Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Research question defining steps

The web-based survey and analysis platform, Qualtrix, has a great post that provides four steps for people to use in constructing a robust research question. Those steps are:
  1. Observe/identify: the first step is always to "sift through the [many] inputs and discover the higher-level trends that are worth the investment of resources" (Scott, 19 July 2019), via a literature review, a gap analysis, a design brief or a tender, or a series of preliminary project scoping interviews. Scott notes that pilot studies can help determine which avenues or methods are likely to be the most fruitful (19 July 2019).
  2. Review key factors: this next step requires us to evaluate all information, and refine from a more in-depth literature and industry review, perhaps using a macro-environmental - PESTEL - analysis (Kotler, 1991; read more on this here), and starting to consider how we might collect the data we need to answer the question, and whether the effort is going to be worth the potential return (Scott, 19 July 2019). As we are now thinking about methodology and methods, we can also start to consider the likely biases, assumptions and limitations that will arise. Scott (19 July 2019) also suggests that the following four factors should be considered at this stage:
    • "which factors affect the solution to the research problem"

    • "which ones can be controlled and used for the purposes of the company, and to what extent"
    • "the functional relationships between the factors"
    • "which ones are critical to the solution [to] the research problem".
  3. Prioritise: we now have a lot of information, and need to sift our findings and decide on what we MUST have to answer our research question, versus what is nice to have. The 'nice to haves' get put aside for a later project. Again, Scott suggests we ask ourselves some questions at this stage:
    • Who? Who are the people with the problem? Are they end-users, stakeholders, teams within your business? Have you validated the information to see what the scale of the problem is?
    • What? What is its nature and what is the supporting evidence?
    • Why? What is the business case for solving the problem? How will it help?
    • Where? How does the problem manifest and where is it observed?
  4. Align: this is where we discuss, debate and decide with all stakeholders. We clarify the project rationale. Funnily enough, although this is the shortest section, it often takes the longest time, as the people who have not been involved in steps 1 to 3 now have to be persuaded to the 'logical' step 4 alignment of proposed action. Once we collectively decide, we write the brief, outlining what we aim to determine, and ensure that everyone is aligned with the agreed project outcomes. 
Then we detail the project planning, controls, milestoning and deadlines. We are now ready to start.



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