by Folahan Ibukun
Engaging in research projects can be an exciting venture from conceptualisation of a research idea to the production of the manuscript. The research process, however, is often marred by various challenges. While some of these are peculiar to the type of research such as missing data in retrospective studies and participant drop-out in prospective studies, others are common to most types of research. The following are some problems that may arise in the course of research and some strategies for overcoming them.
Conceptualization and planning
The initial challenge is often conceptualizing a research-worthy problem and formulating a topic. It is pertinent that a research question fills a research gap by providing new knowledge or contributing to the existing body of knowledge. A poor understanding of the research process may lead to the adoption of an inappropriate or inadequate methodology in answering the research question, and consequently, unreliable results and research outcomes.
It is helpful to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reproducible, Time-bound) objectives at the stage of conceptualization and planning. All aspects of the research process have to be considered, and possible challenges identified while designing a research proposal to ensure a hitch-free experience. It is also important to keep up-to-date with current research trends through courses that may be offered by institutions or easily assessed on online platforms such as Coursera, FutureLearn.
Execution and Time management
Inadequate planning may pose a challenge during the execution of the research. This may make the research work laborious and discouraging. Developing a flow chart of events will help the researcher organise activities to take place during the execution of the project. Managing time during research is crucial. To prevent projects from taking up more than the allotted time, a timeline of all activities to be carried out should be prepared e.g a Gantt chart. This will help to keep the research project on schedule.
The absence of appropriate mentorship may make research more difficult. Mentors are often more experienced researchers in the field of interest. Mentorship is based on mutual respect and professionalism. A mentor provides sound advice on many aspects of the research process including conceptualization, design, funding, and can properly guide the mentee to achieve desired goals. The mentee often gives a fresh perspective on issues, with opportunities for collaboration making the relationship a mutually beneficial one. A good researcher should therefore seek appropriate mentorship to maximize this resource.
Funding can pose a major challenge to a research project. Funds may be needed for planning, purchase of equipment, and other administrative purposes. It is important to make a budget during the proposal stage to estimate the required funds. The project may be modified at this stage based on available funds. Alternative sources of funding may also be explored such as research grants.
While the above points are by no means exhaustive, they can be invaluable in improving the quality of research work and efficiency of the research process.
Dr Folahan Ibukun is a Senior Registrar in Department of Ophthalmology at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. She is an active member of Research Collaboration Network of NARD. She is part of the Third Cohort of the Network.
Blog Editor: Oladimeji Adebayo