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Research Project Outline: What Makes a Great Researcher?

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

So you want to be a researcher? First thing’s first: what makes a great one?

As a Crimson Research Institute mentor and avid researcher myself, I have a lot of personal and professional experience that has shown me what takes someone from being a good researcher to a great researcher. This post will go over the key attributes of a successful researcher: passion, openness to collaboration, and hard work.


A critical question every great researcher must ask themselves is: “What do I really want to know?” First and foremost, as a budding researcher, it is important to consider the topics that get you really excited, which requires leaning into your passions. For more on this topic, check out our previous post Finding Your Passion.

Once you have narrowed in on what you are really excited to know more about, make a list of questions you earnestly want to find the answers to. All the best research questions start from a place of genuine curiosity. From here, you can start to narrow down your list according to the following criteria. Cross off questions that are not:

  1. focused on a single problem or issue

  2. researchable using primary research (work you perform) or secondary research (work other people have performed)

  3. feasible to answer within your practical constraints (do you have the time? do you have the money / access to the proper resources?)

  4. specific enough to answer thoroughly

  5. complex enough to develop over the space of a paper

Openness to Collaboration

Once budding researchers have narrowed in on their chosen research question(s), the next step is to get feedback! Reach out to your teachers, mentors, or colleagues to get feedback on how you can answer your question. This can help you to create an impactful research project, as well as make the whole process seem a little less daunting. Take advantage of the wide range of experiences and expertise that others have; they may have already tried a method for assessing a similar question! All this feedback can help you to effectively develop the methods of your research project in a way that will both simplify the steps of your project and will ensure that the strategies you are using are actually helping you to answer your unique research question.

Lastly, use a quick google search (try Google Scholar) to see what other researchers have already discovered about this topic. You may need to alter or shift your research question depending on what you discover.

Hard Work

Hard work is another key attribute of all the best researchers. Big surprise, right? The good news is, if you choose a topic that you are passionate about and if you receive feedback from others, you know that you are working on something that will keep your interest. Research projects take many hours, and it is critical that you are passionate about your topic to ensure that you end up completing it!

Note that these projects are demanding and it is therefore important to take breaks from your project so you can revisit your paper with fresh eyes to see if there are any gaps in your paper / project. Your project will continuously evolve and improve with many read-throughs and revisions. Remember, again, to lean on your collaborators! For a regular class paper maybe you are used to revising the paper with one or two proofreads. For a research paper, you will be rereading and editing the paper constantly. You will also regularly receive input from your mentors about revisions to make. Part of being a good scientist and researcher is ensuring that you are being objective and answering a question comprehensively. Further, continued consultation with others to ensure that you do not have blind-spots in your research will help make sure you are asking and answering your question in a scientific way, even if it means a lot more revisions and work than you would normally put into a paper!

With passion, openness to collaboration, and hard work, you will create a product that illustrates your knowledge of a topic that you feel proud of for years to come!

Want more support? Reach out to Crimson’s Research Institute for a consultation!

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