Posted: October 27th, 2022

Module 1 Assignment – Research Questions (RQs) and Hypotheses

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Reference Sources

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topics.

on your topic.

issues related to your topic.

General Reference Sources
Dictionaries and encyclopedias provide

understand your topic. !ey are gener-

Narrowing a Topic

Choose an interesting topic. If you’re interested in your topic, chances

Gather background information.
reference sources

OneSearch@IU

Consider your audience.

From Topic to Research Question

Hypothesize.

Sample Research Questions
Clarity

Unclear:

Clear:

Focused
Unfocused: –

Focused:

Too simple:

FROM PROBLEM STATEMENT TO
RESEARCH QUESTIONS

Objectives

• Understand and develop all of the
Chapter 1: Introduction sections.

• Develop and articulate research questions
that are related to the purpose of the

study.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Statement of the Problem
This should include (a) a clear statement that the problem exists, (b)
evidence that supports the existence of the problem, (c) evidence of an
existing trend that has led to the problem, (d) definitions of major
concepts and terms (this can be provided below in a subsection), (e) a
clear description of the setting, (f) probable causes related to the
problem, and (g) a specific and feasible statement.

The Topic
This is a brief description of the proposed area of study. Include at least
two sentences.

The Research Problem
This is an area of conflict, concern, or controversy (a gap between what is
wanted and what is observed). Include the most relevant reference that
supports the claim.

Chapter 1: Introduction (cont.)
Background and Justification
The evidence and relevance from the literature and published or archival
data showing the problem exists. Include at least two references.

Y

ou
should also have a theoretical basis for the study.

Deficiencies in the Evidence
Include a brief discussion that details the area of need (in relation to the
problem) and the deficiency or lack of evidence in the literature.

Audience
Discuss who is affected and who benefits.

Definition of Terms
Provide complete scientific definitions and appropriate references if
necessary. Include as many terms or variables as needed.

Purpose of the Study
Create  a  sentence  that  begins  with  “The  purpose  of  this  study  is  .  .  .”  
Clearly identify and define the central concepts or ideas of the study.

Example of the Flow of Ideas in the
Problem Statement

Topic

Research
Problem

Justification
for Research
Problem

Deficiencies in
the Evidence

Relating the
Discussion
to Audiences

Subject
area

•Concern or issue
•A problem
•Something that

needs a solution

•Evidence from the
literature
•Evidence from
practical experience

•In this body of
evidence what is
missing or what
do we need to
know more about?

•How will addressing
what we need to know
help researchers,
educators, policy
makers, and other
individuals?An Example

Ethical
issues
in
colleges

Flow of Ideas

Ethical
violations
among football
recruiters

•Gap in the literature
•Reports of violations

Description
identifying and
characterizing
violations

•Assessing violations
•Helps recruiters develop
better ethical standards
•Helps athletes
understand ethical issues

The

Topic

• is introduced in the first paragraphs.
• includes the general subject matter.
• must be introduced so that the reader can

relate to it.

Topic Selection Considerations

• Personal interest
• Organizational support
• Ethical issues
• Relevance of the study
• Contribution to the field
• Time constraints
• Breath and scope
• Economic factors

Sources of Topic Selection

• ERIC, PsycINFO, Medline
• Journals, books, and dissertations in your field
• Conferences, workshops, presentations
• Recommendations about future research
• Courses
• Workplace
• Expert consultations
• Online library services

Why the Research Problem Is
Important

• It establishes the importance of the topic.
• It creates reader interest.
• It  focuses  the  reader’s  attention on how the

study will add to the literature.

Stating the Research Problem

• State the problem in the opening paragraph
(i.e., something that needs a solution)

• Identify an issue
– Research-based research problems
– Practical problems

• Reference the problem using the literature
• Common pitfall: defining the problem based

on the solution

How the Problem Differs From
Other Parts of Research

• A research problem is an educational issue or
problem in the study.

• A research topic is the broad subject matter
being addressed in a study.

• A purpose is the major intent or objective of
the study.

• Research questions are those that the
researcher would like answered or addressed
in the study.

Justifying the Importance of the
Research Problem

• Justification based on what other researchers
have found

• Justification based on personal or workplace
experiences

• Justification based on the experiences that
others have had in the workplace

Locating the Research Problem

• Read the opening paragraphs of existing
studies for one or more of the following:
– What is the issue or problem?
– What controversy leads to the need for a study?
– What concern is being addressed behind the

study?
– Is  there  a  sentence  such  as,  “The problem being
addressed  in  this  study  is…”?

Determining Whether a Problem
Should Be Researched

• Can you study the problem?
– Do you have access to the research site?
– Do you have the time, resources, and skills to

carry out the research?

• Should you study the problem?
– Does it advance knowledge?
– Does it contribute to

practice?

Determining Whether a Problem
Should Be Researched (cont.)

• Will your study fill a gap or void in the existing
literature?

• Will your study replicate a past study but
examine different participants and different
research sites?

• Will your study extend past research or
examine the topic more thoroughly?

• Will your study give voice to people not heard,
silenced, or rejected in society?

• Will your study inform practice?

How the Problem Differs From
Other Parts of Research
• A research problem is an educational issue or
problem in the study.
• A research topic is the broad subject matter
being addressed in a study.
• A purpose is the major intent or objective of
the study.
• Research questions are those that the
researcher would like answered or addressed
in the study.

Identifying Deficiencies in the
Evidence

• What do we still need to know?
• What else do we need to know to improve

practice?

Identify the Audience

Ask the following question: Who will profit
from reading our study?

• Other researchers
• Practitioners
• Policy makers
• Special populations (e.g., parents)

Elements of a Quantitative
Purpose Statement

• A quantitative purpose statement identifies the
variables, their relationships, and the participants
and site for research

• Guidelines for writing
– Use a single sentence.
– Use wording such as The purpose of this study . . . .
– If using a theory, state the theory you plan to test.
– Use  quantitative  words  (e.g.,  “relate,”  “compare,”  
“describe”)  to  describe  the  relationships  between  
variables.

Elements of a Quantitative
Purpose Statement (cont.)

• Guidelines for writing (cont.)
– Independent variable (1st position in sentence)
– Dependent variable (2nd position in sentence)
– Control and/or mediating variable (3rd position in

sentence)
– Research site
– Participants

Quantitative Research Questions
• Types of quantitative research questions

– Describe results of your variables.
– Compare two or more groups on the independent

variable in terms of the dependent variable.
– Relate two or more variables.

• Guidelines for writing
– Pose a question.
– Begin  with  “how,”  “what,”  or  “why.”
– Specify the independent, dependent, and mediating

or control variables.
– Use the words describe, compare, or relate to indicate

the action or connection among the variables.
– Indicate the participants and the research site for the

study.

Designing Qualitative Purpose
Statements and Research Questions

• Understand how these statements and
questions differ from quantitative research.

• Understand the role of a central phenomenon
in qualitative research.

• Understand qualitative research as an
emerging process.

Differences Between Quantitative and
Qualitative Purpose Statements and

Research Questions
Quantitative—more closed

1. Probable cause/effect
(Why did it happen?)

• Use of theories (Why did it happen in
view of an explanation or theory?)

• Assess differences and magnitude
(How much happened?)
(How many times did it happen?)
(What were the differences among
groups in what happened?)

Qualitative—more open ended

• Descriptive (What happened?)
• Interpretive (What was the meaning

to people of what happened?)
• Process oriented (What happened

over time?)

Explaining or Predicting Variables
Versus Exploring or Understanding a

Central

Phenomenon

Quantitative

Explaining or Predicting
Variables

Qualitative

Understanding or
Exploring a Central

Phenomenon

X Y

The independent variable (X)
influences a dependent
variable (Y)

In-depth understanding of Y;
external forces shape and are
shaped by Y

Y

Elements of Qualitative Purpose
Statement

• A single sentence
• A statement such as,
“The purpose of this study  .  .  .  ”  

• The central phenomenon
• A statement identifying the type of qualitative

design
• Qualitative  words  (e.g.,  “explore,”  “understand,”  
“discover”)  

• The participants
• The research site

Types of Qualitative Research
Questions

• Central question is the overarching question
you explore in the research study.

• Subquestions divide the central question into
smaller, specific questions.
– Issue subquestions: Narrow the focus of the

central question into specific issues.
– Procedural subquestions: Indicate the steps to be

used in analyzing the data in a qualitative study.

• Interview questions are asked during your
interview and are based on your subquestions and
central question.

Differences among the Topic,
Problem, Purpose, and Questions

General

Specific

Topic
Research
Problem

Purpose
Statement

Research
Question

Distance learning

Lack of students in distance
classes

To study why students do not
attend distance education classes at
a community college

Does the use of Web site technology
in the classroom deter students
from enrolling in a distance
education class?

Example
Statement of the Problem

The Topic
Distance education via online platforms is a rapidly growing method of
education delivery due to its convenience, wide reach, relatively low cost, and
ability to support the achievement of learning objectives. Whether the platform
is Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle, Angel, or some other learning management
system, online education utilizes a variety of common learning tools including
discussion boards, drop boxes, automated testing, and wikis. Chief among
these tools are live online sessions.

The Research Problem
Live online sessions may be delivered in virtual classrooms from Adobe
Connect, Elluminate, GoToMeeting, Wimba, or other software programs.
Regardless of the software used, student attendance at live online sessions,
especially optional ones, can be unpredictable at best. It is a common
complaint among the online faculty at a university in the south that many,
oftentimes most, of their students do not attend the live online sessions. This
study will address the problem of low student attendance at nonmandatory
virtual classroom meetings in online college courses.

Background and Justification
Offir, Lev, and Bezalel (2008) found the interaction level in a synchronous class,
also known as web conferencing, to be a significant factor in the effectiveness
of  the  class.  Other  researchers  describe  “the  power  of  a  synchronous  online  
system to empower students in conversation and expression (McBrien, Jones,
& Cheng, 2009). However, if students do not attend, then they cannot interact
nor express themselves.

Deficiencies in the Evidence
According to Skylar (2009), “research  concerning the use of newer multimedia
technologies, such as interactive synchronous web conferencing tools, is in its
infancy  and  needs  further  and  continued  study”    (p. 82). McBrien, Jones, and
Cheng  (2009)  stated  that  “more  studies  are  needed  to  explore  students’  
perceptions  of  the  synchronous  learning  experience.”  A  variety  of  studies  have  
explored the differences in functionalities of the various platforms (Kenning,
2010; Lavolette, Venable, Gose, & Huang, 2010), but they did not get to the
heart of why students do or do not attend.

Audience
This study will benefit college and university administrators who can create or
revise policies based upon the results. Administrators may even decide to
change virtual classroom providers. Faculty may benefit if results indicate a
change is needed in their own practices. Finally, the study will benefit online
students whose learning experiences will be improved by the findings.

Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore absenteeism from
nonmandatory synchronous sessions in the virtual learning environment,
Wimba Classroom, by undergraduate and graduate students in online courses
at a southern university.

Research Questions
The central question is, What are  students’  attitudes  regarding  nonmandatory
synchronous sessions in Wimba at a southern university?

The following are subquestions:

1.  What  are  students’  reasons  for  attending  nonmandatory synchronous
sessions in Wimba?

2.  What  are  students’  reasons  for  not  attending  nonmandatory synchronous
sessions in Wimba?

3. What actions could the university or its instructors take that would motivate
students to increase their attendance at nonmandatory synchronous online
sessions?

Student Examples

• Topic
• Research Problem
• Purpose Statement
• Research Question

What Makes a
Good Research

Question?

What is a Research Question?

A research question guides and centers your research. It should be clear and focused, as well as synthesize
multiple sources to present your unique argument. Even if your instructor has given you a specific
assignment, the research question should ideally be something that you are interested in or care about. Be
careful to avoid the “all-about” paper and questions that can be answered in a few factual statements.

Examples:

1. For instance, the following question is too broad and does not define the segments of the analysis:

Why did the chicken cross the road?
(The question does not address which chicken or which road.)

2. Similarly, the following question could be answered by a hypothetical Internet search:

How many chickens crossed Broad Street in Durham, NC, on February 6, 2014?
(Ostensibly, this question could be answered in one sentence and does not leave room for analysis. It
could, however, become data for a larger argument.)

3. A more precise question might be the following:

What are some of the environmental factors that occurred in Durham, NC between January and February
2014 that would cause chickens to cross Broad Street?
(This question can lead to the author taking a stand on which factors are significant, and allows the writer
to argue to what degree the results are beneficial or detrimental.)

How Do You Formulate A Good Research Question?

Choose a general topic of interest, and conduct preliminary research on
this topic in current periodicals and journals to see what research has
already been done. This will help determine what kinds of questions the
topic generates.

Once you have conducted preliminary research, consider: Who is the
audience? Is it an academic essay, or will it be read by a more general
public? Once you have conducted preliminary research, start asking open-
ended “How?” “What?” and Why?” questions. Then evaluate possible
responses to those questions.

Duke Writing Studio 2

Examples:

Say, for instance, you want to focus on social networking sites. After reading current research, you want
to examine to what degree social networking sites are harmful. The Writing Center at George Mason
University provides the following examples and explanations:

Possible Question: Why are social networking sites harmful?
An evaluation of this question reveals that the question is unclear: it does not specify which social
networking sites or state what harm is being caused. Moreover, this question takes as a given that this
“harm” exists. A clearer question would be the following:

Revised Question: How are online users experiencing or addressing privacy issues on such social
networking sites as Facebook and Twitter?
This version not only specifies the sites (Facebook and Twitter), but also the type of harm (privacy issues)
and who is harmed (online users).

While a good research question allows the writer to take an arguable position, it DOES NOT leave room
for ambiguity.

Checklist of Potential Research Questions in the Humanities (from the Vanderbilt University Writing
Center):

1) Is the research question something I/others care about? Is it arguable?
2) Is the research question a new spin on an old idea, or does it solve a problem?
3) Is it too broad or too narrow?
4) Is the research question researchable within the given time frame and location?
5) What information is needed?

Research Question in the Sciences and Social Sciences

While all research questions need to take a stand, there are additional requirements for research questions
in the sciences and social sciences. That is, they need to have repeatable data. Unreliable data in the
original research does not allow for a strong or arguable research question.

In addition, you need to consider what kind of problem you want to address. Is your research trying to
accomplish one of these four goals?1

1) Define or measure a specific fact or gather facts about a specific phenomenon.
2) Match facts and theory.
3) Evaluate and compare two theories, models, or hypotheses.
4) Prove that a certain method is more effective than other methods.

Moreover, the research question should address what the variables of the experiment are, their
relationship, and state something about the testing of those relationships. The Psychology department at
California State University, Fresno, provides the following examples and explanations:

1 David Porush, A Short Guide to Writing About Science. (New York: Harper Collins, 1995), 92-93.

Duke Writing Studio 3

Examples:

Possible research question: Are females smarter than males?
This question delineates the variables to be measured: gender and intelligence. Yet, it is unclear how they
will be evaluated: What method will be used to define and measure intelligence?

Revised question: Do females age 18-35 score higher than adult males age 18-35 on the WAIS-III? (The
WAIS-III is a standardized intelligence test.)
This research question produces data that can be replicated. From there, the author can devise a question
that takes a stand.

In essence, the research question that guides the sciences and social sciences should do the following
three things:2

1) Post a problem.
2) Shape the problem into a testable hypothesis.
3) Report the results of the tested hypothesis.

There are two types of data that can help shape research questions in
the sciences and social sciences: quantitative and qualitative data.
While quantitative data focuses on the numerical measurement and
analysis between variables, qualitative data examines the social
processes that give rise to the relationships, interactions, and
constraints of the inquiry.

Writing After the Research Question

The answer to your research question should be your thesis statement. Keep in mind that you will most
likely continue to refine your thesis statement as you conduct and write about your research. A good
research question, however, puts you well on your way to writing a strong research paper.

Helpful Links

• http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/?p=307

• http://vanderbilt.edu/writing/manage/wp-
content/uploads/2013/06/Formulating%20Your%20Research%20Question

• http://www.esc.edu/online-writing-center/resources/research/research-paper-

steps/developing-questions/

• http://psych.csufresno.edu/psy144/Content/Science/researchquestion.html

2 Lee Cuba, A Short Guide to Writing About Social Science, third edition. (New York: Addison-Wesley Educational
Publishers, Inc., 1997), 70-71.

After reading and reviewing Module 1 learning content (three related PDFs are attached below), continue to think carefully about your research topic for which you will develop a research proposal that will shed light on the problem.

Write three or 2 research questions (RQs) and 2 hypotheses for your final research proposals.

Make sure the RQs are open-ended and do not have YES/ NO responses.

Remember:
The goal of [the final] assignment is for students to write a well-researched and developed proposal about an area of your organization or your research area of interest.

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