Developing a viable research project proposal is an iterative process, usually requiring many attempts, even for experienced researchers. In Assignment 1 you identified a “real” research problem, worth spending time and effort to solve. The next challenge is to derive “researchable” questions from this problem, which can be answered using existing tools and techniques, and whose answers will contribute to the solution of the overall problem.
In this assignment you will derive three distinct research questions related to your re- search problem, explain how answering each question contributes to solving the problem, and explain how each question can be answered using existing principles. All of the teach- ing materials to date are relevant to this assignment, especially those from Weeks 4 and 5, as well as the practical “lessons learned” about developing concrete and answerable re- search questions in the tutorials.
In practice most first attempts at identifying a research problem produce a challenge which is much too big to solve easily. It thus becomes necessary to break the problem down by deriving several smaller, easily-answerable research questions from the broader research problem. Even narrowly-focussed research problems usually need to be broken into smaller questions, especially when resource limitations (time, staff and materials) for con- ducting the research are taken into account.
How much to write
You should write enough to make your argument clear and convincing, no more, no less. You will be assessed on the quality of your writing, not its quantity. Writing either too little or too much can obscure your argument. You will not receive high marks for an argument which is technically “correct” but which is hard to understand either because crucial con- cepts are missing or are hard to find.
In particular, the technical aspects of your argument must be easily comprehensible by a layperson. It should not be necessary for the reader to be an expert in the chosen technical field or domain to understand what you have written. Specialised terminology and abbre- viations should be explained clearly or, better yet, avoided altogether.
Similarly, you must cite publications as needed to support any claims you make concerning the importance or novelty of your research ideas, but no more. Extensive lists of general background reading are not helpful.
There is no fixed word limit for the document or a required number of references. None- theless, as a rough guide, we expect you will need about one to one-and-a-half pages to argue your case clearly for each of the three research questions, and around 4 or 5 references to support your claims for the significance of the research problem. (The markers will not count how many words you have written! The quality of your argumentation is the only important criterion, not how many words you generate.)
As per QUT policy, late submissions of assessment items will not be accepted. You must submit your solution to the task by the deadline shown above. The submission link on Blackboard will be disabled automatically once the deadline passes, unless you have an ap- proved extension from the Science and Engineering Faculty.
Your task is to convince the reader that:
1. You have identified an important, novel research problem worth investing time and resources to solve;
2. You have developed a strategy for solving the problem by identifying several specific, distinct research questions whose answers will contribute to the overall problem’s solution; and
3. You have identified ways in which the research questions can be answered in prac- tice, using contemporary tools and techniques and reasonable resources.
In order to convince the reader of these points your argumentation must be:
· Clear — Your writing must be easily understandable by a lay reader, avoiding un- common terminology and abbreviations.
· Concise — You must express your ideas efficiently, so that key points are not ob- scured by irrelevant material.
· Coherent — Your arguments and the conclusions you draw must be structured log- ically.
· Convincing — The overall “story” you tell must be compelling and believable.
Your submission document needs to include the following major sections and include the elements listed. You may choose to add subsections, but keep in mind the need to keep your writing concise and the overall document as short as possible. Your work will be marked on quality, not quantity.
1. Problem Statement
The quality of your research questions cannot be assessed in isolation, especially if your ideas have changed since completing Assignment 1, so in this section you must briefly re- state the overall research problem you want to solve. Normally this will be the same prob- lem you identified in Assignment 1, but it is expected that you will have significantly refined and improved your understanding of the problem since completing that assignment, so you should re-scope the problem as necessary.
To complete this section, in a paragraph or two:
· State clearly what the overall research problem is, in terms understandable by a lay reader. In doing so, define or identify the nature of the topic, issue, or area of con- cern as well as key terms or constructs used in the problem statement. In particular, any underlying assumptions about the nature of the problem should be detailed. In addition, the research problem must have a clear IT-related aspect.
· Explain briefly what is currently known or understood about this problem, citing peer-reviewed literature as appropriate.
· Explain why it is necessary to do research into solving this problem, especially by pointing to gaps in our current knowledge or understanding, using the literature to support your argument as necessary. The importance or value of solving the prob- lem must be made obvious. In addition, clearly state the new knowledge that will eventuate.
2. Research Questions
In this section you must identify three distinct research questions related to your overall problem. The three questions must be clearly different, each addressing a different aspect or perspective of the overall problem. To complete this section, for each of your three re- search questions:
· Clearly state the research question. Include any background or context necessary for the reader to understand the question on its own, e.g., to explain specialised ter- minology.
· Explain clearly in what way answering the research question would contribute to solving the research problem, e.g., by helping understand the nature of the problem, by helping identify the causes of the problem, by helping develop new ways of solv- ing the problem, etc. Be as specific as possible concerning the way the question’s answer will help solve the main problem.
· Explain clearly what new knowledge answering the question will produce. In other words, if we successfully answer the question, what will we have learned that we don’t currently know? This could be impacts, trends, relationships, correlations, causes, properties, attributes, capabilities, explanations, etc. Be as specific as possible regarding the new knowledge produced. In doing so, the limitations of what we can learn by addressing this question should also be made obvious.
· Briefly explain what methods, processes or techniques could be used to answer the question. You are not required to provide a detailed step-by-step methodology, but you must describe the approach and methods that would used the answer the re- search question. It must be obvious, e.g., experimental, quantitative, qualitative, ar- tefact-oriented, mixed method, that answering the question is feasible with contem- porary tools, techniques and resources. Cite previous successful research on the topic, if appropriate, to help justify your chosen approach. It must be made clear that the chosen method or methods are capable of providing a satisfactory answer to the question.
It is expected that around a paragraph of text will be needed to make each of the points above. Use strong topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph.
3. Question Comparison
In practice, time and resource constraints often mean that we can’t do all the research we would like, so we have to choose which parts of the research to prioritise. Having identified and developed three research questions relevant to your particular research problem, now assume that you only have sufficient resources to answer one of them. To choose which, you need to compare on contrast your questions and identify the question whose answer will be most valuable with respect to solving your original research problem.
To complete this section, in one or two paragraphs:
· Explain the potential for answering each of your questions and the research ad- vantages and disadvantages for each. Based on this comparison, identify which of your research questions has the most impact or significance for your research prob- lem, and why that is the case. In other words, if you were told you only had sufficient resources to answer one of the questions, explain which question you would choose and why.
Provide a list of all references cited in the previous sections in APA format. See QUT Cite- Write (search on library page, also available on blackboard) if you need assistance with this format. All the references you cite must be of high quality, typically as evidenced by peer review.
5. Reflective statement
As with assignment 1, you are expected to engage with the tasks each week leading to this assignment, and reflect upon the research process.
To complete this section, in 2-3 paragraphs:
· Write about your engagement with the research process thus far.
· Ensure that your statement includes your thoughts on how you engaged with: (a) the weekly tasks, (b) reflecting on the process of research, and (c) discussing your work within your tutorial group.
· Write from your personal point of view (in the first person) highlighting key pro- cesses which you found personally interesting and/or challenging.
· Reflect on the decisions that you made leading up to this assignment, and how you overcame any obstacles. Conclude your reflective statement with thoughts on how you might approach similar tasks in the future, identifying what you would keep the same, what you would change, and your reasoning behind these thoughts.
Expression and Presentation
In this assignment, to receive a high grade, you will need to ensure that you meet important aspects of presentation and written expression. Ensure that you:
· put your name, student number and title on the first page
· provide headings for the sections and match them to these instructions
· provide definitions for any technical terms
· check your spelling and grammar
· use APA referencing style
· submit as PDF
Inspired in part by:
Zina O’Leary. Researching Real-World Problems: A Guide to Methods of Inquiry. Sage Pub- lishing, 2006.