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Research Questions - the good and the not so good.

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William Badke

on 6 October 2015

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Transcript of Research Questions - the good and the not so good.

Research projects need to target a problem or issue.
You want to be sure that:
Your are not just reporting on existing information.
You have a single issue in mind.
You can express that issue within a single question.
Your issue is actually researchable with evidence that is likely to lead to a solid conclusion.
Some questions have more than one goal.
For example:
What is the best way to get rid of illegal guns and stop our young people from getting killed in gun violence and keep our communities safe?

This leads to multiple projects and kills your focus.
Some questions just can't be answered and are thus best left unasked.
For example:
Was Hurricane Katrina God's judgment on New Orleans?
Would reducing homelessness increase the price of beds? (think about it - supply and demand)
How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? (a real question asked centuries ago).

You want a single research question with a clear goal.
Can you:
Understand your goal easily?
Know that there is only one goal?
Visualize a path from the problem to its solution?

If you are at all unclear about the nature of the problem or the path to its solution, work on the question until you are clear.
The worst kind of situation is one in which your question asks you only to provide existing information.
Research Questions - the good and the not so good.
Ask yourself:
For example:
How well has Canadian trade done since the
Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement was signed?

Could I answer my question just by looking it up?
Is the answer to my question something that is obvious or already known?

Some questions are very broadly based and thus do not allow you to deal with them in depth.
For example:
Are food additives good or bad for you? (requires you to cover all food additives)
A cool method to fix this is to determine what the main goal is and then subordinate the other goals to it.
For example: How may we best solve the problem of illegal guns in order to reduce gun violence?
Some research questions are vague or open- ended, as if the researcher has no clear idea of what he or she is seeking.
For example:
What were the results of World War One?
If we legalized all drugs what would that mean for society?
How successful is Miley Cyrus?

In each case, the goal is unclear and open to many possible answers.
Try these instead:
How did the inadequate resolution of WWI lead to WWII?
If we legalized all currently illegal drugs, would it actually put an end to the illegal drug trade?
Are Miley Cyrus' attempts to shock the public into realizing that she is truly an adult helping or hurting her long-term career?
Ask yourself:
Is this an old question that has never been resolved?
Is there any way I could find definitive evidence to answer it?
Does a quick search of databases show that there is any literature on the issue?

If your answers are "yes," "no," and "no," drop the question.
(You can look it up at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/trade/data)
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