1. Your research question

Before you even think about applying for funding you need to know what your project is all about. This may be something you’ve identified as part of your everyday practice (there are still a lot of these questions in pharmacy) or something you’ve got a personal interest in. The good news about applying for funding is that because your time will be ‘bought out’ you could potentially carry out research completely outside your usual scope of practice.

Establishing a research question is actually a lot more difficult than it sounds. An awful lot of work goes into a single sentence! A common mistake that most of us (including me) make when writing a research question for the first time is being too ambitious. I myself first wrote a research question which was probably a £500,000 project rather than the MSc project I was actually doing! It would be fine if I’d had the half a million pounds and the 10-man experienced research team I would have needed, but I didn’t and therefore part of the art of writing the research question is setting yourself a question you can realistically answer.

Doing a literature review is absolutely crucial in creating your research question. There is no point coming up with a research question that has already been answered, and therefore identifying what is currently known, and not known, is key to writing a research proposal worth funding.

Not done a literature review since your undergraduate project? Fear not, help is at hand. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society library and research team have produced some great resources for pharmacists to get you started on both doing your literature review and forming a research question (see links).

Finally, my last tip is to not be too precious about your research question in the initial stages. It will get constantly challenged and refined as you go through the next stages of developing your research proposal. Having said that, you are the expert on your project and if you feel that something is important then stick to your guns and be prepared to defend your decisions.


Useful links

RPS research support and guidance pages (general)


RPS guidance on developing a research question


RPS literature review support (including links to webinars)


NEW! Pharmaceutical Journal article on conducting a literature review


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