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I Have a Question for You!: How to Post a Meaningful Research Question?


By Claudia Caro  and Erika Podest 

Curiosity is a natural characteristic of all people, especially the young. It is the first step for a child to build knowledge, and I am sure we can all remember as children asking what?, why?, where?, and numerous other questions as we tried to learn new things.

Unfortunately, as children grow up, this natural curiosity slowly fades. Why is this? We don’t exactly know, but it might be that as children grow older they think they know all the answers or because most school systems are structured to teach by providing answers rather than formulating questions.

The bottom line is that knowledge without curiosity is not possible and if we want to understand what is happening around us, we need to ask questions. Sometimes the answers to our questions are in books, but other times the answer is not known and that is when the scientific process starts. This is when we discover cause and effect relationships by asking questions, carefully gathering and examining the evidence, and seeing if all the available information can be combined into a logical answer.

All scientific processes start with a question derived from an observation of a natural phenomenon. A question such as "what", "how", "when" and "where" is then posted after observing something interesting in nature. 

 

How is new knowledge produced?

To ensure the creation of new knowledge, science follows the scientific method, which is defined as a group of coherently connected elements that guide us through steps, which lead us to a reflective process. This process breaks with established norms or with reality as we believe we know it and helps discover new things in order to produce new knowledge. 

 

 

First Step: Observe!

Curiosity is enhanced through good observation by allowing us to focus on something with our five senses and identifying what captures our attention about our surroundings. This observational experience should guide us to formulate questions or help explain how we perceive something.

An observation exercise is strengthened through the collection of data. It is important that teachers promote observation activities for their students such as field excursions or relevant reading material or videos. An important part of the activity is to include the student’s input on what they observed or questions they might have.

Here are some recommendations for a field activity:

  • Sense the environment with your five senses
  • Identify what is most interesting to you
  • Formulate questions, as many as you can
  • Take notes or data about the things that captured your attention

 

Discovery Starts with a Question:

The research question is the driver of a research project because the search for an answer guides the discovery of new knowledge. It is therefore important to find a question that has not already been answered, which also implies that a good research question should be worth answering.

 

The following are some characteristics of good research questions, that can be summarized in one name - OSCAR.

 

  • Originality: questions should be creative, not just a copy of other similar ones.
  • Student based: good research questions should start with something interesting for students. 
  • Clarity: a good research question should be clear and simple enough to be understood by different audiences.
  • Answerable: questions should be answered, preferably quantitatively, within a reasonable period of time and within your given budget.
  • Relevancy: questions should be addressed to understand important problems.

 

Some suggestion to post research questions:

  • After an observation experience you can apply a brainstorming exercise and ask students to write all possible questions about something specific: The more questions they have the more opportunities to find the “EUREKA” question. Simple rules for brainstorming are:  All questions are important therefore provide enough time for students to think about all the possibilities.

 

  • You can also create maps to discover student’s interest. You can post general themes and ask students to divide them into small sections, formulating questions about what they would like to know.

 

  • After you have all possible questions written (post-it’s could be interesting) ask students to prioritize the questions in order to identify the best one to start the scientific process. As part of the process it is also important to answer why they think that some questions are not interesting. Very interesting questions

Very interesting questions

Possibly interesting questions

Not interesting questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Search the “very interesting” and “possibly interesting” questions and classify them using the chart below:

 

Very interesting questions

Possibly interesting questions

Answered

1

2

No information about the answer

3

4

  • Ideally you will want to select the questions within box 3. Now you need just one more selection to discover the “EUREKA” question. Using the questions posted in box 3 you will then need to complete the chart below. The last column contains your “EUREKA” question:

 

Too much time is needed to answer it

It is too expensive to answer.

A large area and many people are needed to answer it

Could possibly be answered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What kind of research questions exists?

There are three kinds of research questions:

 

1. Descriptive: These questions are addressed to describe what is going on or what exists

  • Where?
  • How?
  • How frequently?
  • When does?
  • What is?
  • What are the characteristics of?

 

2. Comparative questions

  • Are there differences between….?

 

3. Correlative questions: These questions are designed to observe the relationship between two or more variables. Causal – effect questions could be included here

  • What is the relation between ….?
  • How does this change… when does that change…?

 

Next Step?

Establish a relationship between the research question and the hypothesis to proceed in identifying the variables.

 

Bibliography

 

Grand Canyon University. Writing a Good Research Question. Online. Available in https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/tutorials/question consulted on October, 2017

 

The GLOBE Program.  GLOBE International Virtual Science Symposium Resources - 2018

Online https://www.globe.gov/es/news-events/globe-events/virtual-conferences/2018-international-virtual-science-symposium/resources. Consulted on November, 2017 

Comments
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Excellent Claudia and Erika!! thanks

Posted on 11/16/17 12:10 AM.

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