A research topic is a subject which currently exists and needs to be addressed. The topic is presented in a research statement for it to be investigated. The research statement will in turn provide the context for the research study and generates the questions which the research aims to answer. The statement of the problem is the focal point of any research. A good problem statement is just one sentence (with several paragraphs of elaboration).
Researcher chooses a research topic after asking himself or herself the following sets of questions:
1) Why am I choosing this topic for my research?
2) Where will you find the references for your topic?
3) When will you complete this study, will it be possible for you to complete it in the given time frame?
4) How will you collect data for this topic and is there sufficient data available so that you can do this study?
5) What is the significance of your topic and is it significant enough to be undertaken?
When the above questions are answered, the researcher will have been able to choose a research topic which is interesting and researchable; the researcher would have known referencing source (including literature review material). In addition, he or she would have known data sources for the study, when to complete the enquiry and what the significance of the research would be.
With the topic sentence in place, the researcher set the goals of his study. These goals are known as research objectives. They are born out of the research topic to inform the researcher what he wants to achieve through his study of the topic. They also inform the readers what researcher wants to research and how far he wants to go. In addition, they inform the readers about the scope and extent of the study.
Research objectives can therefore be defined as the points of finding information from certain types of research. They clearly define what subjects the researcher intends to cover about the research topic in his study.
These research objectives formed must thus be clear, complete and specific in nature. The objective sentences should be simple and clear, no complexities should arise. The researcher should remember that these sentences define his or her topic sentence. They should also be complete in sense; for instance, they should have information about the population to be studied. In this sense, the scope will be well defined that one knows what the study will cover in terms of population, thus a boundary is set. While the research topic identifies the subject or issue, the research objectives define the study boundary.
The research objectives usually focus on the what, how when and where questions and there should be no loopholes. They are specific in nature and it is this light that they give the research topic direction. They guide the research in his quest to carry out an enquiry.
In research objectives, the researcher decides about the variables in his or her study. He or she decides about the dependent variables, independent variables as well as the control variables, if the research is an experimental research. In researches with hypotheses, the research objectives give the direction of the relationship between research topic and research hypothesis. Also in studies with hypothesis, the researcher defines the direction in which he wants to test the variables.
In general, the research objectives indicate specific information the researcher seeks to get by carrying out his or her enquiry. For this reason, they should be Smart, that is, Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic and Time bound.
Conceptual framework is defined as a set of broad ideas and principles taken from relevant fields of enquiry and used to structure a subsequent presentation. (Reichel and Ramney, 1987). It explains either graphically or in narrative form the main dimensions being studied or presumed relationships among them.
Conceptual framework as an analytical tool will be chosen in line with the subject of the study, that is, research topic. And since the research topic was made specific and direction of the study given in terms of research objectives, they will inform the choice of conceptual framework of the study. For instance, the variables decided when formulating researcher objectives are analysed in terms of relationship with the conceptual framework. Thus the conceptual framework is used to make conceptual distinctions as well as organize the ideas attained during the study.
In general, conceptual framework contributes in the whole research report as it helps the researcher to identify variables; these variables should be identified in research objectives. In addition, clarifies relationships among the variables. Linked to the problem statement, it “sets the stage” for presentation of the specific research question that drives the investigation being reported. For example, in a summative study, the conceptual framework tends to be similar to research question. But this may not be true for the formative evaluation study.
Research topic therefore informs the selection of the conceptual framework in the study, for example, the researcher will have an elaborate and detailed conceptual framework when the topic being studied has a long scholarly history. Emerging topics usually have a short scholarly history or not at all. They thus have a short conceptual framework as compared to those with long scholarly history.