What interests you? Start with an area of interest because you will be working on it for possibly up to a year.
Is there a gap, problem or issue? Finding a gap in research or an ongoing issue makes the research current. Find the gap by widely reading the subject area. If the area you are researching is ancient history, think about the reasons someone may want to look at it again, for example are there new developments or interests?
Are you developing a hypothesis or a research question? Do you believe something to be true and would like to prove or disprove it, or are you posing a more open question to find out the answer?
Firstly, you will need to decide whether you are conducting primary or secondary research. Primary research data comes from original sources, such as people or companies, and secondary research comes from literature (literature review). The decision may be made due to what resources are available. For example, a literature review may be completed if you wanted to research the techniques used in Incan architecture and it was too expensive and laborious a task to visit Peru.
Once you have decided on your general approach, you will need to be more specific: if choosing primary research, are you using qualitative or quantitative approaches, or a mix of the two? See Writing your Methodology for more information on different approaches.
After you have decided on your topic and your approach, you will then look at writing your research proposal.