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Sources And Kinds Of Problems 2

  1. Sources and Types of Research Problems
  2. Sources And Kinds Of Problems
  3. Sources And Kinds Of Problems 2
  4. Theories
  5. Applying theories
  6. Theories 2
  7. How To Distinguish A Good Topic From A Bad One
  8. Feasible methodology


Ways of classifying information

Each time you collect information to answer a research question, you must organize your data in a form that permits a description, analysis, and presentation of the results to your intended audience. This means you must adopt a system for classifying your information. Such systems are often referred to as typologies or taxonomies. Therefore, one way of finding a research problem can be that of substituting a scheme for classifying data that differs from the scheme used in an existing study. In effect, you produce a methodologically innovative thesis or dissertation.

For example, let’s assume that you’ve read a report of people’s attitudes about government controls over individuals’ rights to own guns. The woman who conducted the survey had compiled opinions by means of interviewing respondents over the phone. She then reported her results in terms of (a) males versus females and (b) the strength and direction of each respondent’s attitude in terms of four categories — strongly in favor of controls, somewhat in favor, somewhat opposed, and strongly opposed. However, when you read the study, you were dissatisfied with the interpretation of the results. You believed the work would have been far more valuable if a different system of classifying answers had been used. For instance, perhaps you would like to learn how respondents’ attitudes about gun controls might be related to their (a) age, (b) level of formal educa- tion, (c) family status (married versus single, having children versus being childless), (d) occupation, (e) religious affiliation, and (f) gender. Therefore, in your own study, you plan to conduct a telephone survey in which you gather these six kinds of information about respondents when you ask their opinions of gun controls. Because an interpretation that can be drawn from the results of any research venture is constrained by the classification system used, you will be equipped to draw a more sophisticated, detailed set of conclusions than those drawn by the author of the published study.

Creating or revising theories

As suggested earlier, a theory in its most basic form is (a) a description of components, variables, or factors and (b) a description of how those components interact to (c) produce some outcome. Thus, theories are explanatory in that they propose how and why things happen as they do. In your survey of how other scholars have diagnosed problems in your field of interest, you may be dissatisfied with the explanations they offered, so you try to think of a better way-or at least an alternative way–to account for what occurred. In other words, you create a theory of your own or perhaps a variation of someone else’s model. As a result, your thesis or dissertation takes the form of an explication, and perhaps an application, of your theory. The following two examples illustrate ways to invent a research topic of this sort.

This is the case of a hypothetical doctoral candidate interested in the fate of educational reforms. After reading a host of evaluations of educational reform efforts, large and small, he realizes that educational innovations often become bogged down, with some of them dying completely and others falling well short of the success envisioned by their proponents. Our doctoral student is particularly curious about how analysts account for reform failures. In other words, he’s interested in theories of the success and failure of educational innovations. In his survey of the professional literature, he discovers a variety of factors that ostensibly account for the outcomes of educational change efforts, such factors as (a) available financial resources, (b) ways of presenting reform proposals, (c) the qualities of the people responsible for implementing a reform, (d) how many people will be affected by the innovation, and more. But one factor that he thinks has been overlooked is that of the risk people face when they are expected to participate in an educational change. Therefore, as his dissertation problem, he takes on the challenge of formulating a risk theory to explain, at least partially, why some educational innovations succeed better than others. His risk theory is founded on the following proposition:


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