Asking Research Questions by aroIg6MI


									Asking Research Questions
     Christine A. Jesser, ScD
        Office of Research
     Seton Family of Hospitals
          March 2, 2009
    Asking Research Questions
• Research plan depends on your question
   – It is the point you want to make, to explore, to
     describe, or to know, stripped clean of any
     superfluous verbiage.
   – It is your research purpose stated in one simple,
     comprehensive sentence.
• To arrive at this point: you will have to sift out all
  interesting but irrelevant distractions;
   – seek out the essence of what you want to know; and
   – move from a very broad subject to one specific point
     you want to make
            Overall Process
• Coming up with the right question:
                       1.Is Not Simple
                       2.Involves a cyclical and iterative Process
                       3.Usually requires collaboration

Frame a Question  Information Gathering 
  Re-frame Question
                       -Literature Review
                       -Talk with content experts
                       -Information synthesis
     Move from BIG to small
• The typical process of “defining the
  question” is to move from big questions to
  small answerable questions.
• Big questions are usually answered by
  answering a series of smaller questions
  that relate to one another over time.
    The Process of Building up
       Research Questions

• First Rule: Start With a Simple Question
• A simple question has one stem and one
• Start with a simple question that means a
  question with one stem and one topic.
  – E.g., In this question “Who drove the train?”
    The stem is “who” and the topic is “drove the
      Second Rule: Use Action Questions

• Some questions do not require action.
• Any question that can be answered by a “yes” or
  “no” is not action oriented. These questions are
• The question has been answered, excluding the
  need to do any research.
• Questions that begin with “should” or “could” are
  stoppers; they elicit opinions, not facts.
• One important thing about research questions is
  that they must be:
  – action-oriented
  – demanding some activity on your part
      Third Rule: Use Active Questions

• The type of question you ask about your topic is the basis
for the design of your research plan.
    • Whether you go to the transportation libraries or
    whether you observe traffic flow, your particular activity is
    inherent in the question you have asked.
• At the beginning of the research plan you need something
that will provide direction.
• Be concerned with the planning phase of the research with
dealings in the future, for this reason:
    • ensure to ask an active question
    • active questions imply that the researcher will have to
    measure or observe something
 Fourth Rule: Do not Elicit Opinions

•A statement declaring a fact (Speeding buses have an effect on
accidents) require no action on anyone’s part. The question, on the other
hand, (What is the relationship between speed and accidents?) demands
an answer.

•If your question can be answered by a simple “yes”, “no”, or “I don’t know,”
then you don’t need to do research to find the answer for this reason:
      •ensure that you are not eliciting opinions
      •ensure that you are ending up with yes, no answers

•Everyone has an opinion on each of the above questions.
    •Try rewriting each of your “should” questions into action questions that
    require some investigation to find the answer. You will notice a great
    difference between action and opinion questions.
     Fifth Rule: Avoid Use of Inactive Verbs

• Try to write questions that begin with “what,”
   • E.g. “what is the relationship…….,” and “why”.
• Avoid using inactive verbs such as “do” at the
beginning of your question.
• Questions beginning with “do”, like questions that
begin with “should”, can be answered by “yes,”
“no”, “maybe,” or “I don’t know”,” and are stoppers.
They elicit an opinion rather than some activity
directed toward research. E.g.:
   •Do divers over speed?
   •Do drivers respond to traffic lights in the
   same way?
          Use Active Verbs
• The first step in phrasing a research
  question is to use an active stem changing
  the question from an opinion question to
  an active question
• Replace words such as “should” or “do”
  with words such as “what” or “why”
  Levels of Research Questions

• When analyzing the level of the question,
  there are a couple of “indicators” to watch
  for that will help you decide if you are at
  the right level
• Finding the appropriate level for your
  questions determines your subsequent
  course of action
• Research questions fall into three levels
 First Level Research Questions
• First level - little or no prior knowledge of the topic
   – The stem question is always “what is” or “what are”’ and the
     topic has a single concept
   – Asked in such a way that they lead to exploration and result in a
     complete description of the topic
• If your topic has never been studied before, you begin at
  the first level. First-level questions are:
   – exploratory in nature
   – examine new areas of insufficient knowledge
   – provide a complete description of the topic
• The most important characteristic of level I questions is
  that they are based on topics that have not been studied
  before and about which little information is available
   – They ask about one concept only
   – No reference to “relationships,” “causes,” or “effects” should be
     in Level I question
    Second Level Research Questions
•   Second level question - If your topic has already been described and you
    have found a description in research literature
     – focus on the relationships between two or more variables previously described
       but never before studied together.
     – At this level, you have considerably more knowledge about the topic than you did
       at the first level, however, enough is not yet known to predict the relationship
       between variables.
•   Build on the results of studies at the first level
•   When a topic has been thoroughly described, it is possible to identify
    measurable variables. The next step is to look for relationships between
    these variables.
•   At Level II questions:
     – Stem question asks, “What is the relationship?”
     – Topic contains two or more variables.
     – The answer to the question at the second level is determined by the significance
       of the relationship between the variables.
•   When you study two variables together, you need to have rationale to
    explain their proposed relationship. You must discuss the concepts behind
    the variables and propose that a relationship may exist between (or among)
Variables in Second Level Research

• Each question must have a minimum of two
  – written in such a way that they both vary.
• A question that asks “What is the relationship
  between drivers’ positive and negative attitudes
  toward traffic lights?” has only one variable,
  “drivers’ attitudes.”
  – Positive and negative are merely two categories of
    attitudes. When a Level II question is written properly,
    it will ask about the relationship between…(a)… and
Third Level Research Questions
• Questions at the third level require considerable
  knowledge of the topic.
• Test predictive hypotheses about the variables.
• Knowledge required for the development of
  hypotheses is based on the results of second
  level studies; therefore, the action of all variables
  can be predicted.
• Questions that lead to testing a cause-and-effect
  relationship between them are in Level III
• At Level III, the question asks “why” this
  relationship exists, and you must provide the
  answer, which always begins with “because...”
  and ends with an explanation from theory or
  prior research findings.
    Third Level Questions (cont.)
• All Level III questions lead to experimental designs. The questions
  look like this:

Stem         Topic
Why          do pothole-size increase with traffic
Why          does increased fiber in wheel-tire
             decrease tire-wear?
• You must answer the initial “why” question before you can propose to
  test the exact relationship between your variable.
• Each of these “why” question has two variables, and each question
  specifies that one variable either causes or influences the action of
  the other variable in a certain way. The study resulting from a level III
  question will test the theory.
• Move from big to small when defining your
• Define your research question using an active
• Decide the level of your question
• Choose appropriate variables to answer your
• Most importantly, talk to colleagues, exchange
  ideas, and refine questions in an iterative

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