Tag Archives: research questions

Research Focus: Police Involvement in Kidnapping and Extortion

Can you imagine that police officers themselves were the ones kidnapping or committing extortion to the very citizens they are meant to protect? This article examines the issue and poses questions for research purposes. You might want to help shape enforcement policy by doing research along the questions identified.

A kidnapping and extortion incident broke in the headlines a few days ago in the Philippines. Allegedly, a businessman was held at gunpoint by an organized team of gun-toting individuals.

Someone passing through the scene thought of taking a picture and uploaded the picture in the internet—with success, because it took the attention of the netizens, and most importantly, honest police officers who swore to uphold the law.

Why use the term “honest?” That’s because those gun-toting individuals trapping a vehicle using three privately-owned cars in the picture were police officers themselves! The system of CCTV cameras somehow made out the plate numbers.

What ever happened to the police officers who should be the ones protecting the citizens? And to think that the police officers get their support from the citizens through taxes.

A large part of my salary goes to tax. Indirectly, I am paying these police officers for their services. For what?

It is a sad fact  that police officers were involved in that embarrassing situation at broad daylight. How could such thing happen? At least that’s how everyone is treating the whole thing—the police officers are the ones at fault.

This kidnapping incident is actually not the first time that happened in the country. There were similar events that happened in the past. The difference is that those were not so celebrated because nobody documented the operation.

Exploratory Research Questions

I have not yet heard substantial responses from those involved. Is it also possible that they were just victims of a frame up? Who took the picture? Should that person be likewise investigated? Is there a possibility that both sides are actually involved in something nasty or illegal?

Several other questions popped in my mind:

  • Why did the police officers behave the way they did?
  • Are they not aware and mindful that the citizens are their primary clientèle as they are paid by the government?
  • Are their superiors aware of their actions and are also involved? Up to what rank is involved in the illegal activity?
  • Did their training in the police academy fail to inculcate the proper values?
  • Did the educational system fail in general?
  • Did the parents inculcate the right values to their children?

In reference to the last question, Freud advanced that the first five years of a person’s life are crucial to the development of the adult personality (McLeod 2008). Whoever mentored or taught these police officers when they were still young children have influenced their minds and behavior. How were they raised?

Suggested Research Questions to Clarify the Issue

For those taking higher degrees in criminology, answers to the following questions may be sought based on the case described above:

  1. What is the level of commitment of police officers to their duties?
  2. How high is the morale of the officers and the rank-and-file?
  3. Is there a relationship between police officers’ officers’ profile and their propensity to commit crime? Which factor is most influential?
  4. Is there a relationship between the management style of superiors and the behavior of their subordinates?
  5. Is the recruitment system for police officers stringent enough to weed off undesirable individuals from the police force?

Answers to these questions will somehow help institute appropriate government policies to prevent, minimize, reduce or eliminate commission of crimes like this in the future. Research is a powerful tool that well-meaning managers of human resources should consider. Palliative, non-working, hit-and-miss policies or approach that serve to “cure” instead of prevent is more costly.

Reference

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Psychosexual Stages. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/psychosexual.html

© 2014 September 13 P. A. Regoniel

What is a Good Research Problem?

Are you still unsure what thesis topic to pursue in the course of honing your skills in research? Or maybe you have already one but you are in doubt if it is a good research problem at all? Read on to find out if you’re on the right track.

One of the difficulties that graduating undergraduate and graduate students encounter in the course of preparing their thesis involve the proper selection of their research problem. If you are one of them, how should you go about it? How will you know that the research problem is good enough for you to spend your time, money, and effort?

A Good Research Problem

You will find out that a good research problem is a good one if you have critically assessed and satisfied at least two things:

  1. Are there available methods to carry it out?
  2. Do you have the resources to pursue it?

Take a look and see if you have these things at your disposal. If not, then, you are not yet ready to do anything at all.

Methods

In doing any kind of research, you need to use a standardized method so that other researchers can confirm your findings or you are able to compare your results with someone who pursued the same topic as yours.What methods have been used so far to allow the resolution of the research problem?

impostor

This requires you to browse the literature and look for appropriate methods on the topic at hand. Reviewing the literature will also help you keep up with current topics, identify which ones need more information or lack data for better understanding of a given phenomenon.

Reviewing the literature doesn’t mean reading one or two scientific papers but several, or a lot, so that you are able to synthesize or point out what has been missed, inconsistent findings, or different conclusions between authors. This just means that studies on that topic has not yet matured and that further studies need to be conducted to resolve pertinent issues.

Resources

Resources refer to things such as available time to complete the research, the amount of money you will need to do the activities associated with your research, your capacity as a researcher, availability of equipment needed for data collection and analysis, among others.

Attending conferences and talking with experts on a current issue can also guide you in your thinking. Is there local interest to pursue the research issue? If there is, then you can take off from where others have left and discover new relationships between variables.

Once you find a good research problem where you are able to state it clearly and well, you can consider half of your work done. You are well on your way towards becoming an accomplished researcher.

© 2013 December 20 P. A. Regoniel

Example of a Research Question and Its Corresponding Statistical Analysis

How should a research question be written in such a way that the corresponding statistical analysis is figured out? Here is an illustrative example.

One of the difficulties encountered by my graduate students in statistics is how to frame questions in such a way that those questions will lend themselves to appropriate statistical analysis. They are particularly confused on how to write questions for test of difference or correlation. This article deals with the former.

How should the research questions be written and what are the corresponding statistical tools to use? This question is a challenge to someone just trying to understand how statistics work; with practice and persistent study, it becomes an easy task.

There are proper ways on how to do this; but you need to have a good grasp of the statistical tools available, at least the basic ones, to match the research questions or vice-versa. To demonstrate the concept, let’s look at the common ones, that is, those involving difference between two groups.

Example Research Question to Test for Significant Difference

Let’s take an example related to education as the focus of the research question. Say, a teacher wants to know if there is a difference between the academic performance of pupils who have had early exposure in Mathematics and pupils without such exposure. Academic performance is still a broad measure, so let’s make it more specific. We’ll take summative test score in Mathematics as the variable in focus. Early exposure in Mathematics means the child played games that are Mathematics-oriented in their pre-school years.

To test for difference in performance, that is, after random selection of students with about equal aptitudes, the same grade level, the same Math teacher, among others; the research question that will lend itself to analysis can be written thus:

  1. Is there a significant difference between the Mathematics test score of pupils who have had early Mathematics exposure and those pupils without?

Notice that the question specifies a comparison of two groups of pupils: 1) those who have had early Mathematics exposure, and, 2) those without. The Mathematics summative test score is the variable to compare.

Statistical Tests for Difference

What then should be the appropriate statistical test in the case described above? Two things must be considered: 1) sampling procedure, and 2) number of samples.

If the researcher is confident that he has sampled randomly and that the sample approaches a normal distribution, then a t-test is appropriate to test for difference. If the researcher is not confident that the sampling is random, or, that there are only few samples available for analysis and most likely the population approximates a non-normal distribution, Mann-Whitney U test is the appropriate test for difference. The first test is a parametric test while the latter is a non-parametric test. The nonparametric test is distribution-free, meaning, it doesn’t matter if your population exhibits a normal distribution or not. Nonparametric tests are best used in exploratory studies.

A random distribution is achieved if a lot of samples are used in the analysis. Many statisticians believe this is achieved with 200 cases, but this ultimately depends on the variability of the measure. The greater the variability, the greater the number required to produce a normal distribution.

normal distribution
Fig. 1. Shape of a normal distribution of scores.

A quick inspection of the distribution is made using a graph of the measurements, i.e., the Mathematics test score of pupils who have had early Mathematics exposure and those without. If the scores are well-distributed with most of the measures at the center tapering at both ends in a symmetrical manner, then it approximates a normal distribution (Figure 1).

If the distribution is non-normal or if you notice that the graph is skewed to the left or to the right (leans either to the left or to the right), then you will have to use a non-parametric test. A skewed distribution means that most students have low scores or most of them have high scores. This means that you favor selection of a certain group of pupils. Each pupil did not have an equal chance of being selected. This violates the normality requirement of parametric tests such as the t-test although it is robust enough to accommodate skewness to a certain degree. F-test may be used to determine the normality of a distribution.

Writing the Conclusion Based on the Statistical Analysis

Now, how do you write the results of the analysis? If it was found out in the above statistical analysis that there is a significant difference between pupils who have had Mathematics exposure early in life compared to those who did not, the statement of the findings should be written this way:

The data presents sufficient evidence that there is a significant difference in the Mathematics test score of pupils who have had early Mathematics exposure compared to those without. 

It can be written in another way, thus:

There is reason to believe that the Mathematics test score of pupils who have had early Mathematics exposure is different from those without.

Do not say, it was proven that… Nobody is 100% sure that this conclusion will always be correct. There will always be errors involved. Science is not foolproof. There are always other possibilities.

© 2013 October 12 P. A. Regoniel

Things You Don’t Know About the Black Wasp

Reading this article will help you understand why we should treat the black wasp with respect and appreciation. Black wasps play an important ecological role.

Chances are, when a black wasp enters your home and buzzes its way around, you will try to swat it with anything you can lay your hands on. They are known for their painful sting. In fact, a worker at home once unwittingly disturbed a black wasp’s nest attached to a mango leaf. She sustained three to five stings on her face and had to be hospitalized.

However, after reading this personal discovery about the black wasp’s nest, your behavior towards it will change. Black wasps have important ecological role.

The Mud Nest and Its Contents

Yesterday, when I glanced at the sill of the small screened bathroom window, I noticed a solitary black wasp circling around its nest of mud. I watched it while it makes its way inside the small opening on top of the nest. A few moments later, it flew away.

inside black wasp nest
Fig. 1. The mud nest of black wasp and its contents.

Anticipating that the mud nest will grow in time, I decided to remove it but not after finding out what’s inside that small mound. I carefully removed the nest, starting from the bottom and placed it on a folder to take a picture of its contents.

I was surprised to see that the small mound was full of living creatures. See Figure 1 at right.

There are at least three species of living organisms in the picture. From the left, are two black wasp larvae (the smaller one is yellow-green and the bigger one, light chocolate-brown), a pale red colored caterpillar of an unknown species, and three orange-spotted caterpillars of another species. There’s another one not included in this picture because its life juice was sucked out by the black wasp’s larva; but that one is visible in the video below.

Relationship Between Organisms in the Mud Nest

How do these organism’s interact inside that cramped space of mud? Initially, I thought all of them were developing larvae of the black wasp. But then a question came up in my mind, “how can the larva survive without food in that closed chamber of mud?” Then it dawned to me that the longer ones are actually caterpillars that serve as food for the two plump black wasp larvae.

Also, several months ago, I swatted a wasp and off fell a caterpillar from it. That gave me the idea that the black wasp brought these caterpillars into the mud chamber after laying its egg which then hatches into a larvae. The larva attaches itself to the paralyzed caterpillar and then sucks it dry. That’s a simple hypothesis, and I verified this by bringing the bigger larva close to the caterpillars and see if indeed it will attempt to feed on the caterpillar. The video below shows how it behaved.

[youtube=https://whttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNyKBF84FHQ&rel=0]

The video verified my observation that the wasp larva feeds on the caterpillar until it has enough food ingested for the pupa stage. The proportion seems to be that for each larva in a chamber, two caterpillars were allocated by the mother wasp.

The Black Wasp’s Egg

I peered inside the hole of the unbroken chamber. It is difficult to take a picture through the small hole, so I cut it in half to show a cross-section. Inside is a small egg attached by an almost invisible thread onto the roof of the chamber, hanging there and moving to and fro as I positioned it for a close up picture (see Figure 2). In other descriptions of wasp species, the eggs are laid after food is made available. This species lays the egg first, then finds food in time for the newly hatched larva.

black wasp egg
Fig. 2. The black wasp egg inside a chamber made of mud.

Notice that there is only one egg inside the 1.5 mm thick chamber and there are no other holes anywhere inside it. The top part has a 5 mm opening, enough to squeeze in a caterpillar of specific size, and of course, the black wasp. This means that the wasp chooses a prey with a circumferential size small enough to fit through the hole. This indicates species specificity, meaning, the black wasp is choosy of its prey.

Once the food is deposited, the wasp covers the hole and builds another one to repeat the process until the nest becomes large enough to form a colony. The developing larva inside is safe from ant attack.

Implications of the Findings

This personal encounter draws out many questions that researchers in the biology of the black wasp can explore further:

  1. Which butterfly species do the caterpillar that serve as prey of the black wasp belong? Are they considered pests to farms (since caterpillars are voracious leaf eaters)?
  2. How long will it take for the black wasp’s egg to hatch?
  3. How does the pupa of the black wasp look like?
  4. How long does each stage of the life cycle take?
  5. Why is the black wasp’s egg suspended in the chamber instead of on the floor?
  6. What specific material is the mud nest made up of and how are the materials glued together?

Many more questions can be asked from the observation. These questions arose as gaps in knowledge because the information provided is a one-shot deal. It is akin to a case study. These are exploratory questions based on a single case.

From these questions, the following hypotheses may be tested:

  • The black wasp’s feeding habit can help regulate pest population in farms.
  • The black wasp suspends its egg to give it just the right temperature to allow hatching inside the chamber.
  • The black wasp uses wet mud to build the nest.
  • The life cycle of the black wasp coincides with the life cycle of the prey.

A review of literature will now be more meaningful as you learn things and compare what you have found. In so doing, you can design and carry out a more systematic and rigorous research.

It’s fun discovering and learning things through actual encounter. Using a little wit to deduce relationships between things can help you appreciate how intricate and wonderful life is in this world.

Are all these arrangements a matter of accident or evolution? There must be an Intelligent Being who is responsible for all these wonders.

© 2013 September 17 P. A. Regoniel

The Relationship Between Bribery and the Environment

Bribery can lead to environmental degradation. What are the evidences? Are there solutions to this age-old corrupt practice? This article explores these issues.

The recent spate of corruption highlighting a businesswoman allegedly bribing government officials to channel billions in taxpayers money to fly-by-night or bogus non-government organizations prompted me to write this article. Since my concern is largely on the environmental implications of events like this, I reviewed literature on how corruption, specifically bribery, relates to the environment.

Bribery and the Environment

Considering that governance becomes the prime focus of analysis when corruption issues arise, this discussion will examine undesirable practices, specifically offering of incentives to public officials in view of exempting them from the rule of law or pocketing taxpayers money for their own selfish purposes. Bribery occurs at different levels of government, that is, from the highest administrative or lawmaking bodies to operational levels charged with law enforcement responsibilities.

A brief review of reports on the relationship between bribery at different levels of government and the environment yielded the following summaries and conclusions:

1. Bribery of law enforcers leads to low compliance among violators thus pressure to natural resources.

Sundström’s study[1] in South Africa revealed that law enforcers’ acceptance of bribes from small-scale fishers who commit illegal fishing such as poaching decrease their trustworthiness. As a result, fishers tended to exploit their natural marine resources more than what it can sustain. Overfishing upsets the balance of the marine food chain such that the population of target fishes decline and sizes of fish caught by fishermen get smaller through time.

2. Ineffective regulatory systems results to pollution.

Environmental inspections as a regulatory system serve to deter non-compliance with rules and regulations set forth for approval of environmentally critical projects. Once those tasked to do such inspections receive money in exchange for favorable reports on the project’s environmental performance despite exceeding permissible emission levels, pollution results. The effects of pollution may be immediate (acute) or long-term (chronic) depending on the nature of the pollutant.

For example, if a mining project does not have adequate leachate treatment facilities as a result of non-compliance to required mitigating measures, high concentrations of heavy metals will be discharged into waterways. This will disrupt the normal biological processes in aquatic ecosystems where various organisms including man derive sustenance.

3. Environmentally harmful policies are formulated such that disasters occur.

When unscrupulous individuals bribe lawmakers to craft policies towards their favor, environmentally harmful policies result. For example, if the government allows logging in highly elevated or watershed areas, lack of trees to cushion the impact of heavy rains result to flooding of low-lying villages. This will mean loss of lives and property aside from loss of important ecological goods and services.

4. Unfair allocation of environmental resources lead to further environmental degradation.

If high-ranking officials accept bribes to allow large commercial fishing companies to fish in municipal waters, unfair allocation of marine resources occur. As small fishers do not have the means to compete with the efficient, mechanized fishing equipment of large-scale fishers, they will resort to illegal means that further degrade the environment. One of them is the use of dynamite in fishing wherein large areas of productive reef are destroyed. The attitude that prevails is “Well take them (the fish), before they (the large-scale fishers) do.”thief

What has been done so far to curb bribery?

Acceptance of bribes shows the vulnerability of those tasked to govern and enforce the rules and regulations of a country. Many solutions have been suggested, recommended and enforced including reforms to improve transparency and accountability, legislation to reduce flaws in existing laws, reducing the discretionary powers of public officials, greater awareness among the people, involving citizens in government affairs, and so on and so forth.[2] However, despite these measures, corruption persists in many countries.

The Economic Solution

Based on the resource allocation point of view, the practice of bribery continues because it offers those involved to get more than enough resources to satisfy their wants. The one giving the bribe and the one receiving the bribe both benefit from their transaction but third parties suffer. The negative environmental impacts then are externalities of these transactions. There is a need, therefore, to integrate the externality of environmental degradation as a result of bribery.

In view of developing a research concept using the economic solution of internalizing externalities, economic valuation may be used as an approach to determine if there is a relationship between the amount of bribe and the cost of environmental degradation. Thus, the following questions may be asked:

  • Is there a relationship between the amount of bribe and the corresponding cost of environmental degradation?
  • How much environmental degradation occurs for a certain amount of bribe?

For the benefits gained by both the briber and the bribed (my own terms for brevity), monetary incentives to disadvantaged parties can offset the negative effects of environmental degradation. The point is, the guilty parties should be made to pay for the consequences of their actions. Penalties should be proportionate to achieve environmental justice.

Environmental justice is defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” This means fair allocation of natural resources to everyone should be pursued in a democratic society.

Reference

1. Sundström, A. (2013). Corruption in the commons: Why bribery hampers enforcement of environmental regulations in South African fisheries. International Journal of the Commons, 7(2). Retrieved from http://www.thecommonsjournal.org/index.php/ijc/article/download/370/360

2. Winbourne, S. (2002). Corruption and the environment. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNACT876.pdf

© 2013 September 12 P. A. Regoniel

What is a Model?

In the research and statistics context, what does the term model mean? This article defines what is a model, poses guide questions on how to create one and provides simple examples to clarify points arising from those questions.

One of the interesting things that I particularly like in statistics is the prospect of being able to predict an outcome (referred to as the independent variable) from a set of factors (referred to as the independent variables). A multiple regression equation or a model derived from a set of interrelated variables achieves this end.

The usefulness of a model is determined by how well it is able to predict the behavior of dependent variables from a set of independent variables. To clarify the concept, I will describe here an example of a research activity that aimed to develop a multiple regression model from both secondary and primary data sources.

What is a Model?

Before anything else, it is always good practice to define what we mean here by a model. A model, in the context of research as well as statistics, is a representation of reality using variables that somehow relate with each other. I italicize the word “somehow” here being reminded of the possibility of correlation between variables when in fact there is no logical connection between them.

A classic example given to illustrate nonsensical correlation is the high correlation between length of hair and height. It was found out in a study that if a person has short hair, that person tends to be tall and vice-versa.

Actually, the conclusion of that study is spurious because there is no real correlation between length of hair and height. It so happened that men usually have short hair while women have long hair. Men, in general, are taller than women. The true variable behind that really determines height is the sex or gender of the individual, not length of hair.

At best, the model is only an approximation of the likely outcome of things because there will always be errors involved in the course of building it. This is the reason why scientists adopt a five percent error standard in making conclusions from statistical computations. There is no such thing as absolute certainty in predicting the probability of a phenomenon.

Things Needed to Construct A Model

In developing a multiple regression model which will be fully described here, you will need to have a clear idea of the following:

  1. What is your intention or reason in constructing the model?
  2. What is the time frame and unit of your analysis?
  3. What has been done so far in line with the model that you intend to construct?
  4. What variables would you like to include in your model?
  5. How would you ensure that your model has predictive value?

These questions will guide you towards developing a model that will help you achieve your goal. I explain in detail the expected answers to the above questions. Examples are provided to further clarify the points.

Purpose in Constructing the Model

Why would you like to have a model in the first place? What would you like to get from it? The objectives of your research, therefore, should be clear enough so that you can derive full benefit from it.

In this particular case where I sought to develop a model, the main purpose is to be able to determine the predictors of the number of published papers produced by the faculty in the university. The major question, therefore, is:

“What are the crucial factors that will motivate the faculty members to engage in research and publish research papers?”

Once a research director of the university, I figured out that the best way to increase the number of research publications is to zero in on those variables that really matter. There are so many variables that will influence the turnout of publications, but which ones do really matter? A certain number of research publications is required each year, so what should the interventions be to reach those targets?

Time Frame and Unit of Analysis

You should have a specific time frame on which you should base your analysis from. There are many considerations in selecting the time frame of the analysis but of foremost importance is the availability of data. For established universities with consistent data collection fields, this poses no problem. But for struggling universities without an established database, it will be much more challenging.

Why do I say consistent data collection fields? If you want to see trends, then the same data must be collected in a series through time. What do I mean by this?

In the particular case I mentioned, i. e., number of publications, one of the suspected predictors is the amount of time spent by the faculty in administrative work. In a 40-hour work week, how much time do they spend in designated posts such as unit head, department head, or dean? This variable which is a unit of analysis, therefore, should be consistently monitored every semester, for many years for possible correlation with the number of publications.

How many years should these data be collected? From what I collect, peer-reviewed publications can be produced normally from two to three years. Hence, the study must cover at least three years of data to be able to log the number of publications produced. That is, if no systematic data collection was made to supply data needed by the study.

If data was systematically collected, you can backtrack and get data for as long as you want. It is even possible to compare publication performance before and after a research policy was implemented in the university.

Review of Literature

You might be guilty of “reinventing the wheel” if you did not take time to review published literature on your specific research concern. Reinventing the wheel means you duplicate the work of others. It is possible that other researchers have already satisfactorily studied the area you are trying to clarify issues on. For this reason, an exhaustive review of literature will enhance the quality and predictive value of your model.

For the model I attempted to make on the number of publications made by the faculty, I bumped on a summary of the predictors made by Bland et al.[1] based on a considerable number of published papers. Below is the model they prepared to sum up the findings.

model on faculty publications
Bland et al.’s Model of Research Productivity

Bland and colleagues found that three major areas determine research productivity namely, 1) the individual’s characteristics, 2) institutional characteristics, and 3) leadership characteristics. This just means that you cannot just threaten the faculty with the so-called publish and perish policy if the required institutional resources are absent and/or leadership quality is poor.

Select the Variables for Study

The model given by Bland and colleagues in the figure above is still too general to allow statistical analysis to take place. For example, in individual characteristics, how can socialization as a variable be measured? How about motivation?

This requires you to further delve on literature on how to properly measure socialization and motivation, among other variables you are interested in. The dependent variable I chose to reflect productivity in a recent study I conducted with students is the number of total publications, whether these are peer-reviewed or not.

Ensuring the Predictive Value of the Model

The predictive value of a model depends on the degree of influence of a set of predictor variables on the dependent variable. How do you determine the degree of influence of these variables?

In Bland’s model, all the variables associated with those concepts identified may be included in analyzing data. But of course, this will be costly and time consuming as there are a lot of variables to consider. Besides, the greater the number of variables you included in your analysis, the more samples you will need to obtain a good correlation between the predictor variables and the dependent variable.

Stevens[2] recommends a nominal number of 15 cases for one predictor variable. This means that if you want to study 10 variables, you will need at least 150 cases to make your multiple regression model valid in some sense. But of course, the more samples you have, the greater the certainty in predicting outcomes.

Once you have decided on the number of variables you intend to incorporate in your multiple regression model, you will then be able to input your data on a spreadsheet or a statistical software such as SPSS, Statistica, or related software applications. The software application will automatically produce the results for you.

The next concern is how to interpret the results of a model such as the results of a multiple regression analysisl. I will consider this topic in my upcoming posts.

Note

A model is only as good as the data used to create it. You must therefore make sure that your data is accurate and reliable for better predictive outcomes.

References:

  1. Bland, C.J., Center, B.A., Finstad, D.A., Risbey, K.R., and J. G. Staples. (2005). A Theoretical, Practical, Predictive Model of Faculty and Department Research Productivity. Academic Medicine, Vol. 80, No. 3, 225-237.
  2. Stevens, J. 2002. Applied multivariate statistics for the social sciences, 3rd ed. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. p. 72.

Four Examples of Research Topics on Education

One of the common concerns of graduate students is finding topics relevant to their field of specialization. If you are a graduate student of education, here is a list of recent issues and concerns on education that you might want to focus on as your research topic.

Here are four examples of research topics on education. The list focuses on children as vulnerable members of society.

1. How children react to loss of parental care

There are many instances that children have to cope with loss of parental care as a result of death of their mothers, separation of parents, assignment of a parent to distant places, among others. This feeling of loss is generalized as grief. Although it is easy for adults to adjust to such circumstances, questions arise as to whether children are able to cope.

Example Research Questions:

  • What are the causes of grief among children?
  • How do babies express their grief?
  • How does grief affect children in various developmental stages?
  • How do children cope up with the loss of a loved one?
  • Is there a difference in the behavior of children who lost their mothers compared to those who did not?

2. Early childhood development

Many mothers, especially those who are new, are very much concerned about the development of their children. Nowadays, there are so many stresses in the environment that could threaten the development of children. The following are questions on child development that research could help shed light on.

Example Research Questions

  • What are the early warning signs of abnormality among toddlers?
  • Which intervention works best in addressing a specific type of abnormal behavior among small children (e.g. inability to speak, inability to crawl, losing eye contact, inability to respond to sound)
  • Is there a relationship between frequency and duration of parent contact and child development?
  • How do mothers respond to signs of abnormality in their children?

3. Classroom and learning

children reading

There have been a considerable number of literature emphasizing the role of environment in facilitating brain development. Intelligence cannot just be attributed to genes but also to the surrounding environment. In educating children, the learning environment can play a very significant role in shaping the minds of growing children. Classroom design is one such concern.

Example Research Questions

  • General Question: Does classroom design affect children behavior?
  • What are the development needs of children that can be addressed by classroom design?
  • How can classroom designs be made more stimulating to children?
  • Is there a relationship between classroom design and the number of uneasy children?
  • How do placements of play structures influence children behavior?

4. Socialization among children

With the preponderance of the internet nowadays, children become more engrossed in their laptops or desktop computers as part of their socialization activities. They now have more friends in the internet than in real life. Teenagers, in particular, are beset by this problem. Since they spend most of their time in front of computer screens, they were referred to as the “screenagers.”

There have been increased concern on children being unable to socialize effectively with real persons as a result of too much “socialization” activity online. This also exposes them to grave abuse as a result of their online ventures.

Example Research Questions

  • Is there a relationship between the frequency and duration of online activity among children and study time?
  • Is there relationship between age and the type of online material visited by children?
  • How do children respond to strangers requesting details about them?
  • Is there a relationship between children’s irritability and intensity of computer use?
  • What factors influence the time devoted by children to online activity?

These topics will enable you to get started on your research endeavor along the field of education. If you want to explore other topics, you might want to try other means such as  brainstorming. This will help you zero in on topics that you might find interesting.

Reference:

Child Development Media, Inc., n.d. Videos, books and curricula for child development professionals and parents. Retrieved on July 30, 2013 from http://www.childdevelopmentmedia.com/child-development-articles/

© 2013 July 30 P. A. Regoniel

Curiosity and Patience Lead to Learning

Have you seen frogs mating? Maybe you did but not the same as the pair of frogs I have seen. Read on and see what these frogs are. Be curious and have patience and you will surely learn.

Endless Croaking Frogs

I always hear those irritating sounds of frogs croaking just at the back of our house. The sounds are unlike those of the frogs I am used to hearing. They sound not like frogs but like cows, mooing albeit in short bursts of rhyming and alternating low and high pitches.

I usually ignore these croaking sounds dismissing them as insignificant as I attend to my responsibility of writing a chapter for a project report. But the persistent frog calls finally got the best of me. I cannot explain the curiosity that pulls me off the chair, make me wear my rubber boots, and see what kind of frogs sound so loud that fills the whole house.

Will I see something interesting if I try to explore the source of these exchange of high and low tone calls?

Anyhow, I walked under the drizzles holding an umbrella with my left hand while my right hand tucks the camera snugly inside my jacket. It’s not a waterproof camera so I need to make sure it’s dry.

Patience is a Virtue

I listened intently, curious what these irritating frogs look like. I slowly approached the interlink fence right beside the corner of our house, getting ready to encounter anything moving in the pool of water just behind a concrete post. I noticed that the sound gets faint while I approach. These frogs are so sensitive to intruders in their lair that they could sense my approach.

Armed with previous knowledge of animal behavior, I stood still next to the post and patiently waited for the sound to resume. My patience, coupled with curiosity, paid off as I noticed a frog bob up the water and made a few bursts of low tones. I took ready to take a shot but it was gone, under the water, in a split second when it sensed I was approaching.

I mustered another ounce of patience expecting another opportunity to come. And it did.

I saw two frogs appear out of nowhere. The smaller one hopped with effort trying to whisk away (that’s what I thought) the bigger one on top of it. I presume that must be the female frog. There’s something on the riding frog’s mouth that attaches like a vacuum on the back of the one underneath and I could not actually make it out. It’s something sticky, the first I have ever seen. It’s as if the riding frog was swallowing the female which appears to be blind. A whitish membrane covered its eyes.

I took a video and some shots of the interesting mating behavior. I provide a video below showing the two frogs as they make their way across rocks and grass. About three-fourths of the way, the frog underneath suddenly jumped bringing along its heavy load.

[youtube=http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbzEf6H78iI&rel=0]

If the frogs are not that clear in the video, I provide a picture below.

frog mating
Chubby frogs, probably Kaloula pulchra, on a mating ritual.

Eggs on Mouth?

The frog on top has something like eggs (?) on its mouth. Or maybe is it just an extension of its lips? But frogs have no lips, according to a science teacher. I tried to find out what these are using online references but I could not find one. It just says these frogs have very sticky secretions. This must be the main purpose, to cling on top of the female. But I am not quite sure if the one on top is really the male, not the female. A specialist should be able to tell.

This experience just demonstrates that if you have both curiosity and patience, you will discover something interesting. I should add patience as a characteristic of a good researcher. My feeling of excitement going after these frogs was immeasurable. I had an adrenalin rush, trying to get a good shot of a rare moment.

I should have done something further, that is, to catch the frogs and examine what is that thing projecting out of its mouth. I didn’t realize that until now.

Will I have the same opportunity again?

You might want to see a close-up shot of this frog which I already encountered last year hopping its way towards our door. This one is a juvenile.

© 2013 July 23 P. A. Regoniel

How to Write Survey Questions

How do you write survey questions? This article provides four useful tips on how to write survey questions that work.

In generating any kind of web survey or other research resource that targets a specific audience, it’s important to know how to structure the individual questions on that survey so that they do the job correctly. Here are some of the most common tips that experts provide on how to write survey questions that work:

Write for the Right Audience

One essential tip is to always consider the specific audience for a survey question and write accordingly. For example, a survey on what garment shoppers want would not write questions that are off base in terms of that specific audience. Instead of writing a survey question that just asks for all-ages’ input on a type of clothing that is for a specific age, the writer should approach a certain demographic subset.

For instance, a survey question on sports clothing for women would not just ask for random style information, but would address the specific uses of this clothing with questions like “What types of sports clothing supports your specific workout goals?” or “What kind of material do you want in athletic clothing?”

Make sure to clarify your questions without sounding too wordy. This survey does a great job at explaining exactly what they want the user to do.

Write With Specific Products in Mind

survey

In addition to getting the right target audience, survey questions should also address the use of specific items that the survey intended to do market research on. Having a list of the products can help a writer develop the survey questions accordingly.

For example, someone writing a survey on the cost of sports vehicle ownership might want to have a list of Mustang parts or other gear. The list will enable the customer to be specific about the part he really needs. This becomes useful information to parts sellers or manufacturers.

Make It Narrow

Survey questions that are too broad will not address the key answers that writers are looking for. Using the above example, instead of just asking about all car systems, the survey writer could narrow it down to just one system by asking questions like “What accessories and products best support engine maintenance?” or “What kind of power steering fluid works best for you?”

Ask for an Action

Another main point in writing survey questions is to direct readers and respondents towards some sort of particular action. Survey questions like those mentioned above can have this effect. For other kinds of specific actions, survey writers might want to include questions like “What types of products have you used in the past?” or “Where will you likely go for your products in the future?”

Including all of these of critical considerations will help make survey questions relevant and bring in the results that are needed by the company.

What are Examples of Research Questions?

To effectively write the statement of the problem of your thesis, you will need to bear in mind certain principles that will guide you in framing those critical questions.  Well-written research questions determine how the whole research process will proceed.

At least three basic research outcomes are expected. These are described below along with examples of research questions for each outcome.

There are already many pieces of literature written on how to write the research questions required in investigating a phenomenon. But how are the research questions framed in actual situations? How do you write the research questions?

You will need to bear in mind certain rules and principles on how to go about writing the research questions. Before you start writing the research questions, you should be able to discern what you intend to arrive at in your research.

What are your aims and what are your expected research outcomes? Do you intend to describe something, determine differences or explain the causes of a phenomenon?

Three Basic Research Outcomes

There are at least three basic research outcomes that will arise in writing the research questions. These are 1) come up with a description, 2) determine differences between variables, and 3) find out correlations between variables.

Research Outcome Number 1. Come up with a description.

The outcome of your research question may be in the form of a description. The description is provided to contextualize the situation, explain something about the subjects or respondents of the study or provide the reader an overview of your study.

Below are examples of common research questions for Research Outcome Number 1 on a research conducted on teachers as respondents in a study.

Example Research Questions

  • What is the demographic profile of the teachers in terms of age, gender, educational attainment, civil status, and number of training attended?
  • How much time do teachers devote in preparing their lessons?
  • What teaching styles are used by teachers in managing their students?

The expected outcomes of the questions above will be a description of the teachers’ demographic profile, a range of time devoted to preparing their lessons, and a description of the teaching styles used by the teachers. These research outcomes can be presented in the form of tables and graphs with accompanying descriptions of the highlights of the findings. Highlights are those interesting trends or dramatic results that need attention such as very few training provided to teachers.

Research Outcome Number 2. Determine differences between variables.

To be able to write research questions that integrate the variables of the study, you should be able to define what is a variable. If this term is already quite familiar to you, and you are confident in your understanding, you may read the rest of this post.studying

You might want to find out the differences between groups in a selected variable in your study. Say, you would want to know if there is a significant difference in long quiz score (the variable you are interested in) between students who study at night and students who study early in the morning. You may frame your research questions thus:

Example Research Questions

  • Non-directional: Is there a significant difference in long quiz score between students who study early in the morning and students who study at night?
  • Directional: Are the quiz scores of students who study early in the morning higher than those who study at night?

The intention of the first research question is to find out if a difference exists in long quiz scores between students who study at night and those who study early in the morning, hence is non-directional. The second research question aims to find out if indeed students who study in the morning have better quiz scores as what the review of the literature suggests. Thus, the latter is directional.

Research Outcome Number 3. Find out correlations or relationships between variables.

The outcome of research questions in this category will be to explain correlations or causality. Below are examples of research questions that aim to find out correlations or relationships between variables using a combination of the variables mentioned in research outcome numbers 1 and 2.

Example Research Questions

  • Is there a significant relationship between teaching style and long quiz score of students?
  • Is there a significant association between the student’s long quiz score and the teacher’s age, gender, and training attended?
  • Is there a relationship between the long quiz score and the number of hours devoted by students in studying their lessons?

Note that in all the preceding examples of research questions, the variables of the study found in the conceptual framework of the study are integrated. Therefore, research questions must always incorporate the variables in them so that the researcher can describe, find differences, or correlate them with each other.

If you find this helpful, take the time to share this with your peers so that they can likewise discover new, exciting and interesting things along their fields of interest.

© 2012 October 22 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (October 22, 2012). What are Examples of Research Questions?. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2012/10/22/what-are-examples-of-research-questions/