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Identifying a good research question What makes a research question 'good'? Where do you find good research questions?

s? What research question will give you the best chances of getting the most marks, whilst minimizing the cost (effort) and risk of earning the marks? Here are some tips for finding a good research question. 1. Start with a question, which has a '?' at the end Our experience is that many students want to do a project that is: 'something about' You must turn that 'something about' into a question. Posing a direct question will make the process of doing your research much more focused. It will mean that your research consists of trying to answer the question. 2. Identify a question that will keep you interested you for the duration of the project Do not choose a question that bores you when you start, no matter how important it may seem. Your dissertation project is likely to be the longest piece of academic work you will do as a student, and even the most interesting subject risks becoming tedious towards the end. 3. Choose a topic which the professional community is already interested in Although it may be exciting to do some work that addresses a completely new issue, it is too risky. It is possible that nobody, including the examiners, will be interested or see the relevance. Originality is good, but if you are really that genius who can do something completely original, are there enough geniuses around to recognize the quality when they mark your work? 4. Ground your work in one field or discipline For a relatively small research project like a dissertation, it is safer and easier to locate your work within one field or discipline (such as economics or microbiology) rather than undertaking a project which goes across two or more subjects. Grounding the work will help the examiner to understand the theoretical basis of your dissertation, and to mark it accordingly. 5. Beware of grounding your work too strongly in an ideology In the past we saw a Marxist (ideological communism) approach to anything from social sciences and art, to technology and science. More recently we have seen a 'feminist' (seeking to equate or evaluate female views compared with male views) perspective emerge in all fields. The labels of 'Marxist' and 'feminist' do help to locate work accurately as a way of looking at the world, as does 'Christian'. Ideally, an examiner will be prepared to look at your work from within the specified framework, rather than from his or hers. Be aware, however, that when words like 'Marxist' and 'feminist' or 'Christian' are used, not all examiners are open minded and scholarly, even if your approach is legitimate. The issue is intensely political and it may be best to avoid the issue if your goal is to optimizing your marks and minimizing the risk. 6. Find a question that seems feasible within the constraints of available resources Some of these constraints include: time; access to technical equipment; access to an organization and its data and people; and travel expenses. With enough resources most questions could probably be answered, but be realistic: you only have a limited amount of time and budget. Unexpected constraints could still undermine your work, but you should try to spot the obvious ones. 7. Distinguish at this stage between your 'research question' and what it is that you will research What you actually research will probably be a set of questions or hypotheses that relate to your main research question and you may not be able to directly answer the question that you set. For example 'Is football hooliganism inevitable?' may be a valid research question, but you would actually expect to undertake research into a series of issues that would feed into the answer. 8. Do not expect that finding a 'good research question' is quick, easy, or remains fixed throughout your project Our experience is that this is probably the hardest part of the project, and worth spending some time getting right. It may seem frustrating to spend a few weeks on this but only have a couple of lines of work as a result. Nonetheless getting this right makes gives purpose and direction to the rest of the work. You will also find that as your work progresses and your expertise increases you will refine your research question.