Research Plan in Psychology

A scientific discipline is only as valid as the research conducted underneath its name. The basis of the scientific method of knowing about the world is the ability to collect, analyze and verify data. This means that research is the most crucial component of any form of scientific inquiry. Developing a research plan is the first step in the research process.

What is a Research Plan?

A research plan is a document that lists out the aims and objectives of research concisely and briefly. It lists out the tools that the researchers will use to collect and analyze data, as well as how their research will aid in understanding a particular topic. For example, if a researcher wants to find out the effect of feedback on fine motor performance, his research plan will explain the methods they will use to measure both variables. They will also review past literature on the topic and how their study will add to the prevailing reservoir of knowledge. This document undergoes various changes as the conceptualization of our inquiry changes.

Component of a Research Plan

Traditionally, a research plan comprises four components: research question, hypothesis, literature review, and methodology. We will look at each component in detail in the next section.

The Research Question

This is the starting point for developing a research plan. The research question proposes a question that the particular research will attempt to answer, and it addresses the point of ‘What am I trying to accomplish?’. The research question should be specific and be capable of being challenged. It may seem trivial to focus so much on such a small part of the process, but a research question can have an immense impact on the credibility of a research proposal as it often creates an impression for the reader. A prominent method in establishing the criteria for a research question has emerged in the medical field and has gradually trickled down to social sciences. This is called the PICOT method, proposed by Sackett and Richardson in 1997. PICOT is an acronym for−

  • Population to be studied

  • Intervention of interest

  • Comparator of interest

  • Outcome that will be assessed

  • Time frame of assessment

The method helps us specify the domain of a particular research topic and the modalities of intervention if needed. Below is an example of a good and a bad research question.

  • A good research question − What effect does an authorotative parental style have on the ego resiliency of urban Indian adolescents ?

  • A bad research question − How are ego resiliency and parental style related?


A hypothesis is a tentative answer to the research question and is generally an affirmative statement. For example, positive feedback from an instructor improves fine motor performance. Research is an iterative process and builds on the foundations of previous work. Thus it should, whenever possible, use past literature as its base. Likewise, the hypothesis is not randomly conjured up by the researcher. Rather it is inferred based on the existing literature on the topic and what the current theoretical models claim. A good hypothesis is testable, falsifiable, provides insight into the research question, and is measurable with available tools. Collection and analysis of data validate or invalidate a hypothesis. Below is an example of a good and a bad hypothesis.

  • A good hypothesis − Authoratative parental styles are negatively correlated with ego resiliency.

  • A bad hypothesis − Strict parents raise weak children.

Literature Review

A literature review is a systematic approach to identifying, reviewing, and assessing the published work and research currently being carried out by scholars, researchers, and practitioners on a given topic. The literature review is done for the following purposes−

  • To learn about a field of study.

  • To understand current knowledge on a subject.

  • To formulate questions and identify a research problem.

  • To focus the purpose of one's research.

  • To contribute new knowledge to a field.

  • To gain personal knowledge.

  • For intellectual curiosity.

To begin the literature review process, one should start from secondary sources such as textbooks on the topic of concern and then narrow down to the various specific texts footnoted inside them. The researcher may search journals publishing relevant papers and browse the presented catalog. A good way to find topical material is too specific subject words and author names.

Research Methodology

Research methodology answers the ‘how’ of research and lists the tools and procedures that will be used to carry it out. It contains everything from the sampling method used to collect data to the tests used to analyze it. The following is a brief description of the components that fall under research methodology −

  • Sampling Method − It is selecting the subject for a study from the population.

  • Variables − They are all attributes that can change or vary and are observed by the researcher for such.

  • Research Design − It is the framework of the research that helps one map out how its elements fit with each other.

  • Tests and Tools − These comprise the statistical tools used to interpret data.


It is important for a researcher to thoroughly plan their inquisitive venture before executing it. A research plan serves as a blueprint for processes involved in scientific inquiry, and it contains details about the problem the research is trying to solve and the path it will take. A research plan gives us a bird's eye view of what and how it has to be done.

Updated on: 12-Apr-2023


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