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  • 00:05

    ZINA O'LEARY: Core Skills for New Researchers:How to solve problems and make decisions.In this video, we're going to look at research as a problemthat needs to be solved.So we're going to be looking at thinking like a problem-solver.We're going to explore the problem-solving process.And then we're going to look at this problem-solving processin relation to common research dilemmas.

  • 00:27

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: [Dr. Zina O'Leary, Senior Fellow,The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG)]Problem solving-- is that part of research?Absolutely.There are so many decisions you haveto make, and so many problems that you need to solve,that having the skills of problem-solvingcan be really, really helpful.There's this conception out there that doing research

  • 00:47

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: is about following rules and protocols--that you have a formula for researchthat will get you an answer.Well, I'm here to tell you that's absolutely not true.There are guidelines and rules for doing research,but you have to have your [? nows ?] constantly.You have to think through dilemmas,think through problems, find solutions.

  • 01:10

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: The quote by Edison here is a great one."There are no rules here--we're trying to accomplish something."So really having to think things through is important.And a large part of that is rather than rules,we're going to be weighing things up.Should I do A or B?What are the benefits of A versus B?

  • 01:31

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: What are the implications of A versus B?You really need to have your--again, your curiosity.But really think this through.So let's talk about the problem-solving processand what that entails.So the problem-solving process--you're going through your research,you come to a problem.Define the problem.

  • 01:52

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: What exactly is my problem?What am I looking at here?Can I nut-out what's going on?Can I figure out what the block is?Is it because I'm stuck on what research question to do?Is it because my respondents aren'tresponding the way I think?Is it because I'm having difficultydeciding on survey questions?

  • 02:13

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Do I not know what to do with analysis?What is the sticking point for you?Now, once you actually have the problem defined as clearlyas possible, start brainstorming solutions.Well, I could do A. I could do B.I could do C. You could read about what other people do.

  • 02:35

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: You can talk to your supervisor.What should I do?What are the ways that I can manage that?So this is all about brainstorming your solutions.Now, after you brainstorm them, research them,talk to people about them, you'reactually going to want to select a solution.So you generated those alternatives,

  • 02:55

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: and now you're going to evaluate them and select one solution.Now, if you've thought about this,and you've really thought about the evaluation part of this,and you've come to the best decisionyou can make given your timelines and your constraintsand everything else that's going on around you,then you're going to want to implement that solution,

  • 03:18

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: follow up, and review the results.So that's the problem-solving thinkingthat really can be applied to many parts of the researchprocess.So let's talk about how this problem-solving processcan be applied to research dilemmas you're likely to face.So let's go back to the example I used in a previous video.

  • 03:40

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: What types of music can enhance concentrationin high school students?So let's say you had difficulty with question articulation.Maybe you wanted to know, does music enhance concentrationhigh school students.

  • 04:01

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: How can music affect concentrationin high school students?What types of music can affect concentration?What types of music lowers concentration?There's so many questions that you could use.And you're having trouble articulating it,and you don't know what you want to do.

  • 04:22

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: The problem-solving process is onethat suggests that you have to then brainstorm alternatives.Write down all the various research questionsthat you've come up with, all the possibilities.And I have students do this all the time.I've got seven questions.They tell me they want to do somethingabout music and concentration and high school students,and we write out six, seven questions.

  • 04:45

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Then we start weighing up the pros and cons of each one.Those pros and cons can be involved.What interests you the most?Which one do you find most fascinating?Which one can you design a project around?What's possible?What's doable?What's ethical?

  • 05:05

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: What fits into your timeline?So once we assess the pros and cons of all of those questions,we select one.And once we select one, we run with it.So we've now solved that problem of question articulation.Now we're going to work on methods.So we're going to decide on the method.

  • 05:25

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: So you're thinking, do I do an experimental design.Or, do I just want to interview them about what kind of musicthey listen to and what impact that has?What am I actually looking for?What do I do?Do I want to survey all the students?Do I want to do a focus group?Do I want to do interviews?Do I want to do experiments?Again, what we're going to do is write down

  • 05:47

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: all the potential methods aligned to this question--everything that you could do.Now we're going to have some assessment criteria--doability, access to respondents,time frames, your interest level, your skillset.

  • 06:08

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And we're going to weigh up each one of these alternativesto decide which is the best fit for you in this moment in time.So it's not just about what's the best question.My students always want to know what's the best question.Well, the best question is the onethat adds valuable data to a body of knowledge

  • 06:29

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: that you've been able to do credibly and ethically.It's not the biggest question.It's not the most complex question.It's the question that can be answeredby you in a timely fashion given your frame, whether itbe six months or three years.

  • 06:49

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: So it has to be the right size and the right shape.It has to be within your interest set.And you're doing that assessment--really weighing up the alternatives against criteriathat you've set--then making your selection, executing, writing upthat method, and employing it.

  • 07:10

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Same process when you face challengesin the conduct of your methods.So you're doing your methods, and all of a sudden, peoplearen't available.You don't get the time at the school that you want.What are your alternatives?Can you meet with people outside the school?Can you meet with people at home?

  • 07:31

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Brainstorm all the things you can do.Another big dilemma that can happenis you're not getting the results that you wanted.There's no results coming through thatare proving your hypothesis.Now we have to think of the alternatives.Should you try different sets of music?Do you need to broaden your sample?Think about all the different ways

  • 07:51

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: that you can tackle this problem.So what we're talking about here isidentifying all the alternatives,assessing it, and evaluating them against set criteria.Once you do that, you can evaluate and makean assessment on what's your best course of action.

  • 08:12

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And then, again, you implement it.And you do that for each and every challenge.It's a matter of looking at all my possibilities,and then assessing them against well-thought-out criteria,coming up with the answer, and implementing.Same thing when you're writing up--gee, there's a lot of ways you can write up.You can write up in a very traditional academic style.

  • 08:36

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Now, that might be required.So that's a possibility.You may want to do something in a different form,a different style.You may think that first person, for example,is a more effective way of writing.Or, you might want something punchierbecause you want to disseminate it to students,and you don't really just want to have an academic report.Or, maybe you want to write up knowing that you're going

  • 08:56

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: to get published in a journal.Again, what are all the possibilities here?What are all the possibilities?And then let's look at the assessment criteria.Certainly, for one of them it wouldbe how you're going to be assessed as an academic,whether you're doing a one-semester project or a PhD.What are the requirements, and how are youpushing against them?

  • 09:17

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Then the other that I'd like you to think aboutis effectiveness-- effective meaninghow impactful will it be for those people who may read it.Now, I personally think that journals aren't necessarilythe most impactful pieces of writing.But they are the thing that gets published.If you want something to go back out to a school,to a board of study, to a committee, or community--

  • 09:42

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: then a different style of writing.So you really want to think about all your alternatives,you want to think about all the different criteria,and then make a call.Sometimes with writing up, you actually need deliverables.You may need an academic deliverable, but thenyou may also need something that's a little bit punchier--something that's going to have more impact.

  • 10:02

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: Same goes for dissemination.How can I disseminate this?Should I go for a journal article?Now, journal articles are certainlysomething that will put you in good shapefor a further academic career.But you have the option of writing thingsinto a magazine, a trade journal, a book, a community

  • 10:25

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: presentation, a handout or a flyer.Really, you want to weigh up these optionsaround dissemination based on your criteria.Who is your audience?What are your expectations?What do you want from them?All of these things go into that consideration.

  • 10:45

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: So from start to finish, every single dilemma you come upwith-- and you'll come up with plenty--I'm sure you're already starting to face some justthinking about your research--try that problem-solving approach.Try thinking about what is my problem,really getting a definition on it.Try thinking about all the potential alternatives.

  • 11:06

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: And then start thinking about how Ican assess those alternatives.You do that evaluation and make the assessment,and carry on from there.If you consistently use that approach,it has a tendency to stop you from getting stuck.And the biggest problem in doing research--particularly a large scale project under time pressure--

  • 11:28

    ZINA O'LEARY [continued]: is that feeling of being overwhelmed,that feeling where you think, ah,I don't know where to go from here.I don't know how to move forward.I'm feeling really stuck.Well, attack it.Attack it with the problem solving cycle,and you will be able to move forward.

Video Info

Series Name: Core Skills for New Researchers

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2018

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Researcher skills

Keywords: decision-making models; evaluative thinking; problem identification and referral; problem solving; problem-solving training

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Dr. Zina O'Leary explains the problem-solving process and demonstrates its usefulness in conducting research.

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Core Skills for New Researchers: How to Solve Problems & Make Decisions

Dr. Zina O'Leary explains the problem-solving process and demonstrates its usefulness in conducting research.

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