Collaborate – Think Critically: Learn from researchers who have been in your shoes – use their examples and experiences to explore how their ‘lessons learned’ can improve your own research approach. Take it one step further with additional thought-provoking questions online.
4.1 How many concepts do you need?
Review the number of concepts within your stated research problem. Like Angelos, might you have too many? If so, how can you simplify your topic?
Look at the first paragraph of Angelos’ example – like Angelos, are you making any assumptions about what concepts will be relevant too early on in your research? At what point should you define your key concepts?
4.2 Using a contested concept
Review the concepts in your stated research problem. Do any of them rely on contested issues like Nikitah’s original attention to ‘dysfunctionality’? If so, how can you redefine your problem in order to study contested concepts rather than use them as a resource?
Like Nikitah, would this involve waiting to refine your research problem until after you have begun your research?
4.3 Good Research Questions
Zina O’Leary (2014:42-3) suggests that good research questions have the following five features:
1. They are right for you (do they draw upon subjects and approaches that you know already; do you have the time to study them; do you have too much of an axe to grind to study them objectively)?
2. They are right for the field (why and for whom does your topic matter, e.g., to particular communities, to academic methodologists or theorists)
3. They are well articulated (does it clearly point to the data needed and appropriate methods of research)?.
4. They are doable [do you have the time, expertise and access to study it? Will you be able to get ethical clearance?]
5. They are acceptable to a potential supervisor [does the question seem sensible and doable to people with more research experience than you?].
Assess your research problem in terms of these five criteria and work out how you might appropriately modify your research question.
Which of these criteria will be most challenging for you to meet, and why? Which would you prioritize?