Selecting a Research Proposal Topic, Spring 2012


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Presentation given by Dr. Martha Ovando February 8, 2012 at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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Selecting a Research Proposal Topic, Spring 2012

  1. 1. ü  Conducting research is a complex, demanding and challenging process.ü  One can be familiar with different paradigms of inquiry but not know how to actually undertake the task of planning and effectively proposing an investigation (Locke, Spirduso & Silverman, 1987).ü  Given the challenge, complexity and rigor of conducting research, selecting a dissertation research topic becomes one of the most critical steps in the process of conducting research (Ovando, 2010).ü  Aspiring scholars can be successful by initially completing certain activities to identify a research topic (Ovando, 2010).
  2. 2. •  Read extensively focusing on the general area of your research study.•  Select those pieces, “articles or chapters,” that relate to your research topic.•  Pay close attention to suggestions/implications for further research.•  Identify potential questions/problems related to your topic.
  3. 3. •  Complete selective (close-up) reading: þ  Review of the literature/theoretical background. þ  Purpose & questions. þ  Methodology (research design, sampling, respondents, limitations, delimitations). þ  Develop a graphic organizer that includes the above, if possible. þ  Locate a void in the area of your research topic. What gaps exist in previous research? þ  Complete additional reading with a focus on the specific research gaps.
  4. 4. Characterization of Your TopicKeep in mind that your research idea might…Ø  Not necessarily be new.Ø  Have a historical development/historical background.Ø  Address a specific gap in the area of your interest.Ø  Enhance/expand/contradict/confirm/advance a new perspective.Ø  Contribute to knowledge/practice/development.Ø  Raise additional questions and/or highlight new problems.Ø  Be only one piece of a larger puzzle.
  5. 5. Research as a Puzzle
  6. 6. Pulling the puzzle together(Ovando, M.N., 2002)
  7. 7. Finding a Valid Research Problem1)  Review existing literature to determine “what is already known” and “what is not known.”2)  See if your research will: ü  Address suggestions for further inquiry. ü  Replicate a study in a different setting or with a different population. ü  Observe how various subpopulations might behave differently in the same situation. ü  Apply an existing perspective or explanation to a new situation. ü  Explore unexpected or contradictory findings in previous research. ü  Challenge research findings that fly in the face of what you know or believe to be true. (Neuman, 1994)
  8. 8. 3)  Attend professional conferences to learn what is hot and what is not in a specific field, and talk to researchers who are working in your area of interest.4)  Scan conference programs to see what others are investigating and what additional questions may be asked.5)  Ask questions like: ü  What needs to be done? ü  What burning questions are still there? ü  What previous research findings don’t make sense? (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001)The statement of a problem should lead to the purpose of your study and specific research questions.
  9. 9. Asking Research Questions 1.  The causal question: Does it work? Does the intervention being considered “cause” a particular outcome to change. 2.  The Process question: How does it work? What are the processes or interactions that mediate the causal relationship? This may require “thick descriptions” of a phenomenon. 3.  The usability question: Will it work for me? What are the context variables of the studies, and is generalization possible? 4.  The evaluation question: Is it working for me? How is it doing? Does it make sense to modify, sustain or expand the program/intervention? Is the intervention/program doing what it is supposed to be doing?Source: McEwan, E. K. & McEwan, P. J. (2003). Making sense of research: What’s good, what’s not, and how to tell thedifference. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
  10. 10. Ø  Verify all the requirements and stages/steps from proposal to graduation.Ø  Prepare a time line according to the year/ semester you wish to graduate.Ø  Verify both University and department calendars and deadlines.Ø  Schedule time for every activity related to your time line.Ø  Be disciplined in following your timeline.
  11. 11. Advancement Enroll in Deadline GSC to June July August Dissertation (August) (September) Candidacy Hours (online application) Work on Schedule Present Submit Advancement Approves Two Proposal Proposal Proposal to to Candidacy Draft Meeting Committee Application Candidacy Semesters Before Proposal Meeting * At least 3 weeks before the meeting, your Chair should approve the 3 chapters of your proposal. * At least 2 weeks before proposal date, distribute copies to all your Committee Members. Apply to Schedule Final Oral Chair must graduate Final Defense Approve Spring earlier Defense (at least 1 week Dissertation Deadlinein the spring (2 weeks prior to May Report Draft May semester prior to date) deadline) Graduation!!