How to come up with a research idea

Start with Facts

But how?

  • What is the health topic?
  • Who are affected?
  • Where are these people?
  • Why should we be worried about it?
  • What causes or leads to the health issue you are going to work with?

Ask lots and lots of questions

  • Start with “Why”. Why are you interested in the topic? Keep it in the centre
  • Then move out and answer the question “How”, i.e., how will you do it
  • Finally, wrap around let the answer as to “What”, or “what is it that you are going to work on” emerge.

Concept maps?

How to d draw concept maps

How to generate concept maps

  1. Start with an idea parking zone. Put lists of all your ideas, concepts, thoughts in the form of single words or phrases and stack them somewhere. I usually use a white board, or floor, or wall as a holding space and post-it notes.
  2. Start thinking. Arrange the concepts from most abstract to most concrete from top to bottom. Your concepts are going to be nouns.
  3. Connect pairs of concepts using verbs. When two concepts are connected by a verb, then the sentence is referred to as a proposition. A proposition can be a starting point for writing a paragraph or even the theme of a paragraph. Say, you want to work on climate change and health. Your top level concept is climate change and another level is global warming. You can write something like
  • X causes Y ( for example, smoking causes lung cancer). If X causes Y, you will need to consider three fulfilling criteria at least where X and Y will have a valid association:
  • That the occurrence of X and Y could not be because of chance. This is rarely an issue for criticism as most published studies are well powered; however, when you start out unless you propose to investigate such an association, you will need to be mindful.
  • That, there may be some form of bias that has led to an apparent association between X and Y, in reality, X and Y may not be associated at all. This is a valid argument and you will need to investigate this angle of criticism for all studies that you evaluate in health sciences. If you deal with observational studies, learn to identify and list possible selection and information bias or response biases and try to uncover if these might explain the association or apparent association we get to see.
  • That, a third variable, Z, might actually explain the association between X and Y, such that, Z is associated both with X and Y and does not come in the path between X and Y. Z is referred to as a confounding variable and test if the authors have covered confounding variables sufficiently enough to justify whether another study may shed insight into it.
  1. See Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson’s Tagore: Myriad Minded Man.




Professor @ University of Canterbury, Doctor, scholar, data scientist, Cantabrian. ENS: arinbasu.eth & mastodon instance:

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Arindam Basu

Arindam Basu

Professor @ University of Canterbury, Doctor, scholar, data scientist, Cantabrian. ENS: arinbasu.eth & mastodon instance:

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