This electronic Toolkit is designed as a question-driven platform. Before you start you should consider the following:

Decide on clear objectives

  • What are you trying to achieve and by when?

Decide on your research question

  • For example, what is the current status of dugongs in Blue Bay?

Understand your topic of interest

  • Start with a search of the published research literature to find out what researchers already know about your research topic.
  • Include the ‘grey’ literature, such as unpublished, internal government or other organisation reports, and student theses.
  • Summarise the published and ‘grey’ literature.
  • Refine your knowledge through discussions with experts in your chosen field of research.
  • Involve members of the local communities where you wish to work – they can often provide valuable information and you will also be gaining their support for your research.

Understand the difference between techniques and tools

  • A technique is the procedure for undertaking the work.
  • A tool is an implement used to carry out a particular technique.

For example, if you decide to conduct aerial surveys to investigate the distribution of dugongs in your chosen area of interest, the aerial survey would be the ‘technique’.

Fixed wing aircraft, helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles – commonly called drones – (for example unmanned fixed wing, multirotor or hybrid drones) are possible ‘tools’ to implement the aerial survey (the technique). The most appropriate tool will depend on your research question and available resources.

Understand your available resources (time, budget, people and expertise)

  • Timeline: Make sure you have allocated enough time to conduct a project. Estimate both the overall amount of time needed and how long it will take you to complete each stage of the project. Allow for contingencies (for example weather, availability of equipment, availability of people) and inevitable delays.
  • Budget: The budget required to conduct a research project depends on its design, the techniques and tools you plan to use and the expertise required to use them. There are often several techniques available for the same research. Choose the technique most appropriate to your capacity.
  • People and Expertise: Ensure that you have enough people and the right expertise to conduct all stages of your project including project design, project approvals, securing funding, data collection, data analysis and interpretation, and report writing. Remember you are collecting data to achieve the objective of your research.

Seek ethics approval and community support

  • Ethics: Your research activities may need to meet research institution ethics policies, government legislation and/or be approved by an ethics committee from your research institution.
  • Community support: Consult with and seek approval from local communities for the conduct of your research in their area. This approval is often critical to the success of a research project.