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Develop the project idea

Need assistance with developing a project idea?

A comprehensive understanding of the research area being investigated along with the input of peers, mentors, and subject matter experts are critical first check marks in the research life cycle. This page contains information about the resources available at Duke to help ensure the highest quality research and scholarship as ideas are developed.

Feasibility considerations

An important component in developing a project idea is considering what may be needed to feasibly conduct the project. It is often helpful to discuss any feasibility concerns with a mentor or colleague in the field. Various pages in myRESEARCHpath can also provide guidance on resources for assessing the feasibility of a project idea:

Depending on the scope and focus of the research question, collaborations with subject matter experts, statisticians, research staff, or other personnel may be essential for the success of the project.

If funding is needed to conduct the project, tools and personnel are available to help determine potential funding opportunities that best fit the project idea.

Discipline-specific project planning resources are available to help assist in assessing the operational and logistical needs of the project idea.

Pilot or preliminary data may be needed to support the scientific importance of the project, as well as cohort discover for projects involving human participants.

Tools and strategies for developing a project idea

Conducting literature reviews

When developing a project idea, conducting a review of the literature is standard practice to understand the most current information in a given field of research and to begin to develop the rationale for a project. Even the most experienced researchers may discover new developments to be addressed when designing a research project.  Command of previous research should inform the design of new projects by:

  • Identifying limitations or gaps in previous study design or methodology
  • Expanding upon previous findings
  • Identifying validated tools or methods for conducting research

The most reputable and reliable sources should be used when conducting reviews. Colleagues, mentors, and librarians can help determine the most respected sources, especially in any new fields. The following resources will help identify appropriate sources to the field of research and offers pathways toward more advanced literature reviews:

Conducting concept reviews

Concept reviews help researchers formalize an idea through input from peers and experts early on in the process.  Not only will it enhance the research concept, but such feedback can often help find any pitfalls not previously identified. Three common ways to conduct concept reviews are:

Informal meeting

A discussion with peers, colleagues, or mentors to brainstorm an idea could be scheduled. This time can be used to bounce ideas around and “pressure test” research concepts.


Written feedback

A one-pager (sometimes called a white paper) of the concept can be generated. Colleagues and/or mentors can be asked to review the document. This is helpful for identifying gaps in methodology or potential collaborations needed to provide subject matter expertise. One-pagers can also be used as a first step in identifying potential foundation funding matches, or to seek early feedback from funding agency program officers on whether a project would match the program interests.


Formal concept review session

Internal concept reviews are a time to present research ideas to a group of experts to receive feedback on the justification, approach, and logistics of a study. The Vice Chair for Research in a department or a mentor should know whether there is an internal concept review process already established or help conduct one.

Support for humanities research projects

Access the Humanities research support page for resources on:

  • Accessing primary sources or archival material
  • Funding for humanities research projects
  • Humanities support services and resources