To start an educational research with a good research question is quite daunting for novice researchers.
Morphologically, the word research comes with a prefix ‘re-‘ like repeat or redo. This signifies that it is a continuous action—a continuous search. As a cycle, the process of research does not seem to have a definite beginning and an end.
However, formulating research questions can be a definitive start for this cycle.
Thinking of a research question
A research question is an integral part of the research process. By starting with a question, a researcher can identify research problems and kickstart the research cycle.
In effect, identifying a problem during the early stage of research takes place by interconnecting with various sources. For example, a researcher may look into experiences, theories, non-education sources, social issues, and related literature (Ary, et al., 2010).
Identifying the problem
Hence, for educational researchers, there is a need to look for problems from professional experience. The school principal serves as a good starting point when it comes to looking for a research problem.
By informally asking the principal of his [perceived] struggles in his school, he can give the researcher a piece of his mind by mentioning the challenges and the struggles he usually faces.
From this, the research journey begins, as we can start formulating some research questions. Although one would wonder, “How do we form a clear research question that could give us a defined research problem?”
Planning the research
Subsequently, Cohen, et al. (2005) believes that a vital part of careful planning involves setting and making the parameters of the research clear and explicit. In his book, Cohen emphasizes the significance of defining the aims of the research. Perhaps, this is a good way of managing the planning stage of the research process. Relatively, it enables the researcher to have a more focused research problem.
Moreover, the purpose of the research needs to be well-defined. The researcher has to base this on the topic and the research problem. This could be anchored on personal and professional experience, as well as related literature (Cohen, et al., 2005; Cresswell, 2012). Consequently, this may lead to ideal research questions.
The combination of a clear topic, problem, purpose, and questions provide a strong foundation for a promising research. Other than that, supported readings and experiences could still strengthen the foundation of the study. This makes the entire research cycle a seemingly never-ending process of establishing one’s perceived ‘truth’.
Clearly, with a polished research topic, problem, purpose, and questions, educational researchers could produce a good research proposal and a more meaningful research experience. Therefore, before plunging into the design and methodology, we need to constantly consult our peers and research supervisors with regards to the quality of the research questions.
“Prevention is better than cure.” So, does this hold true for research?
Or should we say, “Is a good research really grounded on good research questions?”
Ary, D., Jacobs, L. C., Razavieh, A., & Ary, D. (2010). Introduction to research in education (pp. 49-56). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2000). Research methods in education (pp. 43-50). London: RoutledgeFalmer.