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Research Questions

Darleen Opfer

Types of Qualitative Research Questions


Grand Tour Sub Questions

Ask one or two grand tour questions followed by no more than five to seven sub-questions. The question format is related to specific qualitative methodologies. Begin the question with the words what or how. Tell the reader that the study will do one of the following: Discover (grounded theory) Explain or seek to understand (ethnography) Explore a process (case study) Describe the experiences (phenomenology) Pose questions that use non-directional wording. Expect the research questions to evolve and change during the study. Use open ended questions without reference to the literature unless dictated by a specific qualitative design. Use a single focus and specify the site in the research questions.

Guidelines for writing qualitative questions

Ethnography example:
How are conceptions of social studies played out or not played out in classroom practice?
How is the setting organized? What kind of interpersonal dynamics exist? What activities occur in each setting? What information, opinions, and beliefs are exchanged among participants?

Case Study Example


How do women in a psychology doctoral program describe their decision to return to school? How do women in a psychology doctoral program describe their reentry experiences? And, how does returning to graduate school change these womens lives?

Activity 1: Qualitative Research Questions


For the first abstract, write research questions for the study described.

Types of quantitative research questions


They can be about comparisons between groups They can be about the relationships between two or more variables They can describe responses to variables

Guidelines for quantitative research questions


They are developed from theory. The dependent and independent variables should be kept separate and measured separately. Select one form hypothesis, research question, or objective and not a combination. Choice of the forms of hypotheses used (Null or Alternative/Directional) should be determined by the audience. Hypotheses can also be stated in literary or operational. Typically use variables other than demographic variables as independent variables. Use the same pattern of word order in the questions to establish a formal rhetorical style. When writing research questions or hypotheses for quantitative studies, write descriptive questions first followed by multivariate (multiple variable) questions.

Forms for Hypotheses


Null Hypothesis
There is no significant difference in the accumulation of resources and the productivity of faculty Directional/Alternative Hypothesis The more the accumulation of resources, the more productive the researcher

Null Literary There is no relationship between support services and academic persistence of nontraditional-aged college women.

Alternative The more that nontraditional-aged college women use support services, the more they will persist academically. The more hours that nontraditional-aged college women use the student union, the more they will persist at the college after their freshman year.

Operational There is no relationship between the number of hours nontraditionalaged college women use the student union and their persistence at the college after their freshman year.

Guidelines for quantitative research questions


They are developed from theory. The dependent and independent variables should be kept separate and measured separately. Select one form hypothesis, research question, or objective and not a combination. Choice of the forms of hypotheses used (Null or Alternative/Directional) should be determined by the audience. Hypotheses can also be stated in literary or operational. Typically use variables other than demographic variables as independent variables. Use the same pattern of word order in the questions to establish a formal rhetorical style. When writing research questions or hypotheses for quantitative studies, write descriptive questions first followed by multivariate (multiple variable) questions.

Examples of repeated phrasing and variable order in hypotheses 1. There is no relationship between the use of ancillary support services and academic persistence of nontraditional-aged college women. 2. There is no relationship between family support systems and academic persistence of nontraditional-aged college women.

Guidelines for quantitative research questions


They are developed from theory. The dependent and independent variables should be kept separate and measured separately. Select one form hypothesis, research question, or objective and not a combination. Choice of the forms of hypotheses used (Null or Alternative/Directional) should be determined by the audience. Hypotheses can also be stated in literary or operational. Typically use variables other than demographic variables as independent variables. Use the same pattern of word order in the questions to establish a formal rhetorical style. When writing research questions or hypotheses for quantitative studies, write descriptive questions first followed by multivariate (multiple variable) questions.

Example of research question ordering for a quantitative study


1. How do students rate on critical thinking skills? (a descriptive question focused on the independent variable) 2. What are the students grades in science classes? (a descriptive question focused on the dependent variable) 3. What are the students prior grades in science? (a descriptive question focused on the mediating variable, prior grades) 4. What is the educational attainment of the parents of the students? (a descriptive question focused on the mediating variable, educational attainment of parents) 5. Does critical thinking ability relate to student achievement? (a multivariate question relating the independent and dependent variables) 6. Does critical thinking ability relate to student achievement, controlling for the effects of prior grades in science and the educational attainment of the students parents? (a multivariate question relating the independent and dependent variables controlling for the mediating effects of the two intervening variables)

Activity 2: Quantitative Research Questions


For the second abstract provided, write research questions for the study described.

Guidelines for mixed methods research questions and hypotheses


These studies need both qualitative and quantitative research questions The questions need to incorporate the elements of good questions and hypotheses for qualitative and quantitative approaches It may be difficult to specify research questions for the second phase of a two-phase sequential study where the second phase is to elaborate on the first. The researcher can state the questions in the final report of the study. The order of the questions should follow the order of the phases of the study or the weight of the methods in the design. In sequential studies, the questions can be introduced at the beginning of each phase.

Activity 3: Mixed Method Questions


For the third abstract, write research questions for the study described.

Activity 4: Your Own Research Questions


Write research questions for your own study.