Customize Your Path

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Develop the project idea

Need assistance with developing your project idea?

Having a comprehensive understanding of your research area and eliciting the input of peers, mentors, and subject matter experts are critical first steps in the research life cycle. This page will guide researchers through the resources available at Duke to help ensure the highest quality research and scholarship as you develop your research idea.

Feasibility considerations

An important component in developing your project idea is considering what aspects 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 guide you to resources for assessing the feasibility of your project idea:

  • Collaborations - 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.
  • Funding - if funding is needed to conduct the project, tools and personnel are available to help determine potential funding opportunities that best fit your project idea. 
  • Operations and Logistics - discipline-specific project planning resources are available to help assist you in assessing the operational and logistical needs of your project idea.
  • Preliminary data - pilot or preliminary data may be needed to support the scientific importance of the project, as well as cohort discover for projects involving human subjects or participants.

Tools and strategies for developing your project idea

Conducting literature reviews

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

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

Use the most reputable and reliable sources when conducting your review. Colleagues, mentors, and librarians can help you to determine the most respected sources, especially in any new fields you may explore. 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 your research concept, but such feedback can often help find any pitfalls not previously identified. Three common ways to conduct concept reviews are:

Informal meeting

Talk with a peer, colleague, or mentor to brainstorm your idea. Use this time to bounce ideas off of each other and “pressure test” your research concept.


Written feedback

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


Formal concept review session

Create a scheduled time to present your research idea to a group of experts to receive feedback on the justification, approach, and logistics of your study. Ask your mentor or Vice Chair for Research if your department has an internal concept review process already established or if they would help you 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