L3: Big Idea 1-Question & Explore-Developing and Revising Research Questions
Must choose a topic you love. If you don’t love it, you won’t want to work on it for a year. So, what are you passionate about or interested in? “I just love Disney. I want my topic of research to be about Disney”
What about Disney do you love? Princesses, Theme Parks, Merchandising? “OOOH—Disney Theme Parks. I just love the theme parks”.
What about the theme parks? The food, rides, cosplayers, long lines, costs? Which theme park? There are so many. “Oh the one in Orlando. I’ve been there 100 times. I love that place”.
That place is huge. What about it? What do you want to know more about? What will others want to know that is valuable? Is there a problem that needs to be solved with Disney World Orlando? “The castle….I love the Disney World Castle”. -What about it? The architecture, the number of people who visit, the effects of Florida humidity on the erosion of the limestone used in the bricks?
“I want to learn more about the actual design of the rooms in the castle”. Which rooms? All the rooms? What about the design? The color palette used, the adherence to historical criteria, the ???? Again, what would people want to know that isn’t already published? Is there a problem with these rooms?
“I kind of have a thing for fireplaces. I know there’s one in the castle in the Cinderella Suite. I always wondered why they would have a fireplace in a castle in Florida. But I am sure I have a better question to ask than that. But hey, I could be the world’s foremost expert on that fireplace in that room in that castle in that Magic Kingdom”. Hmm. Why would anyone want to know everything about one fireplace in a resort castle? What information about that fireplace isn’t already published? What new information could you discover through research and to whom would that information be would be valuable?
“Well, should I zoom out and inquire about all the fireplaces in all the Disney castles of all the Disney parks?” -Again, what isn’t already known and already published and would anybody care about this new information? “Well what if I wanted to study the effects of efficiency of heating and cooling systems in Disney Resort castles and how it effects the costs of staying at those resorts”. Oh, a correlational study…are you prepared to ‘do the math’ that comes with a correlation study? What if there is already a published study on the heating and cooling systems at Disney?
“I guess I will have to do some digging/searching to find that out”. What if there isn’t a study already published? Do you think the data or information you need is easily obtained? What if there isn’t very much searchable information about that castle fireplace or all the Disney fireplaces? “Gee, I don’t know if I have the time OR the money to personally go to all the resort castles and gather the data myself. I wouldn’t even know who to talk to” ----so now what?
Lesson 3: Focus Use the criteria you listed for developing effective research questions from your Thinking Ahead homework assignment to generate responses to the following questions: • What are the steps to take to transform a topic of inquiry or a problem into a well-defined research question capable of yielding a long- term investigation? • What are the critical elements of an effective research question, and how do you know if those elements are present?
Teacher-Student Dialogue • What guiding questions did the teacher ask to get the student to adhere to the criteria for effective research questions? • What criteria were difficult for the student to adhere to?
“Research” versus “research” You must be careful when crafting your research question. Your research question must be aligned with the purpose of Capital “R” Research or your work will not demonstrate achievement within the AP Research course. To clarify: Little “r” research is basically just searching for literature to develop an argument or stance around an issue or to report on what is known about a problem or question. • Questions that look more like debates about controversial issues are little “r” research questions and must be avoided. • Questions that can be answered by looking up scholarly works that have already been published are little “r” research questions and must be avoided.
“Research” versus “research” Capital “R” Research is where a student has a well-articulated research method to generate evidence to support a new understanding or new piece of knowledge, which, if someone else “repeated” it, that person could come up with the same understanding and validate the new piece of knowledge. • Questions that are narrow, focused, and unanswerable by the literature in the field are Capital “R” Research questions and are required for this course.
Problem Statements Can Lead to Effective Research Questions Statement template: Lead to focus of topic, give reasons to the significance of the study, suggest variables that might be involved, and suggest a way to understand the problem better—elements that can lead to an effective research question. • There is a problem in or with ________________. • Despite _____________(something that should be happening), _________________ is occurring (provide supporting evidence after this statement). • This problem has negatively impacted_______ (victims of problem) because __________. • A possible cause of this problem is _____________. Perhaps a study which investigates _______ by a __________ (method) could remedy this situation.
Effective Research Question Criteria Emerge from Problem Statement Elements • Focused Topic: A clear element of the problem or topic of inquiry (cyberbullying, male body image, recurring themes of flowers) • Context: population, place, time, genre (middle school males, Emily Dickinson poetry from 1850-1865) • Variables/components: components of focused topic to be identified, counted, measured, etc. (punitive measures taken, text used to describe women as flowers, time spent playing video games) • Purpose: to explore, explain, or create
For Example… • Broad issue of online role playing games potentially affecting male body image. • Use the template to distill down what you want to study about this problem in a focused way.
Problem Statements Can Lead to Effective Research Questions • There is a problem in or with the effects of online role playing games on high school aged male body images • Despite appropriatephysical and health education at the high school level, 14-18 year old males are developing unhealthy body images and engaging in unhealthy efforts to achieve such images(see Made-up-name, 2015). • This problem has negatively impacted 14-18 year old males who engage in online role playing games because such games portray the male image in only one way (the high achieving, muscle-building athlete). • A possible cause of this problem is our lack of understanding of how 14-18 year old males (who regularly play role playing games) internalize the male image presented to them in such games. Perhaps a study which investigates the high school-aged male perceptions and attitudes of the male image presented to them by role playing games by a qualitative method using interviews could remedy this situation.
Problem Statement Format for History • There is a problem in or with understanding the end of “empires” • Despite the belief that political empires ceased to exist at the end of the Cold War (something that is general accepted in current scholarship) post-Cold War military interventions (something that refutes accepted thinking) suggest that empires did not end after the Cold War but were transformed as part of a new international system. • This problem has negatively affected our ability to understand globalization because standard definitions of empires are not useful in the study of contemporary history. • A possible cause of the problem is the meaning of “empire” in modern politics. Perhaps a study which investigates how politicians use the term “empire” to achieve political objectives through historical case study researchcould remedy this problem.
Problem Statement Format for the Humanities • There is a problem in or with determining the root cause of the Salem Witch Trials in the late 17th century. • Despite the pervading theory that mass hysteria came out of an overzealous religious faith fueled by superstition and belief in a spiritual realm inhabited by demons and angels (a commonly accepted explanation), the notion that rye mold containing hallucinogenic chemicals might have invoked strange behavior or psychological distress has been offered as an explanation. • This problem has negatively impacted the cultural view of women in colonial America (something influenced by the theory) because they have been labeled as weak, more susceptible to influence, and possessing of a nature that is inherently evil in literature and art. • A possible cause of this problem is that medical and psychological knowledge was rudimentary at the time, and the majority of members of the medical community were male. Perhaps a study which investigates the symptoms of known accepted and known medical and psychological conditions during the same time period by descriptive, historical research (method) could remedy this problem.
Transforming Topics/Problems into Research Questions What does it take to transform a topic of inquiry or a problem into a well-defined research question capable of yielding a long-term investigation? • Let’s transform the bullying study excerpt into a problem statement and then try to transform the problem statement into a research question
Helping Students Find Problem Statement Examples • Look at the cyberbullying research article excerpt. • Can you find the problem statement format embedded within? • Can you see where the author is leading up to a research question and method to collect data to answer the question?
Cyberbullying Problem Statement • There is a problem in or with middle school education. • Despite efforts to educate middle schoolers on appropriate, safe, and effective uses of technology for learning, cyberbullying is occurring which affects about ten million middle school students each year (Beane, 2008). • This problem has negatively impacted 28% of middle school students because many schools decline to discipline off campus behavior. • A possible cause of this problem is how to effectively address the ill effects of cyberbullying are complex or unknown. Perhaps a study which investigates the ill effects of cyberbullying and how they were addressed by a mixed method, case study could remedy this situation.
Cyberbullying Problem Statement • Now let’s try and transform this problem statement into a research question…how do we do that? • Note: It is important to point out here that just by reading a problem statement-you should be able to infer what the research question should be and the associated (aligned) research method would be. A problem statement is NOT a requirement of the paper or course BUT is an EFFECTIVE tool or strategy that in MOST cases works to help students form a focused research question and associated method.
From Problem Statement to Research Question • What are the Ill-effects of Cyberbullying and Associated Punitive Measures Implemented by Four Middle Schools in District XYZ: A Case Study • Focus-Cyberbullying • Context-4 middle schools in District XYZ • Variables-Ill-effects of cyberbullying and punitive measures • Purpose-explore
Writing an Effective Research Question is Paramount If the question fails, the study fails; and ultimately, the paper fails.
Wandering through the Inquiry Journey: Common Student Missteps • Identifying a BROAD research question or problem at the beginning of their academic paper and then changing the nature of their problem halfway through the paper. • Identifying a BROAD research question/problem and then FINALLY focusing the research question during the method component of their academic paper. • Titling their academic paper with a catchy title which confuses the reader when they are trying to figure out how their research question/problem ties to the title.
Effective research questions have the following components: variables, focused topic, purpose, context Focused
Start with a focused topic then zero-in on the purpose: to explore, explain, or create. If you want to explore, what phenomenon, incident, or variables about that topic do you want to explore and is the exploration valuable, feasible? If you want to explain, what do you want to explain? The relationship between two variables, the strength of the relationship between two variables, the existence of a variable (this is usually an exploration). If you want to create, what do you want to create with? Do you know enough about this thing or things to manipulate and design with it? Next decide on specific variables to explore, explain, or use to create something. If you are explaining, these variables must be written/described in a way that they are measurable. Finally decide the time, location, and population that to which these variables and this context applies.
feasible valuable proper focus Context Variables Purpose
Let’s Practice • We will evaluate a research question according to the six criteria for writing effective research questions. • We will attempt to revise the question and then evaluate it again.
feasible feasible valuable Context focused focused Variables Purpose First Attempt: What is the impact of bottled water on the environment? Second Attempt: What is the local environmental impact of the PET recycling habits of XYZ high school students?
Revising Research Questions • Your table group will be assigned 1 or 2 from your worksheet to identify the strength of the question using the criteria discussed for effective research questions. • Revise the question if necessary. • Provide rationale for why your revisions make the question more effective than the original version. Be prepared to report your revised question and rationale to the entire class.
Key feasible valuable Context focused Variables Purpose First Attempt: What are the causes of cyberbullying by middle schoolers from 2010-2015? Second Attempt: What were the ill-effects of cyberbullying and the punitive measures taken to address cyberbullying at XYZ Middle School from 2010-2015?
Key feasible valuable Context focused Variables Purpose To what extent is embedding journalists an ethical and effective way of reporting truth in wartime? fought by American soldiers? To what extent do embedded American journalists affect accuracy of reporting truth of casualties and successes in 21st century wars fought by American soldiers?
Reflection-Include your response in your Trello. • Looking back at the research question you developed for homework, would you revise it? If so, how? • What purpose (if any) does a problem statement serve in the AP Research course?