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  • 00:05

    ZINA O'LEARY: Core skills for new researchers--how to develop a good research question.So in this video, we're going to explorewhy I think research questions are so critical to the researchprocess and something we really need to articulate clearlyfrom the start.So we're going to look at how research startswith question development.We're going to explore how we can look at issuesand opportunities for research.

  • 00:27

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: We're going to look at what is knownand what needs to be known.We're going to explore research opportunities by lookingat literature and discuss how we work up a research questionand what work that research question does.We're going to look at how we assess potential researchquestions, the ethics associated with particular questions,and finally, moving from questions to titles, how

  • 00:49

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: to write a title that is discoverableonce we publish our research.The research question for me--this is the most critical part of a research process.And I don't say that lightly.And I'm not joking here.A research question is everything.The articulation of a research question, a good one,

  • 01:13

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: is your blueprint for everything that follows.So research starts with question development.So how do we get there?How do we get to a good research question,because it is critical?You know how many times people come to me for adviceabout their research and I say, well,what's your research question?And they talk for, like, 10 or 15 minutes

  • 01:34

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: and don't ever get to telling me what the research question isbecause they actually don't have one.They have a lot of ideas.They have topics.And I can't advise them unless I knowwhat the question is because researchis the process of answering a question.And if we don't have the question,I can't help people get there.It's like trying to use Google Maps to get

  • 01:54

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: somewhere without having a destination programmed in.So we do need that research question.So how do we get it?One of the things we can start to dois identify issues and/or opportunities.So it's a matter of investigation.Where are the issues?What is going on?What problems do I see, whether it's in a workplace,

  • 02:17

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: in a community?What are the issues that are facing us?Australia is now-- has a higher levelof obesity than the US, a higher percentage of peoplewho are overweight or obese in the US, whichis quite a scary statistic.US has more people that are morbidly obese.But people who are just overweight and obese-- higher

  • 02:38

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: in Australia, particularly high in the Western suburbsof Sydney.So this is a problem that might be worth exploring,particularly in schools.Other problems local to my area in Sydney are asthma--one of the highest rates of asthma in the Western world.So what are the situations that are critical to you?Maybe you're interested in something more political.

  • 02:59

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Maybe you're interested in somethingmore workplace-oriented.Often, we research problems because what we reallywant is to come to solutions.But there's also the ability to look at opportunities.Where is there an opportunity for improvement or change?So start to investigate what interests you.What are the things that are constantly a bugbear?

  • 03:20

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: What are the opportunities that are there in your workplaceor in your school with a supervisor--so lots of investigation to figure outwhat your topic area is.Once you have that topic area, youcan begin to explore what is knownand what needs to be known about that area, that issue,

  • 03:41

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: that challenge, that opportunity.Look at aspects of the problem.Do we need to know more about the problem situation?If we're looking at obesity in Western Sydney,do we need to know why this is increased?Do we need to know who is impacted?Do we need to know how long it's going on for?Do we need to know the age of the people who are affected

  • 04:01

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: and whether they grow out of it?Do I know enough about the problem?So problem identification and problem delving,delving into problems, is one way to get a research question.Sometimes, there's a lot known about the problem already.So we know who's impacted.There's been plenty of studies.

  • 04:22

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: We know who in Western Sydney is impacted by obesity.We know the age.We have the motivations, et cetera.In that case, maybe we're looking for solutions.How can it be addressed?What type of education programs, what type of medical programs,what type of family intervention--what needs to happen?If we're looking at children, for example,

  • 04:43

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: what needs to happen?How can we improve the situation?What have other schools done?What have other communities done?So we're moving away from trying to find outmore about the problem to finding outwhat potential solutions there might be.All right.So that's another way of getting a research question.The other is we're looking at this problem of obesity.

  • 05:03

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And let's say there's been a new initiative within schools.Our research question might be, has that initiativebeen successful?Has a government campaign been successful?Has something from social services worked--so three ways, once we have our problem situation-- three waysto think about where our research sits.

  • 05:24

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Do we need to know more about the problem,do we need to start to identify solutions,or do we need to evaluate somethingthat's already happened?And that's really going to help you narrow into a researchquestion.The other thing you can do is startto look through the literature.What have other researchers looked at?What have they found?What is still available to be known?

  • 05:46

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: What's known?What's not known?In the area of what's not known, how can youcontribute to that literature?How can you begin to think about the evidencethat you can provide to help illuminate this area?OK-- so lots of ways to get at a research question.And it's important because this eventuating research question

  • 06:09

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: is what is going to provide you direction for moving forward.It's going to be the benchmark thatsets the whole groundwork for where you're going.It's going to offer you a blueprint for action.And it's going to help you avoid lots of tangents.It's not going to allow you to go off track.

  • 06:30

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: So if you start reading something and you think, well,is that helping me answer my research question?If the answer is no, well, then let it go.But if you're reading it and you think, wow,that's much more interesting, maybe youhave to change your research question.Either way, there needs to be a fit--same goes with method.If you're going down a methodological path

  • 06:51

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: and you realize, wait, this method doesn't actuallyanswer my research question, you have two choices,change the method or change the question.But they have to fit in the end.So that research question really doesset the agenda for what you're going to be doing.It's really critical to think about the research questionas the guidepost for everything else you do.

  • 07:13

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: So once you have a research question, what we want to dois think about whether or not it's a good research question.So what is a good research question?It's one that is significant in the sensethat it has the ability to offer important knowledge backto a community, a workplace, whatever it might be.

  • 07:36

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: It has significance in results.It's one that holds your passion and curiosity.It's one that is doable, one that can be done.It's one that is important.It's one that can be shared.So if you have a question--for example, how can parents decrease the levels of obesity

  • 08:02

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: in children--and you have a semester to do it,that may not be the best question.And the reason for that is it may be hard to in that frame--to really find out what'll work and what won't work.It might be hard to talk to parents.It's going to be hard to get any data that's before and after--

  • 08:23

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: enough significance and have the right frame.It's going to be hard to control for other variables.So there may be a lot of reasons why a particular question maynot hold up to scrutiny.A good question is one where you know that you havea pathway for answering it.So it may be what programs have been

  • 08:44

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: proven to be effective in schools in reducing obesity.And that way, you know that you're just lookingfor examples of best practice.It becomes much more doable depending on the time frame.Of course, if you have a large time frame--if you have three years, three to four years to do something--then you want to be thinking broader.You want to be thinking about having that gap between time

  • 09:08

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: 0, time 1, even time 2.So a lot of that assessment of a good research question for meis really about significance, significance of that question,your ability to recommend things that might improvea situation-- so situation improvement--and finally, doability.

  • 09:28

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Ability Is it something that can be donewithin a particular time frame?And those things are particularly important.The other thing is that the question has to be onewhere the methods are ethical.So if you want to talk to children

  • 09:49

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: about why they overeat, why do young childrenovereat, now, that could be a thorny issuemethodologically and ethically.So your idea might be, let's talkto kids about why they overeat.Well, are you ready for the answer?Are you ready for answers that mighthave to do with child abuse, with sexual assault,

  • 10:12

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: with bullying?Are you ready for children who just have no idea why, but do?Are you ready for the pain that that might cause,where they'll just be crying because they've been bulliedand can't communicate with you what's going on?All of those things fly in the face of ethics.

  • 10:32

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: So you may have a great question with a lot of significancewith huge impact for change that mightbe doable on a practical level.But it may not ethically be somethingthat you'll be able to get approval for or want to doif you really thought it out.So those ethical considerations are incredibly paramount when

  • 10:54

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: thinking about a research question--so really thinking forward about what you can do thatwon't cause any harm and, in fact,makes a positive contribution to society.So that's really critical.All right.So that is the development of a research question.We're really thinking about the importance of it,

  • 11:16

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: trying to really narrow into what's knownand what's not known.We're wading through literature.We're talking to others.We're thinking about all the reasonswhy a research question's important.We're doing the development of that question, the assessmentof that question, making sure that questionwill lead to ethical processes.And then we have a question that we can run past a supervisor

  • 11:37

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: and continue to work on because it is the biggest challenge.But once you have it, there's a sense of freedomlike, oh, now I can do my research.Now I know what I'm actually trying to do.So I'd keep working on it.Now, one more note--when we have a research question,sometimes we go ahead and try to write a title for our research

  • 11:57

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: that's based around that question.And sometimes, we get a little bit clever.So we might have something crypticbefore a colon and then the real workafterwards, like "Too Fat to Handle" or somethingand then the title.Now, it could be clever.It could be witty.It could be something that really is appealing.

  • 12:18

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: However, one of the things you want to do when you publishis to make sure your work is discoverable,to make sure that you have search engine optimization sothat when someone googles research on obesityin suburban areas, that your research pops up,that you haven't been so cryptic that people

  • 12:39

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: can't find your research.Yours is way at the bottom of the listbecause you used some clever and obscure title thatreally doesn't allude to the research that you've done.So just a quick note on that-- while you have a good researchquestion and that's clear and you've worked on itand it's researchable and you've met all the criteria,make sure that your title reflects that in a way

  • 13:01

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: where when someone is looking for research in this area,you're going to be in the first couple of pages of Googlesearching-- so just a quick note on that.But good luck with developing your research question.Work at it.Make sure you're getting lots of advice on itbecause it is one of the most critical parts of the researchprocess.

Video Info

Series Name: Core Skills for New Researchers

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2018

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Research questions

Keywords: action planning; assessment and evaluation of problem-solving initiatives; challenges, issues, and controversies; inquiry and research; local issues; practices, strategies, and tools; problem identification and referral; question formation ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Dr. Zina O'Leary explains the process and importance of designing an effective research question. O'Leary also addresses ethical and practical obstacles of the research process.

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Core Skills for New Researchers: How to Develop a Good Research Question

Dr. Zina O'Leary explains the process and importance of designing an effective research question. O'Leary also addresses ethical and practical obstacles of the research process.

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