Devising Research Questions
What is it that researchers do? They ask and answer questions. The first step toward answering a question is devising an appropriate test (the method). The second part is making the results of the test known – this is the task of the research report and poster presentation. But before you can design a test or write a paper, you have to have something you wish research -- you need to devise a research question.
Types of Questions
(from Trochim, Research Methods Knowledge Base, Type of Questions)
There are three basic types of questions that research projects can address:
1. Descriptive.When a study is designed primarily to describe what is going on or what exists. Public opinion polls that seek only to describe the proportion of people who hold various opinions are primarily descriptive in nature. For instance, if we want to know what percent of the population would vote for a Democratic or a Republican in the next presidential election, we are simply interested in describing something.
2. Relational.When a study is designed to look at the relationships between two or more variables. A public opinion poll that compares what proportion of males and females say they would vote for a Democratic or a Republican candidate in the next presidential election is essentially studying the relationship between gender and voting preference.
3. Causal.When a study is designed to determine whether one or more variables (e.g., a program or treatment variable) causes or affects one or more outcome variables. If we did a public opinion poll to try to determine whether a recent political advertising campaign changed voter preferences, we would essentially be studying whether the campaign (cause) changed the proportion of voters who would vote Democratic or Republican (effect).
The three question types can be viewed as cumulative. That is, a relational study assumes that you can first describe (by measuring or observing) each of the variables you are trying to relate. And, a causal study assumes that you can describe both the cause and effect variables and that you can show that they are related to each other. Causal studies are probably the most demanding of the three.
A Process for Formulating Questions
A good Research Question (RQ) is specific enough to be answered, broad enough to be discussed, and significant enough to be of interest to the field. This is not as difficult to create as it sounds! Below are some tips to help you formulate a RQ that is both personally meaningful and researchable.
A successful RQ has two main parts, a topic and something asked about that topic. The topic comes from your interests as a researcher/thinker (with consideration eventually given to the current interests of your field). The "what about the topic" also comes from your interests but is formulated using the "wh-question words": who, what, why, when, where, how, how much/often/many. Often, those two steps don’t result in a good RQ—remember, that a successful RQ is one that is answerable and researchable. So, after determining the topic and some idea of "what about" the topic, do the following: define the nouns and verbs that the reader can’t be assumed to know and operationalize the adjectives, adverbs, qualities, or relationships ("qualities" are pieces of language that describe something). Operationalizing a term means to define it so that it can be measured; this often means matching behaviors to ideas/concepts. Now, after this, you should be able to put together a Research Question that is both interesting and researchable. You may still need to narrow it down, but you’ve got a solid place to begin.
Topic: eating disorders
What about the topic: What causes eating disorders?
* Define-- eating disorders (anorexia nervosa/anorexia bulimia, DSM classification)
* Operationalize— causes...(can I say "causes"? Is it a cause-and-effect relationship? Maybe "influences" is better)
Research Question: What factors influence eating disorders?
Can RQ be narrowed? (pretty broad topic, maybe narrow to a specific point such as the beginning of an eating disorder or treatment?)
Revised Research Question: What factors influence the beginning or development of eating disorders?
Experimenting with the wh-questions:
- Why do eating disorders occur?
- How many kinds of eating disorders are there?
- Who gets eating disorders?
- Where do eating orders occur most often (geographical distribution/epidemiological study)?
- What treatments are available for eating disorders?
- When do eating disorder start?
Note: "Binary" questions -- those beginning with "do" -- are not often good research questions because they only require a "yes/no" answer: "Do men get eating disorders?". Once you've answered that question -- which is "yes" and you'll discover that within 3 minutes of beginning a literature search -- what are you going to do? You may have such a question in your head because you don't know the answer, but once the basic question is answered, you'll need to form more questions, ex: "How are eating disorders different for men?". True existence questions only work for a topic that has truly never been researched before or when the existence of a thing is predicted but not proven (for example, the Higgs-Bosun particle in physics).
What about the topic:
Can Research Question be narrowed:
Revised Research Question:
Experiment with wh-questions:
Psychological Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa
- Length: 668 words (1.9 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
An estimated 5 million Americans suffer from eating disorders and most are teenage girls and young women. Among the three types of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa is the most common type. It is a disorder in which the person has a distorted body image and an intense fear of being fat. Binging, or eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, and then purging, or vomiting to empty the stomach of food, are all actions commonly found in anorexics. An anorexic is extremely afraid of becoming fat and might believe she/he is fat even when he/she is very thin.
While there is no single known cause of anorexia, several things may contribute to the development of the disorder. For example, social influences, genetic and biological factors, psychological issues, and family environments all contribute to the development of Anorexia.
Social influences are a big contribution to anorexia. The American society places high value on thinness among women. Thinness is frequently mistaken or identified as beauty. As a result, young girls often think that they must be slender to be attractive. Kids are deluged with images of fat free bodies in the pages of heath, fashion, and teen magazines. Such media that feature photographs of thin super models and actresses are under attack for encouraging young women to starve themselves.
One factor possibly leading to anorexia nervosa is the way a person looks at the world, or the psychological factors. An anorexic might have a fear of growing up, a drive to be perfect, or family problems. Some psychological characteristics are low self-esteem, poor body image, need for control, and the need to feel special or unique.
Additional contributions to anorexia are family environments. Some families of people with the disorder are more likely to be overprotective, rigid, and suffocating in their closeness. Also parents who place too much value on appearance, diet themselves, and criticize their children’s bodies are more likely to have a child with anorexia.
Other contributions to anorexia nervosa are genetic, biological factors, stressful events, and life transitions. It occurs 8 times more in people who have relatives with the disorder. Women whose mothers or sisters have had the disorder are more likely to develop the condition than those who do not. Life transitions can trigger anorexia nervosa to someone who is already vulnerable. Things like starting a new school or job or being teased to traumatic events like rape can lead to the onset of anorexia.
How to Cite this Page
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Psychological Disorders Anorexia Nervosa Psychological Factors Young Girls Young Women Teenage Girls Anorexic
Symptoms of anorexia vary widely and each child may experience signs differently. An anorexic might develop rituals around eating, such as excessive chewing, eating food in certain order, or counting bites. She/he might also follow an excessive, rigid exercise program and have the desperate need to burn off calories after eating. Some other common symptoms are bizarre eating behaviors, extremely low body weight, the denial of feeling hunger, excessive physical activity, and refuses to maintain normal body weight. Anorexics often have dry skin, dehydration, lethargy, and yellowing of skin, which were a result of starvation and malnutrition.
Treatment for anorexia is difficult because people with anorexia believe that there is nothing wrong with them. It is also difficult because there’s specific treatment for each patient depending on age, extent of symptoms, and tolerance for specific medications, procedures and therapies. Some kinds of treatment are hospitalization, psychotherapy, and medications. Hospitalization is for patients with severe cases of anorexia. A patient with a severe case of anorexia would weigh 40 percent or more below normal, a severely disturbed metabolism, signs of mental disorders, and severe binging, purging, and depression. Psychotherapy is mainly for patients who are struggling with other issues. Unlike other disorders there are not specific medications that are used to treat anorexia nervosa, but an anorexic might be prescribed medications for other medical treatments like antidepressants, tranquilizers, and estrogen. The number of eating disorders is increasing everyday. Most people don’t think of anorexia as a dangerous disorder, but as we learned from this video, it is.