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How We Solved the Puzzle of Why Some Countries Thrive Despite Corruption: Steps That Help Choose Important and Interesting Research Topics

By: Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Perhaps the most challenging question in research, for students and young scholars, is how to go about identifying a research topic that is interesting and that may lead to findings that are new and significant. My criteria for good research is that the arguments and findings should be important (nontrivial) and should not be obvious (the “Aha! moment”). The best research articles are ones that cause the experts in the field to change their views. In this case study, I build on a research project that my student and I conducted on corruption to show the steps that we used to identify a research topic that we believe is important and interesting. The steps that I identify are (a) pay attention to questions raised in the lower-level classes, (b) do not be afraid to be a contrarian, (c) do not be confined by the literature when developing a research topic, and (d) leverage your own life experience in research to be insightful without losing generalizability. An exercise is presented to help readers (and students) assess whether a research topic is important and interesting.

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