Defining the Research Problem
What makes a good research topic?
Interest / Focus / Available Knowledge / Data Availability / Career Goals
With the perfect timing for where my major project is standing now researching and coming up with ideas, this first chapter starts with the beginnings of a research topic for a project.
Firstly, the obvious one has to be that the subject has to be of real interest for me and something that I can carry on for months with ongoing enthusiasm. In the second place, the definition of a set of research questions and objectives that should be addressed as the main focus of the project working as guidelines. Those should support the idea to create depth and substance to the project, therefore to avoid falling into losing the track of what is important.
Additionally, the previous aspects should be considered along with the existing knowledge on the chosen topic that will be available to support and give insights around it. Links to the relevant theory are important to support and give context to a project. Then, the access to data on the topic should be considered also addressing the time given for the project, as well as financial resources needed.
To conclude, the doors the project can open career wise should be considered. The research can be directed to aim at potential employers directly to should expertise in relevant areas.
Generating and refining research Ideas
“There is a simple method we can all apply to help us to increase our chances of having great ideas: by using connections”
We can never expect what we’re going to come up with this techiniques but it’s definetly a good way to start thinking about a project idea.
Brainstorming / Movement ladder / Random word / Mind maps / Ideas association
Turning Ideas into research projects
How to redirect ideas into “research framework”?
There are 4 types of learning objectives and for our projects we should focuss on the one that is more sutible in your case.
Substantive / Processual skills and concepts / Methodological skills and processes / Selfknowledge
Starting with the Substantive, ” the learning has a substance as opposed to you merely learning about a process”. The inquiry starts with a desire to know more about a specific defined idea, therefore the process will entail research around concepts directly related to the idea. An example of this: ” I wish to learn more about motivation amongst designers within the car industry”.
Processual skills and concepts is relates with “problems and solutions — implementing techniques, concepts and models.” The starting point would be questioning an existing problem and reflecting on it, in a way that it may lead to conclusions or even parallel circumstances where the problem can be related. As an example statement: I wish to learn more about how to apply strategic design auditing in an organization”.
The third one, Methodological skills and processes, deals with “the way knowledge is generated from data”. In other words, is an analyse of how to use research, data and other methodologies to produce a certain outcome around an idea. “I wish to gain a critical understanding of how to research the perception of design, developing debates on how to collect data, and in particular gaining an understanding of subjectively meaningful emotions using focus groups”.
Finally, Self-knowledge represents the type of thinking that starts by analysing our own perspective on an idea. As a statement, we could have: “I wish to confront the are of project management, which is difficult for me, to inform myself how I might develop my personal organization skills.”
You may also want to think forward to your future career and to think about what will make you marketable. In addition, reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, on what is achievable for you and what resources you can easily draw on. When you have clarified these issues, you can move on to consider your research question.
Research Question → “around which you wish to have a conversation, build an argument and essentially answer. (…) the central point around which all your decisions and all your dialogue will revolve.
Tasks to find the RQ envolve finding the main topic, the “nature”, the issues to explore and conections between topics of the project.
There are three main ones presented in this section of the book: Epistemology, Ontology and Axiology.
The first one being related with the “study of knowledge within a field of study”, and brings up questions related with ” What must be added to true beliefs to convert them into knoledge?”
Ontology is concerned arround the “nature of reallity” and it has two main aspects: objectivism and subjectivism. Then, finally, Axiology is related with the role your “own values play in the research process are important if you wish your research to be credible”.
“How much you know about the theory that relates to your project at the beginning influences whether your research should use the deductive or inductive approach or even a combination of both. In the first one, what happens is that you start by making a proposition by analysing the existant theory around a subject and only after the design research takes place. In this case, the research needs to be independent of what is being observed. On the other hand, inductive research is the one where you start by “understanding the nature of the problem” and only after making sense of that data by analysis and further research. ” The strength of an inductive approach lies in understanding the context within which the research takes place and not focus on a cause-and-effect relationship. Not having a rigid methodology permits an alternative explanation of what is going on.
“Once you have chosen the focus of the area that you want to investigate and have determined the learning objective of your project, you will then need to identify the vehicle througth which your research will take place”
Funnelling down to a project
Investigate hypothesis testing – Starts from an hypotesis or proposition about an idea and then progressing into testing with primary and secondary data.
Applied Context – when the proposition is based in a real case shaped by a “client”, putting theory in practice.
Action Learning – “using or developing exixting theory to carry out investigations in order to enrich your understanding of a practical work environment.
Investigate Theory building – Interviewing, observing, or interacting with participants in a real situation and then draw conclusions about it.
This post is part of my MA major project bibliography.