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Identifying a research question or hypothesis

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1 Identifying a research question or hypothesis

2 What’s the difference? A research question (sometimes called a guiding question) is a general statement of the question you intend to study. A hypothesis is a carefully worded, untested statement that provides a focus for the research. A good hypothesis always leads to discussion and debate.

3 What is a research question?
… it may be easiest to think of a research question as a clearly defined question which may be investigated through gathering data. It does not have a preset or clearly determined answer. (Starko & Schack 1994, p.23) A research question can help you to focus on the problem that interests you and help you decide how to approach it.

4 Refining your question
In refining your question, it may be useful to: read what has been written already; identify what you want to investigate; ask if there is a relationship between the parts of your question; ask who, what, when, where, why, and how; be sure that the question can actually be researched; make sure that the question is clearly written, and each word cannot be misinterpreted.

5 What is a guiding question?
A guiding question directs your research in a meaningful way so that you aren’t learning unconnected facts. It gives your learning focus and structure. When trying to phrase a guiding question, begin with the starter words: who, what, when, where, how, and why — especially what and how.

6 When you have a possible guiding question, refine it by checking that it is:
clearly related to the issue you have chosen; open-ended (i.e. the answer isn’t given or suggested within the question), and yet also focuses your investigation; non-judgmental, and yet encourages you to think and ask other questions; capable of arousing an emotional response, and will provide for discussion and debate; challenging, and will lead you to learn new things and possibly generate new ideas; clearly structured and phrased in as few words as possible. (Adapted from Traver 1998, and SSABSA support materials)

7 A good guiding question allows for higher order thinking
A good guiding question allows for higher order thinking. It allows you to: synthesise (put together information from various sources/areas of study); analyse (break information down into essential components/features); evaluate (judge or assess the evidence you present to answer the question). (Adapted from What is a Good Guiding Question?)

8 What is a focus question?
A focus question shares many of the characteristics of a guiding question. It directs your research in a meaningful way. It can be used in exactly the same way as a guiding question or research question, as the primary question for your research. But a focus question doesn’t have to be testable. In could also be used with a research question or hypothesis to enable you to expand your thinking. Brainstorming and mind-mapping your research question or hypothesis may lead you to many other connected issues, which you then narrow down to several focus questions, from which you conduct your investigation

9 Key terms There is very little that can be stated conclusively in research. A variety of words are used to indicate the basis upon which you make your statements. When you read, pay attention to the different ways that people indicate the relationship of their work to the truth. Words such as indicate, demonstrate, prove (not used outside of mathematics), test (a hypothesis), hypothesise, suggest, assert, question, claim, conclude, argue, discover, define, and assume do have very specific meanings in academic discourse.

10 Key Terms Argue: to give evidence and reasons
Assert: to state or declare that something is true Assume: to accept that something is true without evidence or proof Claim: to assert that something is true Conclude: to come to an answer by reasoning Define: to mark out the limits of something (Oxford) to describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning (Concise Oxford Dictionary) Demonstrate: to show that something is valid; to provide evidence that it is valid Discover: to find or become aware of or observe for the first time a fact, existence, presence Hypothesise: to suggest an explanation as to the cause of something, in such a way that it can be tested Indicate: to suggest (e.g., the evidence suggests or indicates or points to) Prove: This term is not used in research, except in mathematics. Instead, use demonstrate. Question: to seek information to doubt the validity of something Suggest: see indicate Test: (a hypothesis)to carry out a procedure designed to determine whether or not a hypothesis can be supported.

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