Most research begins with a problem or a puzzle. How do you get to finding these things if you don't one or more already nagging at the back of your mind?

Most educational practices have become routinised, for a variety of reasons. People are so busy it is efficient to develop habits that work with the various systems with which teachers are often required to comply. But this is also where you can find a lot of intriguing questions

Questions are everywhere; all you have to do is observe and be curious.

Graziano and Raulin (2013, p. 73)

The paper1 where I came across that quote was written around puzzling about the neglect of the importance of research questions in teaching research methods in the social sciences. The paper is one of a number of models of paper for your assignment. The data he draws on was obtained by reviewing the literature in relation to the research question and doing comparisons with the emphasis, in publications, on other aspects of doing research.

White (2013) argues that curiosity is the key to asking good questions. It's a good paper because it is about research questions and it raises a number of useful observations about doing research, for example, he cites Medawar who noted

if research ‘does not hold out the possibility of causing one to revise one's views, it is hard to see why it should be done at all’.

You'll find it useful to read and help you think about your own questions.

You should do your thinking about your question with your 1st notebook. Write down lots of questions. Write down lots of different ways the question might be framed. Ask yourself "why?", "how?" and "what if?" questions to unsettle the way you routinely think about the issue for which you have generated questions. Make as many notes as you can that will help you think through to your eventual choice.

The other important part of asking questions is to be aware of how the question is framed. Frames and framing are one way of thinking about research questions. Some of you may be familiar with the work of George Lakoff2 whose work has generated a great deal of interest and research around metaphors.3

For instance, I have been interested for a long time in what happens when humans get machines (i.e. computers, software, apps, phones, washing machines, pencils etc. to do things for us. There are lots of different ways you can think about or frame, for example, what happens when you use a search engine to find something online? More often than not, the delegation of work is reduced to technical instructions about how to conduct a search, the use of operators and other means of refining a search. More recently, the delegation has been framed in terms of the work that searchers do for the company that supplies the search engine. Every time you use a search engine you help the company know more about you, your search habits and you help it improve the various means it has to sell advertising. Another framing draws attention to what might crudely be called a swapping of capacities between human and machine.4 Yet another framing draws attention to the algorithms that Google uses to tailor search results for you, whether you want to or not.5

There are bound to be a lot of issues that are of great interest to you at the moment. What are the questions being asked? Where do they come from? Who is asking them?

Finally, you may find the Thinking about your research page from the Kitchen worth a read.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License