How to devise your research question(s)

For a couple of years, I have been involved in tutorials with students who are required to produce a research proposal.  They are undertaking a module on research methods, so the coursework is to facilitate their learning and convey they understand certain processes and ideas.

One issue I hear from them is how exactly do you devise a research question.  

Pat Thomson has an excellent post which I highly recommend! You can read it here.

In her post, she provides examples of different types of research questions.  I would also recommend that students familiarise themselves with the concepts of epistemology, ontology and methodology as part of a process of developing a research question.  You do need to have some understanding of what counts as knowledge and the objects under scrutiny.  If these are new terms then please have a listen to the very excellent Tara Brabazon, at Flinders University

Here is her vlog on epistemology

Here is the one on ontology

and here is the one on methodology

Perhaps also have a read at Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blog post, in which he suggests paying attention to the scope of your research. He says “It’s also important that the Masters’ student supervisor/advisor is realistic in terms of expectations and ability to achieve goals within the shortened time frame, and often within tight budgets or the risk of facing a shortage of funds.”

So, think about epistemology, ontology and methodology, then reign in your scope. By the time you get to the stage of thinking about your research question you should have already done quite a bit of reading. You want to know that you have found a gap.  But you also what to be able to convey why filling this gap is important.  What will your work add?  Even if it’s small scale, it’s still new knowledge, so pay attention to the contribution you hope to make to the field.

Happy research!