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Preparing for a reseach study: writing the protocol
Although tempting to forge ahead and get on with the research when fired by a surge of initial enthusiasm, it is usually essential to prepare thoroughly first. This will involve thinking through what you want to do and how you're going to do it, and activities such as searching for and reading relevant literature, gauging the interest of colleagues, making new contacts, looking for possible funding and collaborators and considering any ethical implications. Your proposals should then be written up as the study protocol, a significant undertaking that may take you weeks or even months to complete. Small projects would tend to require less input but still require working methodically through the same steps. Inadequate preparation will cause problems when you come to carry out the project. Be sure to consider what resources you have and how to make good in any areas where you are weak. Do you have enough expertise and support personally and locally or do you need an external consultant?