EER 500 Formulating Research Questions – Bryman

What is it you want to know in your area of interest

  • Question must clearly have a social scientific angle
  • Questions more specific in quantitative research than qualitative
  • Research area – Select aspect of research area – Research questions – Select research questions

Marx’s (1997)  sources of research questions:

  • Intellectual puzzles and contradictions
  • Existing literature (spotting gaps is the chief way of identifying research questions)
  • Replication
  • Structures and functions
  • Opposition
  • A social problem
  • Gaps between official reality and facts at ground level
  • The counter-intuitive
  • Startling empirical examples
  • New methods and theories
  • New social and technical developments and social trends
  • Person experience
  • Sponsors and teachersGuiding principle that questions should relate to each other

Evaluative Criteria

  • Clear, intelligible
  • Connect to theory/research
  • Linked to each other
  • Prospect of making an original contribution
  • Not too broad or narrow
  • Need to be justified
  • Demonstrate link between questions and sources (question connects and is demonstrated)
  • Rationale and justification
  • Usually no more than 3 key research questions

Considerations in writing a research proposal

  • Topic/objectives
  • Importance
  • Question(s)
  • Literature
  • Research method
  • Why this method
  • Resources
  • Timetable
  • Problems
  • Ethical considerations
  • Method of analysis

Preparing, doing and analysing research

  • Pilot study to determine effectiveness of research instruments
  • Accessing and sampling issues
  • Keep records of process
  • Hardware familiarity
  • Begin coding straight up
  • Transcriptions remember, time-consuming
  • Data analysis package familiarity
  • Personal safety


Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods (4th ed.). Oxford, UK: OUP.

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