Generating research questions

Developing valid research questions is hard work! I think this is one of the most demanding parts of any research project, and it often takes me weeks, if not months pulling together my ideas into a workable research question.

Here are some videos that discuss ‘research questions’ you might find interesting, if you’re thinking about doing a PhD or helping undergraduate students with their dissertation.

So, what do you want to find out? What are you curious about? Are you motivated to do it? Is it really interesting? Is the research going to be answerable? What literature exists? Why are you doing it? Who will be interested in what you find out? Can you narrow it?

Books worth reading:


Doing Research, Pocket Study Skills by Gary Thomas

I’ve always liked the Study Skills series by Palgrave Macmillan –  I’ve recommended a number of their titles to students and I’ve had the library stock a number of these prior to the start of the academic year.

‘Doing Research’ by Gary Thomas is a great example of a study skills book that gets straight to the point.

Doing Research Book

The book is quite small, with just under 100 pages, split into six parts. The book will give you just enough information about the building blocks of research, the bread and butter components to get you up and running.

Part one discusses the planning of your research, what is research, where to start and the process of setting timescales for your project. Part one also discusses some of the challenges of refining your research question, and some great tips on how you can take a broad idea to a more precise question.

Part two discusses the literature review, with some practical advise on how to approach it, key resources and what the literature review is really about. I recommend looking at ‘Getting Critical’ in the same series, by Kate Williams alongside this section.

Part three discusses scaffolding of your research, including Action research, case studies, ethnography, experiments and surveys.

Part four discusses ‘fieldwork’ and how you ‘find the data’. In this section there is information on interviews, diaries, questionnaires, observation and statistics.

Part five discusses how the researcher could analyse the data, exploring quantitive and qualitative methods, aka numbers and words.

The final section discusses approaches to writing up your research and explores the choice of a title, writing your abstract, general writing and presentations.

So there you have it, a little book about ‘doing research’. Its a great starting point and you can get through it quite quickly, so its perfect for a short commute or just to have on your desk, to remind your self why you’re doing it.

See more reviews and view inside this book on Amazon