The goal of this assignment is to set you up for success in designing research inquiries moving forward. Part of a solid research idea and proposal is having a workable research question that is narrow enough that it can be addressed in the space provided (for example a 15-20 page research paper versus a 50-page thesis), and written in a way that is open-ended and free from bias.
1. Start your assignment with an introductory paragraph about your research topic and why it is of interest and a research “puzzle.” You want to guide your reader from your research area to your research topic, then on to your general research question, and specific research question.
While there are many ways to frame a research question, at the graduate level, your research questions should be 1) open-ended and start with “How,” “Why,” “What,” or “To what extent;” 2) should incorporate the variables you seek to assess and their relationship; and 3) should indicate how you intend to test the nature of that relationship. You want to make sure that your question has an appropriate amount of complexity so that it requires a significant amount of research and analysis. A simple Google search should not be able to answer your research question.
Too broad: How can personal ambition in politics be harmful?
Too narrow: What is Vladimir Putin’s position on ballistic missile defense?
Too vague: What is Vladimir Putin’s “operational code?”
Appropriately Complex and Focused: To what extent has Vladimir Putin been motivated by a drive for power compared to his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, and how has Putin’s personal ambitions shaped Russia’s relations with the United States?
2. Next, provide a purpose statement that conveys your intentions about what you hope to produce. See the references in your Lessons for additional insight. Often within the literature, this discussion is usually called out by a phrase like the following: “This paper examines . . .,” “The aim of this paper is to . . .,” or “The purpose of this essay is to . . .”. Remember that a purpose statement makes a promise to the reader about the development of the argument but does not preview the particular conclusions that the writer has drawn. Your purpose statement should demonstrate what you are hoping to find out, and also explain what you want your readers to understand (motivation or argument of the research). Later on, when you go to write a paper, a trick to help keep your paper focused around your purpose or argument is to paste it into the header or footer while you write.
This formula and example set from the Baruch College Writing Center may be helpful:
I am studying…
…because I want to find out…
….so that readers understand…
(Motivation or Argument)
Differences in Boston-based and Philadelphia-based abolitionist rhetoric… …why Boston-based abolitionists emphasized broad themes of social justice… …how previous scholars may have overlooked the role of free black Bostonians in shaping anti-slavery ideals.
The origins of the Glass-Steagall Act …why lawmakers supported its passage… …that their motives resulted not from careful economic analysis but rather from ideological preconceptions about the role of commercial banks in society.
(From Baruch College Writing Center “Focusing Research Topics Workshop” www.writingcenter.baruch.cuny.edu)
3. Pull out the dependent (DV) and independent variable(s) (IV) that you are interesting it looking at. This needs to be specific and you need to discuss ideas for how you might go about measuring the impact that the IV as on the DV. You need to focus on one or two specific variables (and discuss how they are defined), otherwise, your research will quickly spin out of control as you will not have the capacity to effectively address the relationship between all the variables. The PRS Group offers a good list of variables they use in their research. This list is just an example of variables to show you what a variable might look like and how it might be defined.
Hypothesis: A statement for how a change or condition in one or more independent variables cause(s) a change or condition in a dependent variable.
Not all studies or research papers require the use of a hypothesis. In most cases, hypotheses are used when a study is conducting an experiment or when a study is quantitative in nature. However, this is an important skill to develop in case you do go on to complete quantitative research or conduct a formal experiment.
In this next step, you will develop a hypothesis that reflects your educated guess as to the relationship between your selected variables. You may use an “if” “then” statement or you may formulate it as a narrative statement. Finally, explain why these are the important variables to look at within this research project. Why focus on these variables and not other variables?
By the time you are done, you should have at least 3-4 pages of content (double spaced in times-new roman font 12), not including the title page, and a “references list or bibliography” page. Your writing should be consistent with the professional/academic writing style. For a refresher on the conventions of academic writing please refer to the latest Turabian writing guide or APA writing manual. Since multiple writing styles are in use within this course, on your title page, please note which style you are using within your assignment. This will help me cater my comments to the style you are using. The style you use needs to be the one that is used within your program of study.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
You can also consult: Turabian (2013) Chapter 2 and Hypothesis Writing
Use the filename (no spaces) yourlastnameWeek3.doc for uploading this file to the Assignment.
As you proofread your assignment I encourage you to work with Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2009. “Editing Your Sentences” In Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Sage. This resource has a nice step by step process for enhancing your writing and you can find it in the course content section.
Note: This assignment will be something that you draw upon to help you complete your final assignment, which is a research proposal. For that assignment you may use the same research question you developed here or create another one.
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