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  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

The word risk means the likelihood that undesirable consequences will result from an action. The term educational risk estimate refers to people's expectation that they will suffer some sort of loss if they accept a role in an educational development project. Positive potential is the opposite of risk. Positive potential refers to the likelihood that people will experience personally desirable con- sequences from their participation in an educational reform. The amount of effort they will exert, either to support or to defeat an innovation, is determined by the relationship between the amount of risk and amount of positive potential they expect. Thus, a person's effort can be computed by the formula E=p-r. In other words, positive potential minus risk equals the effort an individual will expend.

Now, the student's task in developing his dissertation consists of (a) proposing variables or conditions that influence people's perception of risks and of positive potentials, (b) defending those variables with logical analysis and empirical evidence, and (c) explaining how such variables interact to determine (d) the amount of effort individuals expend to support or to thwart an intended educational change.

A second example illustrates one way a current social concern may motivate a student to focus her dissertation on theory construction. A doctoral candidate in anthropology, inspired by the recent feminist movement, reads accounts of women's roles in Dakota Indian societies and disagrees with several interpretations she finds there. She believes the writers have given too little attention to how Dakota women's social contexts and events in their lives have altered their roles over the 20th century. In an effort to correct these oversights, she plans to write a dissertation titled "An Ecological, Significant-Events Theory of the Evolution of Women's Roles in Dakota Cultures. The ecological aspect is based on the fact that Dakota women live in different social settings which influence the roles they assume. Some live on reservations, some in small towns, some in cities. Each of these environments affects women's roles in different ways. The significant-events aspect derives from the doctoral candidate's conviction that changes in women's roles are not properly understood in terms of time periods, such as one decade compared to another, but are best viewed in terms of events that alter women's lives. Thus, the dissertation will not be divided into chronological periods but, rather, into sequences of significant events. Some events are societywide, such as the extension of voting rights to women in 1920. Others are individual and come at different times in different women's lives, such as marriage, the birth of a child, or moving to a new location. Therefore, the two principal variables on which the student's theory is built are social contexts and significant events. Each of these variables will be divided into subcategories-(a) types of social settings in which women live and (b) types of events that significantly alter women's roles. To gather evidence about such matters, the researcher plans (a) to read accounts of life in Native-American cultures during the 20th century (particularly Dakota cultures) and (b) to spend the summer interviewing Dakota women–ones living on a reservation and ones living in a town or city.

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