Why philosophy matters to your research project

This Slavoj Zizek video illustrates very well why and for what we need philosophy in our research design. Simply because philosophy helps us to formulate the right research question. Because there are not only wrong answers but also wrong questions.

How to write my research objectives

Objectives must always be set after having formulated a good research question. After all, they are to explain the way in which such question is going to be answered. Objectives are usually headed by infinitive verbs such as:

  • To identify
  • To establish
  • To describe
  • To determine
  • To estimate
  • To develop
  • To compare
  • To analyse
  • To collect

Returning to the example given in the previous post about Unemployment in European Union and considering the two research questions posed: (1) What has been the unemployment rate in European Union over the last decade? and (2) Why have northern European countries registered a lower unemployment rate than southern countries?; the objectives could be as follow:

1º To compare the unemployment rate among all European countries.

2º To analyse the unemployment rate evolution from 2002 to 2012.

3º To identify the factors associated with high unemployment rates.

4º To develop an explanatory theory that associates unemployment rate with other indicators such as Growth Domestic Product (GDP).

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References

Camino, J. R. (2011). Cómo escribir y publicar una tesis doctoral. ESIC Editorial.

Saunders, Mark NK, et al. Research methods for business students , 5/e. Pearson Education India, 2011. Pearson.

How to turn your research idea into a research question

Once you find a research idea following the questions suggested in previous posts, it is time to turn such idea into a research question. Here are suggested a number of steps you may follow:

1º Identify what scope or organization your research involves. After identifying a sub-branch or area of knowledge you should choose an organization or scope you want to research on. Following the example given in the previous post about the microeconomic sub-branch “unemployment”, you might be interested in the unemployment in the European Union, or in the European Union and China. Maybe you just want to research on your city or region.

2º Formulate a general focus research question. The research question is likely to change over the rest of the research process but now you just need to formulate the question that flows from your research idea. Generally, these questions are headed by an interrogative particle such as what, why or how. Choosing one or another is not trivial. The questions headed by what like “what has been the evolution of  unemployment in the European Union over last decade?” are usually descriptive researches as they consist of a description of a number of collected data.

Some authors like Philip and Pugh (2005) refrain from consider descriptive research (called by them “intelligence gathering”) as properly research although it may form part of your research project. Actually, the answer of this question is commonly the first step in the research process.

Unemployment rates of EU members as of October...

What Philip and Pugh consider research properly is usually headed by the particle “why” (also how). An example of this second question would be: “why do European northern countries register a lower unemployment rate than southern countries?” These questions go beyond descriptive research and require analysis or, in other words, they look for “explanations, relationships, comparisons, predictions, generalizations”. Therefore, the why question part of your research could lead you to work at the theoretical level (you can visit this link to understand what exactly mean theoretical level.

In short, below you can see synthetically the three components of any research question:

Interrogative particle + research idea or sub-branch + scope or organization involved = RESEARCH QUESTION

Ej.

What has been the unemployment rate in European Union throughout the last decade?

Why have northern European countries registered lower unemployment rate than southern countries?

 

References

Lewis, P., Saunders, M. N. K., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students Pearson.