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ResMAP: Getting Started

Mapping the research journey for Post Graduate and Doctoral Researchers

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Getting Started


Getting started can be the most difficult part of the research process. You will need to be organized from the start and have a clear understanding of the process. ResMAP is designed to help you do both. This first section is divided into four:

Defining the Research Question

The Research Proposal

Planning Your Research 

Managing Yourself


It is very important to think about what you need to do to stay focused and maintain your motivation throughout your research.Taking care of yourself is one of the vital elements for successfully completing your research project. To help you maintain your motivation, manage stress and stay positive try to:

Serenity IMAGE  

Take regular exercise

Regular short breaks or even a short walk at lunchtime can boost your energy levels and will give you a break from your work. This will also help to avoid eye strain if you are working from a computer screen.

Longer breaks (like a holiday)

Not just short breaks but longer breaks are important too to give you a chance to refresh yourself so you can go back to your research with renewed enthusiasm.

Eat a healthy diet

Eating healthily can help you to concentrate and again boosts your energy levels and can maintain your overall motivation.

Get enough sleep

Ensure that you get enough sleep (normal recommendation is eight hours each night) in order to focus on your work and keep to your research plan.

Stay positive

Speaking with your supervisor, your friends and family or other researchers in your filed can often help you to get things in perspective and identify ways to get back on track if your initial enthusiasm fades or complex issues arise.

If you feel the issue is more serious and may lead to problems such as stress or depression then more specialist advice is available. The University’s Student Services Department offer a professional and confidential Health and Wellbeing Service that can support your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, helping you to study more effectively. 


The first step is to start thinking about what you would like to research. You will not just be writing about a topic, but instead will be focussing on specific aspects, perhaps trying to solve a problem, querying currently held beliefs, or arguing a particular case or thesis. This is about defining your aims and objectives and your theoretical framework or approach.

Your research question will need to be focused as it will ultimately form the basis of your dissertation. The clearer the question, the easier the process.

Who what IMAGE

This is also a good time to think about who will supervise your research and the learning contract you will make with them. Your relationship with your supervisor(s) is crucial. A supervisor can offer advice, knowledge, expertise, coffee and help to keep you on track.

The University will match you with a lead supervisor who will have subject knowledge of your research focus. You may also be able to choose, usually for Doctoral research, a second supervisor with expertise in your area of study.


Your research proposal will be the recipe for your dissertation. Your introduction should clearly state what the proposed research will be about. It is useful to start with a clear formulation of your research question and should include a short version of your literature review.

You will then need to expand on this by explaining:

  • Where this research question comes from
  • If it arises out of a debate in the literature, prior research or personal experience, introduce that in your proposal.
  • Why this research is important
  • Rationale is crucial as it aims to convince your supervisor that the research is worth doing. 

The literature review should state:

  • What is known on your topic
  • What is not known
  • Where the priorities for research lie

The literature review is an important part of your rationale as it provides a framework for the reader to understand the research question and methodology. It also demonstrates to the reader your awareness of the breadth and diversity of the literature relating to your research question. It is a carefully structured outline of what others have said and done. It also requires critical examination of the related literature including strengths, weaknesses and gaps.

Your supervisor will help you to understand about the breadth of the literature you need to consult.


When thinking about your research it is important to recognise that this is a lengthy process, requiring planning and the development of a support network - both formal and informal. Consider whose help and advice you will need during the period of your research: For example Library and Learning Resources staff, other researchers in your field, employers, firends and family.

Establish supervision

The relationship with your supervisor(s) is key to the success of your research. Consult as soon as possible with your supervisor(s) (usually allocated to you) for advice on the expected scope of your research.

Agree a timetable for regular meetings to discuss progress and do not hide problems - your supervisor can help to resolve these.  Keep brief notes of what is discussed in your meetings. This will help you to remember targets agreed.


Stakeholders and Approval

You should be aware that stakeholder approval (such as the Ethics Committee in Health and Social Care) may need to be sought prior to undertaking your research.

For further details of the University’s Research Ethical Framework visit:

Birmingham City University’s Research Ethical Framework

Birmingham City University Higher Degrees by Research Code of Practice

Birmingham City University Guidelines and Procedures for Good Research Practice

Faculty of Health Research: Ethics and Indemnity

Discuss with your supervisor what requirements there may be both for ethical approval and research indemnity. Ethics approval may also need to be sought from external agencies (e.g. The Health Research Authority). Also discuss who the stakeholders might be. It is worth considering not just those on whom the research will have a direct impact but also those where the impact is less obvious.

Also consider whether you need anyone’s permission to do this research? For example, if you plan to collect data in your workplace or other organisation you will need written permission from the manager(s) in that place and may be required to undertake orientation training where safety may be an issue.

Time management

It is important to work out a plan for your research and stick to it. You need to be clear about different tasks that you have and how and when you will achieve them. Having a clear deadline of what you want to have completed each week will enable you to plan your time better and hopefully will result in a well planned and executed dissertation. Consider your submission date, what you need to achieve and plan accordingly. Problems will always arise and it is essential to account for these by planning your time effectively.

In addition, keeping a reflective diary (sometimes referred to as a learning log or lab log) on your research will help you to keep track of what you’re doing and what you still need to do.

In consultation with your supervisor, draw up an initial schedule. Having this schedule in front of you all of the time will remind you what you need to do and when you need to do it by.

The Writing Process 

Consider your academic writing style. Ask your supervisor whether there are any writing conventions that need to be followed. Different subject areas will have differing approaches and expections as to format, reporting of results and structure. It is important that these are followed.

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