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    vicky007's Avatar
    vicky007 Posts: 1, Reputation: 1
    New Member

    Jan 27, 2005, 08:33 AM
    How to ask a research question?
    My question is very simple but the answer to it is not. I am doing a Ph.D. in Management but I do not know what question(s) my thesis is going to address. What is the best way to identify questions in research? What are the steps involved and what do I have to do. I really expect some hand-holding here. Thanks a lot.


    reinsuranc's Avatar
    reinsuranc Posts: 92, Reputation: 6
    Junior Member

    Mar 2, 2005, 01:04 PM
    How about looking at prior theses at your university or another university for some ideas?
    Emdash's Avatar
    Emdash Posts: 2, Reputation: 1
    New Member

    Mar 26, 2005, 09:03 PM
    I like Reinsuranc's idea as a starting point, and I've got a couple of suggestions that you might like to follow up. I'm writing from Australia so I've probably got a bit of a bias towards Australian sources, but a great online source for examples of theses is the Australian Digital Theses Program. The majority of Australia's universities are contributing theses to the project, and most make them freely available to download. You might also like to try ProQuest's Digital Dissertations. The university you're studying at will need to be a subscriber to access the preview pages they provide, but the service is widely subscribed to, so you're likely to be in luck. Hopefully between your own university library's collection and the stuff available through ProQuest and the ADT you'll get a clear sense of how these students formulated their own research questions. Building on that, you might like to have a look at a couple of books about the PhD research process. John Finn's Getting a PhD: an action plan to help manage your research, your supervisor and your project (New York: Routledge, 2005) and Suzan Burton & Peter Steane's (eds.) Surviving your Thesis (London: Routledge, 2004) look pretty good, and there are bound to be tokens of wisdom dotted throughout your own library's collection. Try a subject keyword search for "dissertations" for a start.

    After you've read the books and had a look at the theses (good and bad), have a crack at developing some research questions around the things you're specifically interested in. Think about what drew you to the topic you've decided on, and what motivates you to take on this task. What is it do you want to know? Just start jotting anything down that springs to mind and then organise them into themes. Where you see topics overlapping try and build a question that covers that area more concisely. Then when you have a reasonable list (maybe four or five clear questions) ask yourself what gaps might answers to these questions fill in your subject area, and start thinking about justifying these questions as topics. These few questions could potentially be used to develop your thesis structure. But to be honest, there's no substitute for a good supervisor in these situations. So, armed with those questions you could confidently front up to your supervisor and ask if these questions constitute a valid area of research. They should know the area well enough to provide redirection if and when you need it.

    When it comes down to it, while your thesis doesn't have to change the world (please remember that at least), it does have to have something interesting to say (it can be something new to say about something old), and if these questions don't particularly interest you, you may well struggle to finish. So think about what questions might motivate you. If they keep you interested for long enough to finish, then I'm sure they'll be valid research questions. Good luck with your studies, and if in doubt, buy your supervisor a strong drink and ask for a little guidance.

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