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Writing an Inquiry

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  1. Writing an Inquiry Cam Churchill Program Chair Civil Engineering Infrastructure Technology McMaster University JHE 337 Extension: 23179 church@mcmaster.ca

  2. Agenda • What is an Inquiry • The Process • Kinds of Understanding • Elements of a good Central Question • Anticipated Findings • EPP and Inquiry

  3. What is Inquiry? • Inquiry is a search for understanding through a process of asking questions and seeking answers through research.  Inquiry is a question-driven search for understanding.

  4. Inquiry Involves • formulating good questions • identifying issues and anticipating possible findings • searching out evidence (includes interviews) • interpreting and evaluating evidence and arguments • arriving at well-reasoned conclusions

  5. Kinds of Understanding Understanding: • a phenomenon • a presumed relationship or claim • a controversy • a theory or concept • a process

  6. Understanding a Phenomenon • Factors, conditions, or causes that give rise to something, barriers that prevent something, or the effect of something • Why has the income gap between rich and poor in North America increased in recent times? • What are the effects of urban sprawl in the Niagara peninsula on the environmental sustainability of the region?

  7. Understanding a Presumed Relation • Something that has been posited or claimed • Is human activity a significant cause of global warming? • Does the overuse of public healthcare service in Canada contribute significantly to the soaring costs of the system?

  8. Understanding a Controversy • What underlies or is at the heart of a controversy • Why do scientists disagree about global warming? • What accounts for the dispute over whether tougher sentencing reduces crime rates?

  9. Understanding a Theory or Concept • The relation between theory and evidence, or just a better understanding of an important concept • Is Fueud’s interpretation of dreams consistent with what is currently known about dreaming? • What is the meaning of “addiction”?

  10. Understanding a Process • How something works • How does the federal government of Canada decide what Third World countries will receive what amounts of foreign aid? • How does the AID’s virus attack the immune system?

  11. Understanding Options for Change • What responses to a situation have already been tried • How might more people be encouraged to live in downtown Hamilton? • What are the policy options for controlling stem-cell research?

  12. What Inquiry is Not • Presenting descriptive information on a topic • Supporting a thesis by developing only one side of an issue • Offering a solution to a problem as in a design project

  13. Choosing a Central Question • Start with your area of interest • Brainstorm a number of different questions • Categorize the questions • Go through a process of elimination

  14. Characteristics of Good Central Questions • The question must be one the researcher genuinely wants to understand • The question must be relevant and important • The question must require more than a passive review of the literature • Basic terms and assumptions involved in the central question are clear or can be made clear

  15. Characteristics of Good Central Questions • The question lends itself to the anticipation of different kinds of findings or possible answers • The question is researchable • Does not require speculation about the future • Is not a problem to be solved • Is not too broad or general

  16. Anticipated Findings • Done before research truly begins • Spend 15 minutes and come up with possible conclusions • Use these answers as a guide • Revisit them at the end of your paper

  17. EPP Inquiry • Length no longer than 40 pages double spaced • Must be policy driven • Policy implications and recommendations at the end of the Inquiry

  18. Essential Elements • Background and Motivation • Central Question • Anticipated Findings • Evidence and Arguments • Policy Recommendations • Future Research (optional) • Conclusion

  19. Questions?