Selection and Formulation of Research Problem One of the most difficult phases of a research project is the choice of a suitable problem (true/false) A researcher can be compared to an ant, which brings its single grain of sand to the anthill (true/false) Great discoveries usually happen by accident or sheer luck (true/false) Researchers (true/false) are specialists rather than generalists Rifle vs. Shotgun Analogy Behavioral Researchers… Analyze limited aspects of broad problems Q: Why can’t we afford to do more than this? Learn more and more about less and less until we know everything about nothing? Question What are some of the obstacles which may discourage a person from undertaking research? Why choosing a topic is a real challenge? Beginners possess real problem awareness Where do you see problems that can ignite your mind to think about research? Classroom School Community Own teaching experiences Classroom lectures Class discussions Seminars/workshops/paper presentations Internet Out-of-class exchanges of ideas with fellow students and professors Reading assignments Textbooks Special assignments Research reports Term papers Consultation with… Course instructor Advisor Major Professor Faculty member Number ONE Requirement… You need to have an inquisitive and imaginative mind You need a Questioning attitude Wonder why? Answer the following preliminary questions… Is the problem/topic significant enough? Is it feasible (practical/possible for me to do it)? Is it free of unknown hazards/dangers? Is it clear (unambiguous)? Actively involve yourself (and other experts) in NARROWING & REFINEMENT of the problem Narrowing the focus Population Situation (time, condition, subject availability, researcher’s readiness, resources available, etc.) Measurements Issue(s) dealt with? Setting the scope of the problem (“this is my line…I won’t go beyond it…”) Note: There are times when it is appropriate to replicate (repeat) a study to verify its conclusions or to extend the validity of its findings to a different situation or population Characteristics of good topics? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Interesting – keeps the researcher interested in it throughout the research process Researchable – can be investigated through the collection and analysis of data Significant – contributes to the improvement and understanding of educational theory and practice Manageable – fits the level of researcher’s level of research skills, needed resources, and time restrictions Ethical – does not embarrass or harm participants The following research topics are either faulty, too broad, or completely inappropriate. Revise each so that it reflects the characteristics of a good research topic 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Causes of aggression and violence Remembering and forgetting Improving Memory The effects of stressful environments on health and social interaction The effect of early childhood experiences on later development Best ways to treat depression Reducing prejudice and inter-group conflict Examples of good research problems (in the form of questions) Does client-centered therapy produce more satisfaction in clients than traditional therapy? (experimental design) Does behavior modification reduce aggression in autistic children? (singlesubject experimental design) Are the descriptions of people in social studies discussions biased? (grounded theory design) What goes on in an elementary school classroom during an average week? (ethnographic design) Do teachers behave differently toward students of different genders? (causal-comparative design) How do parents feel about the school counseling program? (survey design) How can a principal improve faculty morale? (interview design) Any problem with these research problems? Is God good? What is the best way to teach grammar? What would life be like today if World War II had not occurred? Defining Terms (e.g. : ‘humanistic classroom’) Constitutive definition = dictionary approach Clarify by example = using a model (replica/type) and describe the characteristics of the model Operational definition = researcher specifies the exact nature of meaning for using a particular term(s) “motivated to learn math” (which ones are operational?) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. As shown by enthusiasm in the class As judged by the student’s math teacher using a rating scale she developed As measured by the ‘math interest’ questionnaire As shown by attention to math tasks in class As reflected by achievement in mathematics As indicated by records showing enrollment in mathematics electives As shown by effort expended in class As demonstrated by number of optional assignments completed As demonstrated by reading math books outside class As observed by teacher aides using the ‘mathematics interest’ observation record 1,4,5,7, and 9 Did not specify the activities or operations necessary for identifying the behavior (motivation to learn mathematics) Operationalize the following: Attitude toward self (self-concept) Creativity Ability to think critically Disruptive behavior Work-related stress Your research problem What is your area of interest? Where could you look for help in deciding upon a specific research problem? What criteria will you apply when deciding upon a specific research problem? How could you narrow down your research problem? How might your value-judgments (preconceived ideas) affect your research endeavors?