Top tips on navigating research projects

Embarking on a research project in the New Year? Not sure where to start? Four recent library graduates from the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship (IRDL) share the top tips that got them through.

Flexibility

“With any new research project, flexibility is key. Even with a well-thought out and well-developed research plan, challenges will pop up along the way that will require you to be flexible in navigating them, such as not recruiting enough participants, not having the necessary funds to conduct the research at that particular point in time, or not getting the results you were expecting from the data or information gathered. However, surprisingly, some of those challenges may become opportunities that improve your research project, make the research process easier for you, or take your research in a new direction. Being able to adjust, for example, by using other methods of recruitment, considering different sources of funding, or seeing the data or information you have gathered in a different way, will enrich your research experience and sustain your research interests.” –Yen Tran, Sciences Librarian, San José State University

Refine

“First, refine your research question until it is as precise as you can make it. Second, take the time to really think about and plan your research design so that it answers your research question. When you are enthusiastic about your research question, it can be hard to refrain from jumping right in, but slowing down and considering all of the real-world practicalities will make your research stronger. Last, make sure you have a genuine interest in your research project—you will be spending a lot of time with it.” –Andrea Hebert, Human Sciences, Education, and Distance Learning Librarian, Louisiana State University

Organization

“A new research project may seem like a daunting task to complete.  Being organized and committed to a timeline are key to ensuring a research project is completed on time.  Keeping files and notes organized help to be efficient.  Setting dates with tasks to be completed and blocking time on your calendar to complete these tasks will help.  The tasks can be small so they are not overwhelming, and give yourself enough time to complete each task.  Be realistic with yourself.  With busy work and personal lives, it is easy to overlook a research project.  With some organization and commitment, completing a research project will become a reality.” –Tina Chan, Reference Services Program Manager & Social Sciences Librarian, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Management

“Research is project management. This was a surprise to me coming from a humanities and history background, where all the onus was on me to study the literature, examine the primary sources, and articulate new interpretations. In social sciences research, so many other people are engaged in the process. There are your co-investigators working on the project, your administrators at various levels, your institutional review board, your research participants, and your instruments developed using software that may be totally new to you. There are unexpected costs, delays, and trade-offs. Plus, there’s your day job, your professional service activities, your family and friends. So build flexibility into your project schedule and keep the John Lennon lyric in mind: ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’” –Michael Rodriguez, Licensing/Acquisitions Librarian, University of Connecticut.

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