Palitha Edirisingha University of Leicester, UK. Developing research questions For PhD Researchers
Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods, 3rd Edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Carey, M. (2009) The Social Work Dissertation: Using Small-Scale Qualitative Methodology. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill and Open University Press. De Vaus, D. (2001) Research Design in Social Research. London: Sage. Gilbert, N. (2008) Researching Social Life , 3rd Edn. London: Sage. Punch, K. F. (2006) Developing Effective Research Proposals , 2nd Edn . London: Sage. Silverman, D. (2010) Doing Qualitative Research, 3rd Edn. London: Sage. White, P. (2009) Developing Research Questions: A guide for social scientists : Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. References
'People are often impressed when they find out that you are "doing research". They may even want to know more. If you have ever been in this situation, you will know how embarrassing it can be if you are unable to explain clearly what you intend to study. Such embarrassment can be multiplied a thousand-fold if your interrogator is, say, a smart professor you have never met before. How are you to respond?'
'You should not underestimate how difficult or time consuming it can be to develop research questions. [It] is one of the most challenging stages of the research process. [Developing research questions] requires considerable imagination and ... disciplined and logical thought. But time spent thinking about your research questions will pay dividends at later stages of the research.'
(White, 2009, p. 1)
What is in a research proposal ... Punch (2006) Main themes Questions that the proposal needs to answer Content What is the proposed research about What is it trying to find out / achieve What? Research questions, general and specific What we will learn from that and why it is worth learning Why? Justification, significance, importance, contribution, expected outcomes How will I go about doing that How? The methods of the research
Research topic and problem RESEARCH QUESTIONS and purpose RESEARCH STRATEGIES Explore Describe Understand Predict Change Evaluate Assess impact Basic research Applied research 'What' questions 'Why' questions 'How' questions Blaikie (2010, p. 58 and p. 81) Inductive Deductive
Findings a workable (not just narrow) research topic [and questions]
Recognising 'feedback loops' between topic(s) and data analysis
Understanding that your categories (or variables) are always theoretically saturated
(Silverman, 2010, p. 96)
Workable research questions - 3 features (Silverman, 2010, p. 97) 1. Answerability data required to answer the questions, how the data are going to be collected 2. Interconnectedness a meaningful connection among the questions 3. Substantively relevant questions 'interesting' and 'worthwhile', justifying the investment and effort
The research area Approach 1 The research topic General research questions Specific research questions Data collection questions 180 180 180 180 (Punch, 2008)
Research area Research topic General research questions Specific research questions Data collection questions / items
(Punch, 2008) Research area Youth suicide Absenteeism at work Youth culture in high schools Living with Tourette’s syndrome Academic success and failures at university Membership of volunteer organisations
(Punch, 2008) Research area Youth suicide Research topic Suicide rates among different groups [quantitative] Factors associated with the incidence of youth suicide [quantitative] Managing suicide behaviour among teenagers [qualitative] Youth culture and the meaning of suicide [qualitative]
Research area Youth suicide Research topic Factors associated with the incidence of youth suicide [quantitative] General research questions What is the relationship between family background factors and the incidence of youth suicide? What is the relationship between school experience factors and the incidence of youth suicide?
(Punch, 2008) Research area Youth suicide Research topic Factors associated with the incidence of youth suicide [quantitative] General research questions What is the relationship between family background factors and the incidence of youth suicide? Specific research questions What is the relationship between family income and the incidence of youth suicide? OR Do youth suicide rates differ between families of different income levels? What is the relationship between the emotional attachment to parents and the incidence of youth suicide? OR Do youth suicide rates differ between families where parents and children have a close emotional attachment , and families where they are not?
Research objectives Approach 2 Research questions
(White, 2009, p. 45) Research objective Research questions To find out why certain individuals and groups adopt new technologies before others 1). What are the patterns of consumption of new technologies amongst different groups of adults in the United Kingdom? 2). What reasons do different individuals provide for adopting or not adopting new technologies?
Wakefield (PhD proposal, personal communication) Aims of the research Research objectives To investigate the nature of transnational higher education networks of learning and teaching in geography by focusing on history, organisation, access, participation and impact. To reconstruct the network’s history – from inception and evolution to the present day To explain why academics participate within these networks To explore how academics participate and to evaluate what role technology plays in their networking practice To assess the perceived value of these networks and the impact they have on learning and teaching practice What are the motivations of geographers to participate in these networks? What are the incentives to join these networks? What experiences of barriers have network members faced? Research questions
Aims of the research Research objectives To investigate the nature of transnational higher education networks of learning and teaching in geography by focusing on history, organisation, access, participation and impact. To reconstruct the network’s history – from inception and evolution to the present day To explain why academics participate within these networks To explore how academics participate and to evaluate what role technology plays in their networking practice To assess the perceived value of these networks and the impact they have on learning and teaching practice Research questions How do the members of these networks benefit within their research and learning and teaching practice? How supported do the network members feel by their department / institution in participating these networks?
Main research questions Approach 4 Subsidiary research questions
(White, 2009) Main question How do young people make educational and career decisions at the end of compulsory schooling?
(White, 2009) Main question Subsidiary questions How do young people make educational and career decisions at the end of compulsory schooling? 1. What factors do young people consider when making their choices? 2. What sources of information do they use to help their decision-making? 3. Which individuals are influential in shaping their choices?
The research questions, informed by the theoretical framework presented in Chapter 3, are designed to provide insight into the overarching question: What are the implications of media change for learning and literacy?
Three more specific questions guided data collection and analysis. In what ways are university students appropriating new media to advance learning?How are emerging tensions and contradictions created by media convergence experienced by students? How do these tensions manifest themselves in practices mediated by digital tools and resources?How might we conceptualise the New Media Literacies required to learn effectively with the aid of digital tools and resources?
Romenska (2010) The objective Research questions To consider [...] problems and or identify factors, actors, processes and outcomes of innovations in higher education in CEE. 1. How did the five innovative higher education institutions develop between 1989 and 2005? 2. What descriptive and analytical ideas regarding the establishment and development of the five innovative institutions are revealed by participats in the stuudy
(Blaikie, 2010, p. 111 - 112) Concepts 'the building blocks of social theories' Important in the theoretical framework that sets a context for the research Determine the data that will be collected How data will be categorised Help to describe the findings More on Concepts: Chapter 5, Blaikie (2010)
Wellbeing Financial Material Social Physical Psy'cal Emotional CONCEPT DIMENSIONS SUB-DIMENSIONS FURTHER SUB-DIMENSIONS INDICATORS DATA Safety of locality Relationships Discrimination With peers With mother With father With siblings With grandparents Frequency of contact Level of conflict Feelings of closeness Amount of helping Types of activities engaged in (De Vaus, 2001, p. 26)
From research questions to data collection questions
‘ a common mistake in questionnaire design is to ask respondents the research question rather than a data collection question’ ... or ‘slightly modified versions of the study’s research questions’ (White, 2009, p. 45).
data need to be linked to concepts, and concepts to data. A research question a question the research itself is trying to answer A data collection question a question which is asked in order to collect data in order to help answer the research question
a process of making general questions more specific by showing its dimensions, aspects, factors, components, or indicators defining a general concept ‘downwards’ towards it's data indicators. From specific research questions to data collection questions (White, 2009)
(White, 2009, p. 45). Examples Do the lecturing staff in your institution feel they are over-worked? Do the lecturing staff in your institution think that they are under-paid?
(White, 2009, p. 45). Better versions Do you think you are over-worked? Do you think you are under-paid? Examples Do the lecturing staff in your institution feel they are over-worked? Do the lecturing staff in your institution think that they are under-paid?
Research topic and problem RESEARCH QUESTIONS and purpose / objective RESEARCH STRATEGIES Basic research Applied research Adapted from Blaikie (2010) RESEARCH PARADIGMS Concepts, theories, hypothesis and models Data types, forms and sources Selection from data sources Data collection and timing Data reduction and analysis 'What' questions'Why' questions'How' questions InductiveDeductive ExploreDescribeUnderstandPredictChangeEvaluateAssess impact Ontological considerations Epistemological considerations Methodological considerations Positivism Interpretivism Feminism Other Natural social settings Semi-natural settings Artificial settings Social artefacts Research methodology / design Top down Bottom up Primary data Secondary data Tertiary data Qualitative data Quantitative data Qualitative methods Quantitative methods Mixed methods Population Probability sampling Non-probability sampling Historical Cross-sectional Longitudinal Case study Experiments Comparative Other? Grand theories Mid-range theories Literature (as proxy for theory) Grounded theory Thematic analysis Content analysis Criteria of good research: ethics, validity, reliability, generalisability, other?