Friday, August 30, 2013

How to write research questions?



               How to write research questions?

If you are beginning the process of writing a research paper for a class or a work assignment, then you can use all the help that you need to get started on the first step of putting your paper together by coming up with a good research question that you will develop the conclusions or answers to within the body of your research paper.  For tips on how to write research questions, or how to begin your first step in writing your research paper, I have found an on-line resource to help you in your challenge.
  1. First of all, identify your concept, and realize that there's a difference between a research hypothesis and a research question.
  2. Before beginning your research paper, you will need to know as much as you can about the subject matter or topic that you are writing on.
  3. Remember that most research papers have only one research question that you will develop over the course of the paper.
  4. There are different types of research papers and research analyses.  First of all, there is quantitative research, and, according to the source for this article, there are three criteria that should be met when developing a good research question.  Those criteria are as follows:  (1) "Is the question free of ambiguity?" (2) "Is a relationship among variables expressed?" (3) "Does the question imply an empirical test?"
  5. Make sure your research question is narrowed down.
  6. Research questions in qualitative research contain the following elements: (1) "Qualitative research requires open-ended questions." (2) "They seek to have the participant share their life experiences and the impact of them with the researcher." (3) "In qualitative research you are working to create an hypothesis."
Within the source article, there are many more tips and advice on how to write research questions and I suggest using this guide when you are embarking on writing a well-written research paper

               Formulating a Research Question

This section of the tutorial discusses the conceptual development of a research goal, beginning with the formation of a research question. It also explains the links between a research question, specific aims, hypotheses, and long-term research goals.


               The Relationship Between the Research Question, Hypotheses, Specific Aims, and Long-Term Goals of the Project

Before you begin writing a grant proposal, take some time to map out your research strategy. A good first step is to formulate a research question.
A Research Question is a statement that identifies the phenomenon to be studied. For example, “What resources are helpful to new and minority drug abuse researchers?”
To develop a strong research question from your ideas, you should ask yourself these things:
  • Do I know the field and its literature well?
  • What are the important research questions in my field?
  • What areas need further exploration?
  • Could my study fill a gap? Lead to greater understanding?
  • Has a great deal of research already been conducted in this topic area?
  • Has this study been done before? If so, is there room for improvement?
  • Is the timing right for this question to be answered? Is it a hot topic, or is it becoming obsolete?
  • Would funding sources be interested?
  • If you are proposing a service program, is the target community interested?
  • Most importantly, will my study have a significant impact on the field?

A strong research idea should pass the “so what” test. Think about the potential impact of the research you are proposing. What is the benefit of answering your research question? Who will it help (and how)? If you cannot make a definitive statement about the purpose of your research, it is unlikely to be funded.
A research focus should be narrow, not broad-based. For example, “What can be done to prevent substance abuse?” is too large a question to answer. It would be better to begin with a more focused question such as“What is the relationship between specific early childhood experiences and subsequent substance-abusing behaviors?”
Write your research question here...


A well-thought-out and focused research question leads directly into your hypotheses. What predictions would you make about the phenomenon you are examining? This will be the foundation of your application.
Hypotheses are more specific predictions about the nature and direction of the relationship between two variables. For example, “Those researchers who utilize an online grant writing tutorial will have higher priority scores on their next grant application than those who do not.”
Strong hypotheses:
  • Give insight into a research question;
  • Are testable and measurable by the proposed experiments;
  • Spring logically from the experience of the staff;
Normally, no more than three primary hypotheses should be proposed for a research study. A proposal that is hypothesis-driven is more likely to be funded than a “fishing expedition” or a primarily descriptive study.
Make sure you:
  • Provide a rationale for your hypotheses—where did they come from, and why are they strong?
  • Provide alternative possibilities for the hypotheses that could be tested—why did you choose the ones you did over others?
If you have good hypotheses, they will lead into your Specific Aims. Specific aims are the steps you are going to take to test your hypotheses and what you want to accomplish in the course of the grant period. Make sure:
  • Your objectives are measurable and highly focused;
  • Each hypothesis is matched with a specific aim.
  • The aims are feasible, given the time and money you are requesting in the grant.
An example of a specific aim would be “Conduct a rigorous empirical evaluation of the on-line grant writing tutorial, comparing outcome and process measures from two groups—those with exposure to the tutorial and those without.”

Long-Term Goals:
  • Why are you doing this research?
  • What are the long-term implications?
  • What will happen after the grant?
  • What other avenues are open to explore?
  • What is the ultimate application or use of the research?
These questions all relate to the long-term goal of your research, which should be an important undercurrent of the proposal. Again, they should be a logical extension of the research question, hypotheses, and specific aims.
It is also helpful to have a long-term plan for your own career development. Where would you like to see your career go in the next 5 years? How does the research you are proposing relate to that plan?
Now Write It Up...
Once you've thought through the key elements of your research questions, hypotheses, specific aims, and research design, you have the ingredients for a concept paper. This is an important tool to help you to organize your thoughts, as well as to promote, disseminate, or get feedback on your ideas. A concept paper is a succinct description of your research plan (3 to 5 pages) and can be particularly useful when trying to recruit collaborators or solicit letters of support. It is also useful to send a copy of the concept paper to a NIDA Program Official in the branch or office that covers your topic area.

               Your Proposal Team

The majority of scientific research is conducted by a research team, with one researcher (the Principal Investigator) at the head of the team. This section of the tutorial guides researchers through the process of assembling a research team in accordance with NIH guidelines. Included is advice on finding collaborators and utilizing consultants to enhance your team's expertise, collecting support letters, and contacting your NIH liaison (or Project Officer) for assistance.
Developing a Research Question
·         Developing a Research Question--explanation
1.   Question Neither Too Broad Nor Too Narrow
2.   Exercise1: Can the Topic be Researched?
3.   Exercise2: Is the Question Too Broad or Too Narrow?
4.   Exercise3:  Evaluate Your Own Research Question



Developing a Research Question

It's absolutely essential to develop a research question that you're interested in or care about in order to focus your research and your paper (unless, of course, your instructor gives you a very specific assignment). For example, researching a broad topic such as "business management" is difficult since there may be hundreds of sources on all aspects of business management. On the other hand, a focused question such as "What are the pros and cons of Japanese management style?" is easier to research and can be covered more fully and in more depth.

How do you develop a usable research question? Choose an appropriate topic or issues for your research, one that actually can be researched (exercise1). Then list all of the questions that you'd like answered yourself. Choose the best question, one that is  not too broad nor too narrow. Sometimes the number of sources you find will help you discover whether your research question is too broad, too narrow, or okay?

If you know a lot about the topic, you can develop a research question based on your own knowledge. If you feel you don't know much about the topic, think again. For example, if you're assigned a research topic on an issue confronting the ancient Babylonian family, remember, by virtue of your own family life, you already know a great deal about family issues. Once you determine what you do know, then you're ready to do some general reading in a textbook or encyclopedia in order to develop a usable research question.

It's a good idea to evaluate your research question before completing the research exercise (exercise3) and to. And you also should check your research question with your course tutor.


Topic/Issue

A topic is what the essay or research paper is about. It provides a focus for the writing. Of course, the major topic can be broken down into its components or smaller pieces (e.g., the major topic of nuclear waste disposal may be broken down into medical, economic, and environmental concerns). But the important thing to remember is that you should stick with just one major topic per essay or research paper in order to have a coherent piece of writing.

An issue is a concept upon which you can take a stand. While "nuclear waste" is a topic, "safe and economic disposal of nuclear waste" is an issue, or a "point of discussion, debate, or dispute" (American Heritage Dictionary).


Choose a Question that is Neither Too Broad or Too Narrow

For example, if you choose juvenile delinquency (a topic that can be researched), you might ask the following questions:
a. What is the 1994 rate of juvenile delinquency in the U.S.?
b. What can we do to reduce juvenile delinquency in the U.S.?
c. Does education play a role in reducing juvenile delinquents' return to crime?
Once you complete your list, review your questions in order to choose a usable one that is neither too broad nor too narrow. In this case, the best research question is "c." Question "a" is too narrow, since it can be answered with a simple statistic. Question "b" is too broad; it implies that the researcher will cover many tactics for reducing juvenile delinquency that could be used throughout the country. Question "c," on the other hand, is focused enough to research in some depth. (exercise2)


Exercise 1: Can the Topic be Researched?

Which of these questions cannot be easily or fully researched (given that you are writing a research paper right now, at the beginning of the 21st century?

Click on the letter to see if that question has research potential.

Question A:
Do the economies that result from a trash burning plant outweigh or not outweigh its environmental impact?
Question B:
                        Is sexual preference a result of nature (physically based) or nurture              (socially-culturally based)?

Question C:
                        Does McDonald's or Burger King make a better burger?

Question D:
                        Is Prozac a good way to treat clinical depression in certain cases?

Question E:    
                        Is there a link between hours of television viewing and violent behavior in              children aged 8-14?


Exercise 2: Is the Question Too Broad or Too Narrow?

Below are five exercises designed to improve your ability to select a good research question.  Evaluate above A to E statements.


Exercise 3: Evaluate Your Own Research Question

Ask the following 8 questions to evaluate the quality of your research question and the ease with which you should be able to answer it:
1. Does the question deal with a topic or issue that interests me enough to spark my own thoughts and opinions?
2. Is the question easily and fully researchable?
3. What type of information do I need to answer the research question?
E.g., The research question, "What impact has deregulation had on commercial airline safety?," will obviously require certain types of information:
·  statistics on airline crashes before and after
·  statistics on other safety problems before and after
·  information about maintenance practices before and after
·  information about government safety requirements before and after

4. Is the scope of this information reasonable (e.g., can I really research 30 on-line writing programs developed over a span of 10 years?)
5. Given the type and scope of the information that I need, is my question too broad, too narrow, or okay?
6. What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer the research question (journals, books, Internet resources, government documents, people)?
7. Can I access these sources?
8. Given my answers to the above questions, do I have a good quality research question that I actually will be able to answer by doing research?

Evaluation Tip: Contact your course tutor if you're not sure whether your research question fulfills the assignment.


               The Relationship Between the Research Question, Hypotheses, Specific Aims, and Long-Term Goals of the Project

Before you begin writing a grant proposal, take some time to map out your research strategy. A good first step is to formulate a research question.
A Research Question is a statement that identifies the phenomenon to be studied. For example, “What resources are helpful to new and minority drug abuse researchers?”
To develop a strong research question from your ideas, you should ask yourself these things:
  • Do I know the field and its literature well?
  • What are the important research questions in my field?
  • What areas need further exploration?
  • Could my study fill a gap? Lead to greater understanding?
  • Has a great deal of research already been conducted in this topic area?
  • Has this study been done before? If so, is there room for improvement?
  • Is the timing right for this question to be answered? Is it a hot topic, or is it becoming obsolete?
  • Would funding sources be interested?
  • If you are proposing a service program, is the target community interested?
  • Most importantly, will my study have a significant impact on the field?

A strong research idea should pass the “so what” test. Think about the potential impact of the research you are proposing. What is the benefit of answering your research question? Who will it help (and how)? If you cannot make a definitive statement about the purpose of your research, it is unlikely to be funded.
A research focus should be narrow, not broad-based. For example, “What can be done to prevent substance abuse?” is too large a question to answer. It would be better to begin with a more focused question such as“What is the relationship between specific early childhood experiences and subsequent substance-abusing behaviors?”
Write your research question here...


A well-thought-out and focused research question leads directly into your hypotheses. What predictions would you make about the phenomenon you are examining? This will be the foundation of your application.
Hypotheses are more specific predictions about the nature and direction of the relationship between two variables. For example, “Those researchers who utilize an on-line grant writing tutorial will have higher priority scores on their next grant application than those who do not.”
Strong hypotheses:
  • Give insight into a research question;
  • Are testable and measurable by the proposed experiments;
  • Spring logically from the experience of the staff;
Normally, no more than three primary hypotheses should be proposed for a research study. A proposal that is hypothesis-driven is more likely to be funded than a “fishing expedition” or a primarily descriptive study.
Make sure you:
  • Provide a rationale for your hypotheses—where did they come from, and why are they strong?
  • Provide alternative possibilities for the hypotheses that could be tested—why did you choose the ones you did over others?
If you have good hypotheses, they will lead into your Specific Aims. Specific aims are the steps you are going to take to test your hypotheses and what you want to accomplish in the course of the grant period. Make sure:
  • Your objectives are measurable and highly focused;
  • Each hypothesis is matched with a specific aim.
  • The aims are feasible, given the time and money you are requesting in the grant.
An example of a specific aim would be “Conduct a rigorous empirical evaluation of the on-line grant writing tutorial, comparing outcome and process measures from two groups—those with exposure to the tutorial and those without.”

Long-Term Goals:
  • Why are you doing this research?
  • What are the long-term implications?
  • What will happen after the grant?
  • What other avenues are open to explore?
  • What is the ultimate application or use of the research?
These questions all relate to the long-term goal of your research, which should be an important undercurrent of the proposal. Again, they should be a logical extension of the research question, hypotheses, and specific aims.
It is also helpful to have a long-term plan for your own career development. Where would you like to see your career go in the next 5 years? How does the research you are proposing relate to that plan?
Now Write It Up...
Once you've thought through the key elements of your research questions, hypotheses, specific aims, and research design, you have the ingredients for a concept paper. This is an important tool to help you to organize your thoughts, as well as to promote, disseminate, or get feedback on your ideas. A concept paper is a succinct description of your research plan (3 to 5 pages) and can be particularly useful when trying to recruit collaborators or solicit letters of support. It is also useful to send a copy of the concept paper to a NIDA Program Official in the branch or office that covers your topic area.