reviewed a body of literature on your topic, and, if applicable, conducted your active research, what are your findings?  Do your findings uphold your hypothesis?  If so, why?  If not, why not?
  7. What key findings did your analysis yield?  How will you let the broader scholarly community know what you found?  Paper?  Presentation?  Poster?  What new questions do your findings yield, that either you or other researchers can address (thereby renewing the research process)?

The publishing timeline

Publishing timeline graphic


Also referred to as the publishing cycle or the information lifecycle, this timeline highlights the different types of media that will report on an event in the different timeframes after the event happens.  The elapsed time between an event and the media reporting it has an effect on they type of content and level of analysis that will be present in the reporting documents. The following tutorial will examine a variety of information types and materials regularly used for academic research.  

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