Focusing Your Literature Review
A clearly focused research question is vital in setting the parameters for a literature review. Considerable thought and time need to go into drafting a research question.
This is because it is the anchor for your research and sets the parameters for your literature review.
The diagram on slide 3 explains how the research question is so pivotal.
Everything else in your research hinges on your research question. The research question:
- defines your proposal,
- guides your argument and inquiry, and
- frames your approach to the research.
Because of its pivotal role, it is worth making an effort to refine the research question – brainstorming, researching, and conceptualising it.
Be attentive to each word to develop a precise, focused and engaging research question.
Here are some points to consider in formulating your research question:
- Give yourself time to refine the question
What drew you to your topic in the first place?
Precisely what do you want to find out?
- Read and talk to people
What have others said about your topic?
Has this study been done before? If so, is there room for improvement?
What gaps, contradictions, and concerns arise as you read and talk about this?
Do you know the field and its literature well?
- Start with a rough, provisional question
Use a scrap book or big sheet of paper to draft your question over time (get things down, rather than just keeping ideas in your head).
Here are some more points to consider in formulating your research question:
- A good research question will pass the ‘so what?’ test
What is the benefit of your research question?
Is the timing right for this question to be answered? Is it a ‘hot topic’ or becoming obsolete?
- A strong research question is neither too broad nor too narrow
Is this research “doable” given the resources you have available (time, funding, support, ethical concerns, etc.)?
A strong research question should be evocative, relevant, clear, and researchable.
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