A good dissertation
What is a good A good dissertation question?
Formulating the Research Question1 Introduction In the previous section we talked about ways to define your topic, but there is a difference between a topic and a question. You may have found your topic, but within that topic you must find a question, which identifies what you hope to learn. Finding a question sounds serendipitous, but research questions need to be shaped and crafted. It is important to start your thinking about the dissertation with a question rather than simply a topic heading. The question sets out what you hope to learn about the topic.
This question, together with your approach, will guide and structure the choice of data to be collected and analysed. Some research questions focus your attention onto the relationship of particular theories and concepts: ‘how does gender relate to career choices of members of different religions? Some research questions aim to open an area to let possible new theories emerge: ‘what is going on here? For an undergraduate dissertation, your question needs to be more targeted than either of these. Creating a research question is a task. Good research questions are formed and worked on, and are rarely simply found. You start with what interests you, and you refine it until it is workable.
There is no a for the perfect dissertation question, but there are bad research questions. The following guidelines highlight some of the features of good questions. Manageable in terms of research and in terms of your own academic abilities. Consistent good the requirements of the assessment.
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Relevant The question will be of academic and intellectual interest to people in the field you have chosen to study. The question arises from issues raised in the literature or in practice. You should be able to establish a clear purpose for your research in relation to the chosen field. For example, are you filling a gap in knowledge, analysing academic assumptions or professional practice, monitoring a development in practice, comparing different approaches or testing theories within a specific population? Manageable You need to be realistic about the scope and scale of the project.
The question you ask must be within your ability to tackle. For example, are you able to access people, statistics, or documents from which to collect the data you need to address the question fully? Are you able to relate the concepts of your research question to the observations, phenomena, indicators or variables you can access? Sometimes a research question appears feasible, but when you start your fieldwork or library study, it proves otherwise. In this situation, it is important to write up the problems honestly and to reflect on what has been learnt. It may be possible, with your supervisor, to develop a contingency plan to anticipate possible problems of access.
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