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Developing Research Questions

Developing Research Questions

Author: Ms. K
Description:
  1.  

    Introduce research questions and why it is important to have a question in mind before beginning research. 

  2.  

    Explain how to pick a research question based on personal interests.

  3.  

    Explain how to pick a research question based on finding gaps.

  4.  

    Explain how to pick a research question that is relevant and not overdone.

 

This packet should help a learner seeking to understand how to prepare to write a paper and who is confused about how to develop an appropriate research question. It will explain strategies for choosing a research question. 

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Tutorial

Introduction to Research Questions

Source: Made by Ms. K

Picking a Topic Based on Personal Interest

When considering a research question, your best bet is to pick a question that you are interested in.  Why?  Because researching a topic take a lot of time, reading, energy, and research, and if you are not interested, you will probably discover yourself getting frustrated or bored with the process.

 

How do you pick a topic based on personal interest? 

1. Start by listing things you are interested in or care about.

For example

  • Sports
    • Football
    • Baseball
  • Environment
  • Schools
  • etc.

2. Examine these topics to see which one, or aspect of one, can be researched.  Usually the topics that best fit researchability are those on which you can take a stand, dicuss or debate different aspects.  With this in mind, list all the question that you'd like answered for one or two of the topic

For example

  • Football
    • What makes football awesome?
    • What are the benefits of having an NFL lockout?
    • When did Payton Manning start playing?
    • Which team will tine the Super Bowl?
    • In college football, is the BCS Bowl System an effective way to detemine champions?
    • Should the NFL do more to promote brain health (specifically pertaining to concusions)?

3. Pick the best question.  You are looking for a question that interests you and one that is not too narrow or too broad. 

For example

  • TOO BROAD = not enough specifics to answer, no timeline for when you mean
    • What makes football awesome?
    • What are the benefits of having an NFL lockout?
  • TOO NARROW = easilly looked up, no real research or thinking needed, short answers to the question
    • When did Payton Manning start playing?
    • Which team will win the Super Bowl?
  • JUST RIGHT = easily and fully researchable
    • In college football, is the BCS Bowl System an effective way to detemine champions?
    • Should the NFL do more to promote brain health (specifically pertaining to concusions)?

Source: Made by Ms. K with photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nightthree/3545199/

Picking a Research Question Using Gap-Spotting

Gap-spotting is the art of noticing what the current information is not revealing about a certain topic, of finding the elements of a topic that have not yet been studied, or closely studied, despite their relevance. 

To conduct gap-spotting, there are three main steps:

  1. read the exisiting research on a subject
  2. analyze what is there and determine what has yet to be covered by the current research
  3. write your research question so that its answer will fill in the gap

Jörgen Sandberg and Mats Alvesson in their 2010 article "Ways of constructing research questions: gap-spotting or problematization?"  confirm, "The most common way across paradigmatic camps is to spot various ‘gaps’ in the literature and, based on that, to formulate specific research questions."  However their research recommends moving beyond gap-spotting to challenging the assumptions in the current literature on a subject and forming a research question to argue if the assumption holds.

Tips for Picking a Research Question

Source: Made by Ms. K with music from "Julio's Party" by Spyro Gyra's In Modern Times