Got a great handout a while back that I stumbled over today, hopefully it’s as helpful to you as it was to me. Here are the steps for writing good (mass communication of course) qualitative research questions:
Specify the research problem: the practical issue that leads to a need for your study.
Complete these sentences:
- “The topic for this study will be…”
- “This study needs to be conducted because…”
How to write a good qualitative purpose statement: a statement that provides the major objective or intent or roadmap to the study. Fulfill the following criteria:
- Single sentence
- Include the purpose of the study
- Include the central phenomenon
- Use qualitative words e.g. explore, understand, discover
- Note the participants (if any)
- State the research site
A good place to start: The purpose of this ______________ (narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnographic, case, etc.) study is (was? will be?) will be to ____________ (understand, describe, develop, discover) the _____________ (central phenomenon of the study) for ______________ (the participants) at (the site). At this stage in the research, the ___________ (central phenomenon) will be generally defined as ____________ (a general definition of the central concept).
Research questions serve to narrow the purpose. There are two types:
- The most general questions you could ask
- Subdivides central question into more specific topical questions
- Limited number
Use good qualitative wording for these questions.
- Begin with words such as “how” or “what”
- Tell the reader what you are attempting to “discover,” “generate,” “explore,” “identify,” or “describe”
- Ask “what happened?” to help craft your description
- Ask “what was the meaning to people of what happened?” to understand your results
- Ask “what happened over time?” to explore the process
Avoid words such as: relate, influence, impact, effect, cause
Scripts to help design qualitative central and sub-questions:
Central question script (usually use only one):
- “What does it mean to _________________ (central phenomenon)?”
- “How would ______________ (participants) describe (central phenomenon)?”
- “What _________ (aspect) does __________ (participant) engage in as a _____________ (central phenomenon)?”
- Cresswell. J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
- Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. Principles of qualitative research: Designing a qualitative study. You can download the entire document here.