WHAT IS A RESEARCH PROBLEM? • Generally speaking a research problem is a situation that needs a solution and for which there are possible solutions. If a situation has no possible solutions then it makes little or no sense expending resources researching it. • Take this statement, “everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die”. Dying looks like a problem that needs a solution yet there is no possible solution to it. People must die. A research on how people can live forever makes little or no sense.
WHAT IS A RESEARCH PROBLEM? • A research problem may be described as an incongruence; a discrepancy between what is and what ought to be. It may be also described as the gap in knowledge that needs to be filled.
WHAT IS A PROBLEM STATEMENT? • A problem statement is the description of an issue currently existing which needs to be addressed. It provides the context for the research study and generates the questions which the research aims to answer. The statement of the problem is the focal point of any research. A good problem statement is just one sentence (with several paragraphs of elaboration). • For example it could be: "The frequency of job layoffs is creating fear, anxiety, and a loss of productivity in middle management workers."
THE PROBLEM: THE HEART OF THE RESEARCH PROCESS • The problem is the centre around which the whole research effort turns. • The statement of the problem must be expressed with the utmost verbal precision. • The problem is then fractioned into more manageable subproblems. • So stated, we can then see clearly the goal and the direction of the entire research effort.
Research Question • A Research Question is a statement that identifies the phenomenon to be studied. For example, “What resources are helpful to new and minority drug abuse researchers?” • To develop a strong research question from your ideas, you should ask yourself these things: • Do I know the field and its literature well? • What are the important research questions in my field? • What areas need further exploration? • Could my study fill a gap? Lead to greater understanding? • Has a great deal of research already been conducted in this topic area? • Has this study been done before? If so, is there room for improvement? • Is the timing right for this question to be answered? Is it a hot topic, or is it becoming obsolete? • Would funding sources be interested? • If you are proposing a service program, is the target community interested? • Most importantly, will my study have a significant impact on the field?
Research Process • A strong research idea should pass the “so what” test. Think about the potential impact of the research you are proposing. What is the benefit of answering your research question? Who will it help (and how)? If you cannot make a definitive statement about the purpose of your research, it is unlikely to be done/funded/granted.
Research Process • A research focus should be narrow, not broad-based. For example, “What can be done to prevent substance abuse?” is too large a question to answer. It would be better to begin with a more focused question such as“What is the relationship between specific early childhood experiences and subsequent substance-abusing behaviors?”
Sample Research Process Chart:Creating Resources for Drug Abuse Researchers • Currently, there are few on-online resources available to new and minority drug abuse researchers. • Research Question“What resources would be helpful to new and minority drug abuse researchers?” • Hypothesis“A grant writing tutorial would be helpful to new and minority drug abuse researchers. Those researchers who utilize an on-line grant writing tutorial will have higher priority scores on their next grant application than those who do not.” • Specific Aim“Conduct a rigorous empirical evaluation of the on-line grant writing tutorial, comparing outcome and process measures from two groups-those with exposure to the tutorial, and those without.”
Sample Research Process Chart:Creating Resources for Drug Abuse Researchers • A well-thought-out and focused research question leads directly into your hypotheses. What predictions would you make about the phenomenon you are examining? This will be the foundation of your application. • Hypotheses are more specific predictions about the nature and direction of the relationship between two variables. For example, “Those researchers who utilize an online grant writing tutorial will have higher priority scores on their next grant application than those who do not.”
The Research Process Chart • As a generic reference, the following process can be helpful in refining and concretizing your ideas: • Ask yourself: “Why is this research important? What have other people done? What have they found?” • Based on this information, formulate a specific research question. • Develop a hypothesis/hypotheses that stems from your research question. • Identify the specific aims, that is the steps you are going to take to test your hypothesis.
Research Problem • Long-Term Goals: • Why are you doing this research? • What are the long-term implications? • What will happen after the grant? • What other avenues are open to explore? • What is the ultimate application or use of the research?
Research Problem • These questions all relate to the long-term goal of your research, which should be an important undercurrent of the proposal. Again, they should be a logical extension of the research question, hypotheses, and specific aims. • It is also helpful to have a long-term plan for your own career development. Where would you like to see your career go in the next 5 years? How does the research you are proposing relate to that plan?
Research Problem • Once you've thought through the key elements of your research questions, hypotheses, specific aims, and research design, you have the ingredients for a concept paper. This is an important tool to help you to organize your thoughts, as well as to promote, disseminate, or get feedback on your ideas
Research problem • To understand the world around us, the researcher needs to know and understand the definition of the scientific method. • This will be central to the research process and subsequent conclusions drawn from the experiment. • Defining a research problem is the fuel that drives the scientific process, and is the foundation of any research method and experimental design, from true experiment to case study.
Research problem • It is one of the first statements made in any research paper and, as well as defining the research area, should include a quick synopsis of how the hypothesis was arrived at. • Operationalization is then used to give some indication of the exact definitions of the variables, and the type of scientific measurements used. • This will lead to the proposal of a viable hypothesis. As an aside, when scientists are putting forward proposals for research funds, the quality of their research problem often makes the difference between success and failure.
Research problem • Look at any scientific paper, and you will see the research problem, written almost like a statement of intent. • Defining a research problem is crucial in defining the quality of the answers, and determines the exact research method used • The operational definition is the determining the scalar properties of the variables. • For example, intelligence may be measured with IQ and human responses could be measured with a questionnaire from ‘1- strongly disagree’, to ‘5 – strongly agree’.
Stages of Scientific Method Definition of the "problem” • Whatever the problem, you must be able to in some way collect and analyze data to draw conclusions. • Stating the problem in a way that avoids value judgments is usually a good place to begin.
Stages of Scientific Method • Statement of a hypothesis, question or objective: • A hypothesis simply provides a tentative explanation of the problem. • Suggest a hypothesis or objective for one of your projects
Stages of Scientific Method • Research strategy and development of instruments: • What method are you going to use? • How should your research instrument be designed or method be structured for your project? • Are you basing your work on an established theory, are you replicating the work of others, or what?
Stages of Scientific Method Collecting and analyzing data: • Determining what results mean. • Will review in more detail later.
Stages of Scientific Method Confirmation or rejection of the hypothesis: • Proving or disproving a hypothesis are both equally valuable and hopefully meaningful findings! Optionally, could be interpreting and using findings in design. • Are your data useful for design or to draw conclusions about design?
Stages of Scientific Method • Reporting results: • Drawing conclusions • Summarizing findings • Defining future avenues of research • Identifying limitations of your finding
Limitations of Scientific Method • How complex your problem is. • Number of variables, sample size, and generalizations about conclusions • Difficulties in data collection. • Influence of researcher bias on data collection and interpretation. • Role of subjective or qualitative interpretation in much of our work.
Limitations of Scientific Method • How easy is it to replicate your study? • Sometimes impossible, others easy with proper controls. • Interaction of researcher and the subjects. • Hawthorne studies as a good example. • Control difficulties. • Experimental vs. non experimental situations.
Limitations of Scientific Method • How to measure? • Lab experiments vs. instrumentation vs. observation and natural observation of human subjects.
Basic vs. Applied Research • If you plan to obtain data that can be used to formulate, expand, or evaluate theory you will be doing basic research. • Discovery of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. • Applied research solves practical problems. • Actual problems and the conditions in which they are found in practice.
Categories of Research Experimental • Used to determine what maybe • Uses independent & dependant variables to confirm or reject a hypothesis. • Major purpose is to determine what maybe.
Categories of Research Ex post facto: • Researcher does not directly manipulate the independent variables. • Similar to experimental except for issue of manipulation.
Categories of Research Descriptive: • Major purpose is to tell what is through description and interpretation. Historical: • Major purpose is to tell what was. • You test the truthfulness of the reports of others.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Approaches Qualitative research • Usually refers to the meanings, concepts, characteristics, and descriptions of things. • For example, how can you describe your feelings about being in this room? • One way would be through your five senses; another through your emotional reactions to people, objects, and space
Quantitative research • Usually requires measures of things or items numbers & interpretation of numbers. • Quantitative evaluation of this room --we might measure the square footage, the volume, the light level, noise & sound characteristics, the square foot per person of capacity. • Try to relate this information to your perception of the space using standardized scales. • How could we use this information to develop design guidelines or to design something?
Quantitative experiments • A quantitative experimental design uses deductive reasoning to arrive at a testable hypothesis. • Qualitative research designs use inductive reasoning to propose a research statement. • These experiments are sometimes referred to as true science, and use traditional mathematical and statistical means to measure results conclusively. • Quantitative experiments all use a standard format, with a few minor inter-disciplinary differences, of generating a hypothesis to be proved or disproved.
Qualitative research • This hypothesis must be provable by mathematical and statistical means, and is the basis around which the whole experiment is designed. • Qualitative research design is a research method used extensively by scientists and researchers studying human behavior and habits • It is also very useful for product designers who want to make a product that will sell. • It is often used to generate possible leads and ideas which can be used to formulate a realistic and testable hypothesis. This hypothesis can then be comprehensively tested and mathematically analyzed, with standard quantitative research methods.
Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning • Deductive reasoning is the opposite process to inductive reasoning. In general, terms, inductive reasoning takes a specific example, or examples, and induces that they can be applied to a much larger group. • Deductive reasoning, by contrast, starts with a general principle and deduces that it applies to a specific case. Inductive reasoning is used to try to discover a new piece of information; deductive reasoning is used to try to prove it.
Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning Deductive Reasoning • Every day, I get in my car to leave for work, at eight o’clock. Every day, the journey takes 45 minutes, and I arrive at work on time. If I leave for work at eight o’clock today, I will be on time. Inductive Reasoning • Today, I left for work at eight o’clock, and was on time. Therefore, every day that I leave the house at eight o’clock, I will arrive at work on time. The deductive statement is a perfectly logical statement, but does rely upon the initial premise being correct. Perhaps today, there are roadworks, so you will end up being late for work. This is why any hypothesis can never be completely proved, because there is always the scope for the initial premise to be wrong.
Evaluation • Evaluate really means to ascertain the value or amount associated with your problem. • From our perspective, evaluation is just as acceptable as research. • What is the major difference? • Evaluation is value judgments based on evidence. • Evidence can be design, measurement, analysis, and data reporting.
Evaluation • Evaluation Criteria: • Effectiveness of program or product. • Efficiency of program or product. • Fairness (best applied to social programs) • Justice to all audiences. • Quality of the program or product. • Acceptability of program or product.
Distinctions between Research and Evaluation • The intent and purpose of the investigator. • Evaluation usually is more comprehensive in scope and focuses on one program or product. • Examples: job description evaluation of a designer, performance evaluation of a product, or of a special user group.
Distinctions between Research and Evaluation • Origins and motivation for research lies in the need to know; researcher answerable to colleagues. • Evaluation is usually by contract and may focus on need to fix versus need to know.
Distinctions between Research and Evaluation • Evaluation most often occurs when a problem becomes apparent, e.g. the bicycle pedals don't turn --why? • “How” to fix it. • Researcher would address the concept of how a pedal should function, test alternatives, and draw conclusions about the hypotheses stated about pedal design. • Designer might re-design the pedal.
Distinctions between Research and Evaluation • A scientist may even review a successful experiment, disagree with the results, the tests used, or the methodology, and decide to refine the research process, retesting the hypothesis. • This is called the conceptual definition, and is an overall view of the problem.
EXAMPLES OF DEFINING A RESEARCH PROBLEM • An anthropologist might find references to a relatively unknown tribe in Papua New Guinea. • Through inductive reasoning, she arrives at the research problem and asks, • ‘How do these people live and how does their culture relate to nearby tribes?’ • She has found a gap in knowledge, and she seeks to fill it, using a qualitative case study, without a hypothesis.
EXAMPLES OF DEFINING A RESEARCH PROBLEM • The BanduraBobo Doll Experiment is a good example of using deductive reasoning to arrive at a research problem and hypothesis. • Anecdotal evidence showed that violent behavior amongst children was increasing. Bandura believed that higher levels of violent adult role models on television, was a contributor to this rise. This was expanded into a hypothesis, and operationalization of the variables, and scientific measurement scale, led to a robust experimental design
Finding Research Projects • Everywhere • Whatever arouses interest, tweaks curiosity, raises questions but no answer or answers exist but dispute arises on validity • Extremely important to distinguish between PERSONAL and RESEARCHABLE problem • Personal problems are real but not researchable • Researchable problems fit the requirement of the scientific method
Where Does your Interest Lie? • Inspect any volume of Dissertation Abstracts International under the general heading of your interest • All you need to see is your own area of interest in sharp, clear focus and then enunciate the problem indigenous to it in precise lucid terms • Research only begin with an unmistakably clear statement of the problem
Problems for Research • Two theoretical levels: problems whose aim is to increase our knowledge and problems whose aim is to make our life better • The wise choice of a researchable problem can lead the researcher into a truly unexpected and fascinating domain