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examining your research question
Examining your research question

Each slide in this presentation plays automatically, but you will need to start the slideshow running and then click the blue arrow at the bottom of each screen to move to the next slide.

examining your research question2
Examining your research question

In this example we use a pro forma to unpick a research question.

The example is taken from a lecturer in HE who was conscious of some groups of students who didn’t seem to focus as well as others during his teaching.

The analysis starts by writing a research question, before unpicking it for assumptions and assertions, returning eventually to a more finely-tuned and useful question.

slide3
Starting question:

[Begin with a research question. Don’t worry about it at this stage, just write something]

Why are some of my students not engaging with my sessions?

slide4

Once you have your initial question you are ready to begin to interrogate it for assumptions and assertions.

The idea is to ask yourself honestly ‘what am I assuming here?’

Take nothing for granted!

slide5
Starting question:

[Begin with a research question. Don’t worry about it at this stage, just write something]

Why are some of my students not engaging with my sessions?

Implicit issues and assumptions:

[In this section you should explore what assumptions underpin your research question. These may be hidden and hard to uncover…]

Implies a definition of ‘engaging’. What is this… for me; for them?

Implies a subset of students. Which ones? Am I sure it’s only these ones? How?

Saying that some are not engaging implies judging them. How am I doing this? Are there alternatives?

Question implies that it is their problem. Try: ‘What am I doing to prevent some students engaging in my sessions?’ …. Note ‘my sessions’!!

Why am I worried about this issue? Are they doing worse? Or is it to do with how I feel?! How am I judging this?

slide6

Now, with these assumptions clear, start to identify other questions that are related to the initial one, but which take the issue further.

slide7
Starting question:

[Begin with a research question. Don’t worry about it at this stage, just write something]

Why are some of my students not engaging with my sessions?

Implicit issues and assumptions:

[In this section you should explore what assumptions underpin your research question. These may be hidden and hard to uncover…]

Implies a definition of ‘engaging’. What is this… for me; for them?

Implies a subset of students. Which ones? Am I sure it’s only these ones? How?

Saying that some are not engaging implies judging them. How I am doing this? Are there alternatives?

Questions implies that it is their problem. Try: ‘What am I doing to prevent some students engaging in my sessions?’ …. Note ‘my sessions’!!

Why am I worried about this issue? Are they doing worse? Or is it to do with how I feel?! How am I judging this?

Related questions:

[In this section, try to identify related questions that arise from your assumptions.]

What do I expect of students in sessions? What do I value? What do they value? How do I impose my values on them? … and vice versa? What games are being played here?

How do I teach? What are the strengths and weaknesses of my approach? How would it feel to be a student in my sessions?

What opportunities for ‘engagement’ am I providing? How might these be privileging some students over others?

slide8

Finally, you are ready to re-write your original question. Note how, in this example, it has changed and is now much clearer – both in focus and in terms of the assumptions that it had originally implied.

This question should be much better as a focus for research.

slide9
Starting question:

[Begin with a research question. Don’t worry about it at this stage, just write something]

Why are some of my students not engaging with my sessions?

Implicit issues and assumptions:

[In this section you should explore what assumptions underpin your research question. These may be hidden and hard to uncover…]

Implies a definition of ‘engaging’. What is this… for me; for them?

Implies a subset of students. Which ones? Am I sure it’s only these ones? How?

Saying that some are not engaging implies judging them. How I am doing this? Are there alternatives?

Questions implies that it is their problem. Try: ‘What am I doing to prevent some students engaging in my sessions?’ …. Note ‘my sessions’!!

Why am I worried about this issue? Are they doing worse? Or is it to do with how I feel?! How am I judging this?

Related questions:

[In this section, try to identify related questions that arise from your assumptions.]

What do I expect of students in sessions? What do I value? What do they value? How do I impose my values on them? … and vice versa? What games are being played here?

How do I teach? What are the strengths and weaknesses of my approach? How would it feel to be a student in my sessions?

What opportunities for ‘engagement’ am I providing? How might these be privileging some students over others?

Fine-tuned question:

[In this section you are now ready to re-write the research question in a more precise and useful way.]

How are students engaging in my sessions in different ways and what does this allow them to achieve? What would I like to change?