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How to Conceptualize a Research Project

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The research process has three phases: the conceptual phase, the empirical phase, and the interpretative phase. In this chapter, we focus on the first phase: the conceptual phase—the part of the research process that determines which questions are to be addressed by the research and how research procedures are to be used as tools in finding the answers to these questions. Here we describe the various components of the conceptualization phase that need to be carefully considered before moving on to the empirical and interpretative phases of the research. Conceptualization involves simultaneously bringing together several considerations to identify a good research idea, i.e., an answerable research question that is worth answering. Components of this process include conducting a thorough search of the peer-reviewed literature, finding a research mentor and other collaborators, considering methodology and study design, and assessing feasibility. It should be noted that although we describe these various components in a linear fashion in the text, in reality, the conceptualization phase is not a linear process and will require consideration of these components to varying degrees at various stages depending upon evolving circumstances and the reader’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Even though careful attention to all these components will require considerable time and effort on the part of the physician scientist, we consider this to be time well spent as it will lay the ground for a successful research endeavor.


  • Good Research Ideas
  • Worth Answering
  • Concept Phase
  • Empirical Phase
  • Systematic Scientific Investigation

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Fig. 30.1


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Correspondence to Shaili Jain M.D. .

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Jain, S., Lindley, S.E., Rosen, C.S. (2013). How to Conceptualize a Research Project. In: Roberts, L. (eds) The Academic Medicine Handbook. Springer, New York, NY.

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