Chapter 2 Formulating and clarifying the research topic
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1 Chapter 2 Formulating and clarifying the research topic
2 Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter you should be able to: Generate ideas that will help in the choice of a suitable research topic;Identify the attributes of a good research topic;Turn research ideas into a research project that has clear research question (s) and objectives;Draft a research proposal
3 Formulating and clarifying your research topic The important stepsIdentifying the attributes of a good research topicGenerating ideas that help you select a suitable topicTurning ideas into clear research questions and objectivesWriting your research proposal
4 Attributes of a good research topic (1) Capability: is it feasible?Are you fascinated by the topic?Do you have the necessary research skills?Can you complete the project in the time available?Will the research still be current when you finish?Do you have sufficient financial and other resources?Will you be able to gain access to data?
5 Attributes of a good research topic (2) Appropriateness: is it worthwhile?Will the examining institute's standards be met?Does the the topic contain issues with clear links to theory?Are the research questions and objectives clearly stated?Will the proposed research provide fresh insights into the topic?Are the findings likely to be symmetrical?Does the research topic match your career goals?
6 Attributes of a good research topic (3) And (if relevant)Does the topic relate clearly to an ideayou were given -possibly by your organisation ?
7 Generating research ideas Useful TechniquesRational thinking Creative thinkingSearching the literature Scanning the mediaBrainstorming Relevance TreesExploring past projects DiscussionKeeping an ideas notebook
8 Rational thinking Examining your own strengths and interests Looking at past project titlesDiscussionSearching the literatureScanning the media
9 Creative thinking Keeping a notebook of ideas Exploring personal preferences using past projectsRelevance treesBrainstorming
10 Rational thinking and creative thinking These techniques will generate possible project one of two outcomes:One or more possible project ideas that you might undertake;Absolute panic because nothing in which you are interested or which seems suitable has come to mind.
11 Examining own strengths and interests Having some academic knowledgeLook at those assignments for which you have received good grade.You may, as part of your reading, be able to focus more precisely on the sort of ideas about which you wish to conduct your researchThere is a need to think about your future
12 Looking at past project title Dissertations;Theses.Scan your university’s list of past project titles for anything that captures your imaginationScanning actual research projects.You need to beware. The fact that a project is in your library is no guarantee of the quality of the arguments and observations it contains.
13 DiscussionColleagues, friends, university tutors, practitioner and professional groups
14 Searching the literature As part of your discussions, relevant literature may also be suggested. Sharp et al, (2002) discuss types of literature that are of particular use for generating research ideas. These include:Article in academic and professional journals;Reports;Books.
15 Scanning the mediaKeeping up to date with items in the news can be a very rich source of ideas
16 Keeping a notebook of ideas One of the more creative techniques that we all use is to keep a notebook of ideas. All this involves is simply noting down any interesting research ideas as you think of them and, of equal importance, what sparked off your thought. You can then pursue the idea using more rational thinking technique later.
17 Exploring personal preferences using past project Select six projects that you likeFor each of these six projects, note down your first thoughts in response to three questions(if responses for different projects are the same this does not matter);What appeals to you about the project?What is good about the project?Why is the project good?
18 Exploring personal preferences using past project 3. Select three projects you do not like. 4. For each of these three projects that you do not like. What do you dislike about the project? What is bad about the project? Why is the project bad?
19 Relevance treeYou start with a broad concept from which you generate further (usually more specific) topics. Each of these topics forms a separate branch from which you can generate further, more detailed sub branches. As you proceed down the sub branches more ideas are generated and recorded. These can then be examined and a number selected and combined to provide a research idea
20 BrainstormingDefine your problem – that is, the sorts of ideas you are interested in – as precisely as possible.Ask for suggestions, relating to the problemRecord all suggestions, observing the following rules:No suggestion should be criticized or evaluated in any way before all ideas have been considered;All suggestions, however wild, should be recorded and consideredAs many suggestions as possible should be recorded.Review all the suggestions and explore what is meant by each.Analyze the list of suggestions and decide which appeal to to you most as research ideas why.
21 Refining research ideas Using the Delphi TechniqueConducting a preliminary studyContinually testing out your ideasIntegrating ideasRefining topics given to you by your organisation
22 The Delphi techniqueThis involves using a group of people who are either involved or interested in the research idea to generate and choose a more specific research idea. To use this technique you need:To brief the members of the group about the research idea;At the end of the briefing to encourage group members to seek clarification and more information as appropriate;To ask each member of the group including the originator of the research ideas based on the idea that has been described (justification)
23 The Delphi techniqueTo collect the research ideas in unedited and non-attributable form and to distribute them to all members of the group;A second cycle of the process (steps 2 to 4)in which comment on the research ideas and revise their own contributions in the light of what others have said;Subsequence cycles of the process until a consensus is reached . These either follow a similar pattern (steps 2 to 4)in or use discussion. Voting or some other method.
24 Writing research questions Write research questions that areConsistent with expected standardsAble to produce clear conclusionsAt the right level ( not too difficult )Not too descriptiveUse the ‘Goldilocks Test’Clough and Nutbrown (2002)
25 Goldilocks testClough and Nutbrown use what they call the Goldilocks test to decide if research questions are either too big two small too hot or just right/Too big need significant fundingToo small are likely to be insufficient substanceToo hot maybe so because sensitivities that may be aroused as a result of doing the research . This may be because of the timing of the research or the many other reasons that may be upset key people who have a role to play.Just right are those just right for investigation at this time by this research in this setting
26 Turning ideas into research projects (1) Examples of research ideasand their derived focus questionsTable 2.2 Examples of research ideas and their derived focus research questions
27 Turning ideas into research projects (2) Useful techniquesStart with a general focus questionDiscuss areas of interest with your tutor
28 Turning ideas into research projects (3) Writing clear research objectivesCheck your examining body’s preferences for stated objectivesUse a general focus question to achieve precise objectivesSaunders et al. (2009)
29 Turning ideas into research projects (4) Include SMART Personal objectivesSpecific: What precisely do you hope to achieve from undertaking the research?Measurable: What measures will you use to determine whether you have achieved your objectives?(Secured a career-level first job in software design)Achievable: Are the targets you have set for yourself achievable given all the possible constraints?Realistic: Given all other demands upon your time, will you have the time and energy to complete the research on time?Timely: Will you have time to accomplish all your objectives?
30 The importance of theory Asking for opinions and gathering facts – 'what' questions (descriptive research)Using questions that go beyond description and require analysis – 'why' questionsPhillips and Pugh (2005)In order to:Explain phenomena Analyse relationshipsPredict outcomes Compare and generalise
31 Theory“ A formulation regarding the cause and effect relationship between two or more variables, which may or may not have been tested”
32 Threefold typology of theories Grand, middle range and substantive theoriesCreswell (2002)Figure 2.1 Grand, middle-range and substantive theories
33 Threefold typology of theories Grand theories: Usually thought to be province of natural scientists . (that will lead to a whole new way of thinking about management)Middle range theories: which lack the capacity to change the way in which we think about the world but are nonetheless of significance . (some of the theories of human motivation well known to manager would be in this category.Substantive theories : that are restricted to a particular time, research setting, group or population or problem
34 Deductive approach and inductive approach This discussion of theory dose assume that a clear theoretical position is developed prior to the collection of data (the deductive approach).This will not always be the case. It may be that your study is based on the principle of developing theory after data have been collected (the inductive approach)
35 Writing your research proposal Purposes of the research proposalTo organise your ideasTo convince your audienceTo contract with your client (your tutor)To meet ethical requirements
36 Content of your research proposal (1) Title - likely to change during the processBackground - context within the literatureResearch questions and objectives - what you seek to achieve
37 Content of your research proposal (2) Method - can be in two parts: research design and data collectionTimescale and Resources - (finance, data access, equipment)References - include some key literature sources
38 Evaluating research proposals How the components of the proposal fit togetherViability of the proposalAbsence of preconceived ideas
39 The best research topics Summary: Chapter 2The best research topicsFormulate and clarify the topicMeet the requirements of the examining bodyUse a variety of techniques when generating research ideasAre focused on clear questions based on relevant literature
40 The best research topics Summary: Chapter 2The best research topicsAre theory dependentHave a proposal containing organised ideasTell the reader:What will be done and whyHow it will be achieved