Developing a Research Question

Developing a research question is probably the most difficult thing to do by a teacher, yet it is actually easy. This statement seems to be a paradox. Some teachers find doing it a difficult task to do since they do not know what seems to be the problem in their class or what can be improved. It can also happen when the teachers already feel comfortable with the way they teach or are too familiar with the system of teaching in their institution, or because the teachers are so ignorant about what is happening, especially what is happening wrong, in their class.
A research question can simply originate from the teacher’s reflection. Every time you teach, there must be things that cause you to reflect. When doing so, you might ask yourself:

  1. Why did it happen?
  2. What was different?
  3. How can it be changed?
  4. What should I do next?
Strategies on Developing a Research Question
There are ways you can do in order to develop a research question. Patterson (1993) suggested some ways, like:
  1. Set aside 10 minutes to write at the end of each day.
  2. At the end of two weeks, read your journal, looking for
    significant ideas and themes.
  3. Brainstorm a list of things that you would like to investigate.
  4. Review the list and write a first draft of your question.
  5. Write a paragraph of supporting rationale for your question.
  6. Reflect on your question.
Beside the above strategies, you may also think of these sentences to begin your research. The sentences are;
  1. One thing I would like to change is…
  2. My practice could be improved by…
  3. The students I work with need…
  4. I would like to know…
  5. I wonder why…
  6. The most important thing about teaching is…
  7. The best learning environment for students is…
  8. I need to learn how to…
  9. My students would do better if…
Action research or research in general is not necessarily done individually. It can be a collaborative work. When a teacher decides to collaborate with others in doing research, there are some considerations or steps he or she must do in developing a research question. They are:
  1. Brainstorm issues of concern or interests relating to your
    educational context. Record each item on a separate note.
  2. Group your items using affinity charting (a chart to show similarity or dissimilarity). Place the most diverse statements on the table in a row. Place items that have a common theme or focus in each column.
  3. Review and reflect on the placement. Do some items fit better in
    a different column?
  4. Develop a draft research question that reflects the key issue in
    each column.
  5. Choose the question that most interests you and is possible to
Points to Consider When Developing a Research Question
After developing a research question either individually or with a partner, the next thing a teacher must do is that he or she has to pay attention to some points. The points are:
  1. Studying this question will enhance my professional practice.
  2. This question will be of value to my classroom, school and/or
  3. The climate of my classroom will be supportive of this question.
  4. The question focuses on an important issue.
  5. The question can be studied in the time available.
  6. I can access literature or other resources that will provide
    background information.
  7. The data needed to answer this question are accessible.
  8. The question is of personal interest to me.
Reflect on Your Question
The final step you must do in developing a research question is that you have to reflect on the question you have developed.  Ask yourself whether your research question is best described as a problem, an issue, a trigger, a curiosity, or a wish.
Reflect on the question also in case of your assumptions regarding the question. Ask yourself whether your question is enabling or limiting, whether you are committed or indifferent, and finally whether it favors status quo or change.

Patterson, L., C. Minnick Santa, K. G. Short and K. Smith (eds). 1993. Teachers Are Researchers: Reflection and Action. Newark, Del: International Reading


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