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ResMAP: Potential Pitfalls!

Mapping the research journey for Post Graduate and Doctoral Researchers


A delay in ethical approval

The timescale for the ethical approval is normally 30-60 working days depending on the type of Ethics Committee involved.

When planning the timescale of your project as a whole, it is advisable to budget time for the ethical review, as well as the time needed to prepare the application.

Once the review is complete you will be notified in writing.

Non response to questionnaires

It is worth making a note of the date that questionnaires are distributed and the date they are returned.

Assuming that your guarantees of anonymity and confidentiality permit follow-ups, it is worth sending a reminder about a week after the given return date.


Be careful about falling into the ‘bias’ trap particularly if you have strong opinions about your topic.

It is very easy to only select items from the literature review which support your point of view or to use particular language when asking interview questions that may influence interviewees.

Consult with your supervisor – they will indicate if there are signs of bias in your research.

Potential Pitfalls

Inevitably with any research there are uncontrollable factors which can affect your research process. It is important to be aware of these factors prior to conducting your research in order to retrieve any lost time during the process and regain momentum of your research. You should always keep your supervisor informed of any problems which arise during the research process. potentialpitfalls_image

Environmental factors


When conducting interviews, try to fix a time and a place where you will not be disturbed.

Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Agree a plan for keeping in touch via mobile and what the other person will do if you do not respond. (See Suzy Lamplugh Trust for tips on personal safety)

You may need to ensure that official channels have been cleared. A letter from your supervisor explaining the purpose of your research may be helpful. 

In your original schedule, you may need to account for participants cancelling at short notice, second visits and finding replacements.

Experimental or Laboratory Research

Confounding variables - variables that arise during the research which make results difficult to interpret or invalid within the context of the research question. This may not be a disaster! You will need to discuss this with your supervisor. Sometimes the data gathered will lead to fresh interpretations or deeper insight of the question.  

Final Steps Support