You want to study a masters or doctorate? The first step is to identify an area of interest that is arguable but testable. This is the Proposed Area of Interest. At a time when everyone thinks the earth is flat, you think the earth is a sphere. If you forward the idea that the earth is a sphere, then you need to have a Problem Definition so that others understand what the issue is. You would also need to state why this issue is a problem via the Problem Statement so that the idea you propose can be understood unambiguously.
Before you say something "stupid", you have to review the current knowledge and the authorities who hold the status quo. So you need to conduct a Literature Review. A literature review is conducted by first looking for documents that discuss your area of research. So you would take a document and browse through it. Then, if its contents appears to be useful, you would record the document as a Reference. Then, you would (re)read through the document and mark relevant arguments as excerpts - which should be traceable to the source document. At this stage, the researcher has to identify and follow trails of Research Gaps including information gaps in the knowledge. Ideas arising from such a review need to be organized into a mind map, diagram, picture or other form of visualization. The culmination of your literature review must generate several research gaps that cast doubts on the current understanding and converge to the concept you are trying to bring forward. As the visualization develops, the mind map records and organizes the emerging lack of knowledge around the problem statement.
This emerging lack of knowledge helps you to create a concept of the idea you are proposing. This is called the Conceptual Framework which really is a visualization or framework showing that which you are proposing, e.g. the flat earth theory and the sphere earth theory. Most researchers seem to think that the conceptual framework is an optional step. In my opinion, your conceptual framework is paramount to represent your original ideas - namely the transition from the current to the new (level of) knowledge.
But then, proposing something new or novel is not good enough. You need to demonstrate the "truth" of your proposition. Here, you would use the Conceptual Framework to develop tests that need to be conducted to demonstrate your concept. So, you would develop a Theoretical Framework comprising of arguments and questions you would ask - that would support your theory. Again, in my opinion, the theoretical framework is not an option.
To be explicit, you need to create a Research Question or indeed several Research Questions within your theoretical framework. Just how many Research Questions would suffice? Many students simply come up with 2 or 3 or 5 Research Questions without a basis. Actually, the number of questions essential, is determined by the number of questions you need to inquire to adequately defend your idea of the transition from the flat earth to the spherical earth! There should not be anything less or more than this number of questions needed to defend your thesis.
A Research Question has to be stated with an inquiry, e.g. Does drinking green tea reduce body weight in adolescent girls? Naturally, we start with the assumption that Drinking green tea does not reduce weight in adolescent girls. This is the Null Hypothesis, Ho. Yes, the assumption of "innocent until proven guilty". The alternative answer would be that Drinking green tea does reduce body weight in adolescent girls. This is the Alternative Hypothesis, Ha. Note that the answer to the research question has to be either Ho, or Ha but not both.
To be testable, your Research Question must have at least a Dependent Variable (DV) and an Independent Variable (IV) - although this is an oversimplification for this short article. Once a research question is formed, a Research Aim follows, e.g. To demonstrate that Drinking green tea reduces body weight in adolescent girls. Each research aim is achieved through completing of a set of Research Objectives. Research objectives enumerate the steps to achieve the research aim.
If a research question has one DV and one IV, that is the most common univariate case. If a research question has one DV and several IVs, then you need to use a Multivariable Analysis. If there are several DVs and several IVs, then you would need a Multivariate Analysis. It is normally agreeable that the complexity of data analysis is best left to advanced software data analysis packages. This is particularly true when advanced mathematical and statistical looping algorithms are necessary.
Once there is a deck of research questions, the researcher should attempt to derive an aggregate DV and an aggregate IV. This aggregate DV and aggregate IV should be represented in the Thesis Statement. The aggregate DV should be a collective term for the DVs and likewise the aggregate IV should be a collective term for the IVs. For example, suppose the DVs (Food, Exercise) aggregate to Personal Healthcare. And, suppose the IVs (Drinking green tea, Normal Diet, Vegetarian Diet) aggregate to Healthy Lifestyle. With an arbitrary scope (Working Class Adults) you could have a thesis statement: Working Class Adults should be responsible for their Personal Healthcare in order to maintain a Healthy Lifestyle. Concomitant pairs of the DVs and IVs solely derived from the literature review are now testable.
In parallel, the aggregate Aims constitute the General Aims and the aggregate Objectives should constitute the General Objectives. In my opinion, this should be the proper method of developing General Aims and General Objectives. Most researchers simply cobble this up from intuition or experience.
Within the Research Question, there must be a modifier and a measure, e.g. Exercise increases (modifier) the mean (measure) heart rate. There are many other modifiers (e.g. decreases, associated, correlated, independent, mediated, moderated, etc.) and other measures (e.g. median, proportion, rate, variance, etc.). Once the modifier and measure is known, the statistical test needed can be determined with the number of sample groups (1, 2-independent, 2-dependent, 3 or more, etc.) and the data type (e.g. nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio). With all these information, the statistical test is uniquely identified (except where there are redundant or similar or alternative tests). This step is best done through a selection or filtering process from a tree diagram of all possible combinations of test, sample groups, data type, etc.
With each statistical test, the Data Collection format is specific for each Statistical Data Analysis. So, data can now be collected in the required format and analyzed routinely. This should result in a Research Finding that favors the alternate hypothesis, Ha, i.e. Enough statistical evidence to support that Ho is Rejected at the stated confidence level (typically 5%). Again, this is an over simplification as many exceptions exist. Recall that every research question has a research aim as explained earlier. When Ho is Rejected, the research aim, namely, To demonstrate that Drinking green tea reduces body weight in adolescent girls is proven.
If each of the several Research Findings favor Ha, then all the research questions together must inevitably defend the Thesis Statement. Remember, we started with an explicit number of research questions in the theoretical framework that would adequately (i.e. necessarily and sufficiently) prove the conceptual framework if all the aims were met. Note that every aim must be met. This is the beauty of the conceptual framework leading to the theoretical framework, leading to the research questions, leading to the aims. Chaining backwards, you have test data, based on the research question, bounded by the theoretical framework, that supports the conceptual framework - which is your brainchild following a thorough gap analysis within the literature review. How very elegant.
Once again, you asked the research question, Does drinking green tea reduce body weight in adolescent girls? Recall also, the aim of this research question is To demonstrate that Drinking green tea reduces body weight in adolescent girls. In the process, your findings yield Reject Ho and you have enough evidence to suggest Ha, which is: Drinking green tea does reduce body weight in adolescent girls. In other words, when the aim is met, the Research Conclusion supports your proposition (Ha).
When all the findings favor the Research Conclusion, then the Thesis Statement is defended and your Conceptual Framework is demonstrated. Notice that it is the conceptual framework, your brainchild, that you are after. After all, the thesis statement is a verbal or textual declaration of you concept. And that, this idea is not conventional and it moves the knowledge boundary in some ways. This movement of the knowledge boundary is your Contribution to Knowledge. Note specifically, the contribution to knowledge comes exclusively from "filling-up" of the research gaps. This is why the identification of the research gap is vital during the literature review.
Of course, defending your statement does not mean the eternal truth of your statement or therefore your concept. For now, it is, until the next researcher identifies a gap in the body of knowledge and demonstrates otherwise.
This author has created a software, called AsterWrite. Aster is the acronym for Advanced Science Technology Experimental Research. AsterWrite helps researchers conduct research and thesis writing in the structured method outlined above. Indeed, all the steps above have been programmed into a cascading placeholder method (template or rubric) that can take a researcher step-by-step through the whole process resulting in a shorter learning curve. With AsterWrite, researchers can focus deeper into their investigations and conduct more thorough research given the availability of the custom tools and techniques. Additionally, researchers can conduct original research effortlessly. Above all, researchers can expect to Graduate-On-Time.