IFN001 AIRS - The research question - Activity – Transcript

This is a transcript of the video "IFN001 AIRS - The research question - Activity", hosted on YouTube.


[QUT intro graphic]

[Title Slide: Research Question]

[Jenny] So we've already said that a good research question has six properties and I'm going to unpack those for you right now.

[Slide 2: A Good Research Question]

  1. Theoretical construct - Identifies the phenomenon / event you want to learn more about.
  2. Recognisability - Allows you to distinguish and identify the construct in the literature.
  3. Transcends the data - Transcends the data used to conduct the research.
  4. Significance - Draws attention to the significance of the research.
  5. The capacity to surprise - Has the capacity to surprise the researcher as they research.
  6. Robust - Encourages a complex answer (i.e. not a 'yes' or 'no' response)

Firstly, the theoretical construct. It is the issue, the phenomenon, the main ideas that you're trying to explore with your research. So theoretical construct, to my mind, needs to be clear. There needs to be no fuzziness around the edges, if you like. So if we're thinking of the theoretical construct. Let's have a look at this question on the board. "What are the processes by which parents transmit their political perspectives to their children?" What would you say is the main theoretical construct, this one only has one construct? What do you think?

[Participant] Political perspectives.

[Jenny] Well yes, but it's the transmission of the political perspective, so that's the main thing that the researcher is interested in. And remembering that a good research question will probably have three, about three, theoretical constructs. They're the main things that you're looking for and sometimes they're the intersecting parts as well. So all recognisability means is that you're using the terms that are identifiable in literature, in the databases, or used in your area of research. So that's really important: so there's a little bit of other research that has to go on to make sure that you've got the right terms.

So if we look at the board again. "What is the experience of non-traditional women in college?" What's the problem, if you like, with that question? There's two problems. So have a look. Do we know what non-traditional women are? No. Do you usually hear that terminology? No. So we would have to examine how is that group of people looked at in the literature and use the appropriate terminology. Excellent. Is this question doable? Or is it too big?

[Participant] There's lots of aspects to any experience.

[Jenny] There's lots of aspects to any experience. Exactly. So it needs to be brought in, doesn't it? So we're saying "the experience", the experience of what? The experience of child minding? You know if you got into the databases and you put in "experience" what will you get? All sorts of things, right, so that is a problem. So it's not doable.

I've got an example here. This is a really good example. This is from a prior PhD student. So this is her actual research question: "How reliable are the metacognitive mechanisms that distinguish episodic memories from other mental content?"

Now, from what we've done already, we got an understanding that we need to highlight or understand our theoretical constructs. So I'd like you to identify the theoretical constructs that we have in this question. What do you think's a theoretical construct?

[Participant] What about "episodic memories"?

[Jenny] "Episodic memories" is certainly, thank you, is certainly a theoretical construct. What else would you say?

[Participant] "Metacognitive mechanisms"?

[Jenny] The "metacognitive mechanisms"? Correct. So we've got one, we've got two. And is there one more?

[Participant] "Mental content"?

[Jenny] "Mental content". Excellent. Three. So we've actually been able identify that this question, a very good question, has three theoretical constructs. Now in your Resource Log, you're asked to list the theoretical constructs from your research question, as well as give a justification as to why you're using those terms. So this student actually said that the "metacognitive mechanisms" was a Library of Congress subject heading. So she found that in the databases.

[Slide 3: Metacognitive mechanisms] Was used because it is the Library of Congress subject heading used to classify literature on higher order thinking and reflection.

[Jenny] The second one was "episodic memories" and that was a technical term. So she did some investigation and she found that that was the terminology she should be using in her question.

[Slide 4: Episodic memory] Is the technical term for the faculty of recollection.

[Jenny] In addition, "mental content" is a technical term, as well, in her field. So she gave the justification: it's not a definition. I want to know why you're using them. And that's really good for you too because you will be then understanding the terminology in your field.

[Slide 5: Mental content] Is the technical term in philosophy for mental representations, beliefs, desires.

[Jenny] The third one is "transcends the data". What does it mean? Well it really just means that you don't put your data, or where you're collecting your data in the question. And it certainly means that you don't use the methodology in the question, so you don't add the methodology to the question.

So this is an example of a small question that's got the data in it: "What accounting practices are used in children's theatres in Detroit?" That question feels small to me, does it to you? It's very local. It's localised to where they're going to collect the data. So what would be better, and would be interesting to other people, would be to actually open that up. So we're opening it up to say something like, "what are the accounting practices used by non-profit arts organisations"? And you can see it opens it up and it might be relevant to other people as well, does that make sense? If you were doing something on a 15th Century poet, now they're the subject matter but they are also the data. So you'd have to add them.

Significance: So why are we doing this research? So what is going to be the outcome? We heard through the elevator pitch, that we did recently, that it's important to give the audience an understanding of what the significance is. Is this question going to increase efficiency, is it going to decrease deaths, is it going to be more effective for the economy, etc.?

The capacity to surprise: So if we already know the answer, why are we doing research? So make sure that you don't make any assumptive statements in your question. So it's, you're not sure what the outcomes going to be, so keep your question open for that as well.

And lastly, Robust. Clearly, we said at the very beginning, a good question needs to be complex. If you ask a question that could be answered with a 'yes' or 'no', it's not robust.

So I hope that activity really helped you.

[QUT outro graphic]

[End video]