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Research questions

As discussed in a previous section, the initial literature review provides the basis for the research questions (and research methods). The literature you select, and the way that you agree or disagree with it, provides a way of surfacing your beliefs, theories and values. It therefore provides a guide to the kind of questions and data you feel are important and makes this explicit.

Core reading provided in the module pack

Selected pages from Robson (2002: 54-63)
Colin Robson discusses the process of deciding on research questions and the features of successful and unsuccessful research. It is claimed that successful research involves a range of features including: contacts (good and frequent contacts in the field and with colleagues); convergence (the coming together of an idea and a method, or the shared interest of a colleague in a problem); and intuition (the feeling or hunch that the work is important, timely and right).

Unsuccessul research, according to Robson, is expedient, method or technique-driven, motivated by funding and lacking in a theoretical basis. He suggests widening one's experience by reading literature from other disciplines or speaking with others. He suggests considering whether the proposed research questions are exploratory, descriptive, explanatory or emancipatory. The extract concludes with a brief discussion about theory.

Next steps
Following Robson, consider resisting the urge to let technique or data collection methods dominate by retracing steps to the literature review and the topics or questions you consider important. Think about how your research questions can be firmly grounded in your literature review. Consider whether your question(s) can be described as exploratory, descriptive, explanatory or emancipatory, and how these can be justified.

Optional extension activities
Biggam (2008: 39-44) for an alternative approach linking research aim, objectives and questions.