Question Selection

The last 2 posts are quite reassuring: I’m struggling with question selection as well, and it’s nice to hear that so are you.

Can I get some advice about this research direction? A reading I did for another course (1310 Reference Services — some of you are in it with me?) mentioned virtual reference — that despite much hype, it’s used much less in academic and public libraries than traditional reference services. That surprised me. I suspect that, if reference services in libraries is going to survive in the search engine age, virtual service must be used and liked by users. So, I thought I could design a study investigating why ppl (especially in public libraries — I’m more interested in them) do or do not use this service and maybe what can be done to up that usage.

The problem I’m having is that there is quite a bit of research out there around this issue, so I’m struggling with pinpointing an exact question that needs answering. Is it ok to slightly change my research question as I discover literature that answers it in part, but leaves something to be asked?

What do you guys think?



3 thoughts on “Question Selection

  1. Brett Phillipson

    I think it’s not only acceptable to change your research question as you work, but that it may well be something to be expected. I think Luker definitely accounts for that when she says that “the research question often reveals itself at the end, or close to the end, of the research.” (p. 61) Obviously it’s a good idea (as she argues) to come up with one early, in order to focus your research, but to expect it to stay static as you learn more about a topic? That makes no sense at all.

    On an unrelated note, has anyone here been doing the exercises that Luker proposes at the end of each chapter? I’ve been doing them mentally, but not in writing – which is really just a way of saying that I haven’t really been doing them. I think I should probably start, though. They sound like they’d be useful. I was just initially put off by the first one, because if I wrote for 15 minutes straight I’d come up with a useless 3-4 page wall of text.

    1. miloanderson

      I have found the Luker exercises to be very helpful — I think she’s right that it’s the writing itself that changes the way we think about things. Our minds tend to gloss over details when we just think about an idea we have, but often we skip those details because they’re ill-defined or complicated or unfamiliar — and therein could be just the thing that needs further exploration, the question we’ve been looking for.

      In my introductory post I mentioned my interest in elite signalling and public opinion. My first daisy diagram had three elements: ICT (information & communication technology), psychology, and political science. I then realized it’s possible to get more specific and started adding things like group dynamics, economics, etc. It clarified my thinking a bit and made me realize that probably what I’m really interested in is how changing ICT has reshuffled our perceived communities, and as a result perhaps changed our socially-constructed sense of ourselves in subtle ways. So the real issue is the intersection of communities and communication, of which I’m sure much has been written.

      Hannah, in answer to your question, it seems to me like we would have to do some preliminary research to have any way of talking about our question or its relevance. I haven’t taken that step yet myself, but I assume we’ll be getting some more explicit guidance on that soon.

      Actually, as I look over the syllabus it is a little alarming that our SSHRC application is due in two weeks, and that it must include our research question, as well as our methodology and a description of our project’s relevance. I can only assume we’ll be talking about this more tomorrow.

  2. Jordan

    I’m having the research question problem too. And part of it is that I keep putting off thinking about a questions because I think that once the pressure sets in, a dazzling, insightful question will pop into my head. Part of what’s been so paralyzing is that, in my mind, I actually have to come up with a full, well-researched paper by the end of term rather than just a proposal. I keep imagining myself pulling on the latex gloves and safety goggles. I mean, we have to think of what we’d say if we had to write the paper, and find what resources we would want to use, which is almost the hard part of writing a paper, but we don’t have to engage in the theory building or verification that Luker talks about (at least not in this course). We still get to end whatever we come up with with a question mark, which is nice.

    And I’ve been really bad about doing the Luker exercises. I keep thinking that I’ll do them later. Maybe they’ll help me out when I’m sitting down to write the proposal assignments. Any excuse I can use to not do them and still reassure myself that I’ve had the benefit of doing them.


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