Start with a broad or general topic area.
Do a preliminary literature search in an appropriate database to learn more about the status of research in that area. This will tell you what is currently known or understood, and what questions remain.
Do plenty of reading to immerse yourself in the topic area to develop a good sense of that landscape.
Consider ways to narrow down your topic within the larger context.
Start with a hypothesis:
Begin with a question:
FINER criteria for assessing a research question. (Hulley et al, 2007).
F - Feasible - is it doable; do you have the skills and resources to address the question.
I - Interesting - make sure it is a topic area that interests you personally.
N - NOVEL - what new knowledge or understanding will this research bring to this area of scholarship?
E - Ethical - must meet with IRB approval and other standards of ethical research
R - Relevant - who will care about this research; it should be meaningful to your anticipated audience
PICO(T) is a commone framework for health sciences research questions.
Population/Problem/Patient - what problem are you wanting to address?
Intervention - what treatment, exposure, diagnostic tool, risk factor, etc.
Comparison - if there is one; for example, another drug or treatment or diagnostic tool or risk factor
Outcome - clinical (decrease in blood pressure, risk of stroke, etc.) or patient centered (level of pain, quality of life)
Timeframe or Type of Study (optional) - resolution of condition within 2 months, avoidance of surgery within 1 year, Randomized Controlled Trial for comparing treatment options