Milestone 5: Research Question
Work with your chair to determine any specific instructions or guidance that he or she may have for you.
Although a good study has an umbrella question (purpose) that guides the research effort, most studies develop additional research question that fall beneath the larger umbrella question.
Let’s go back to our example. The umbrella question has been: “Do transformational leaders influence the ethical values and behaviors of followers?” The literature on transformational leaders notes four typical characteristics: motivational inspiration, idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration. Thus, we might propose as our research questions such inquiries as: Does motivational inspiration influence the ethics of followers? Does idealized influence affect the ethics of followers? Does intellectual stimulation influence the ethics of followers? Does individual consideration influence the ethics of followers?
Notice how each of the subquestions is consistent with the umbrella question. The umbrella question helps keep us on task. You will likely discover lots of questions in your review of the literature. But you need to stay focused on the purpose of your study. What are the significant questions that help give depth and breadth to your umbrella question? What are the research questions that could yield answers, helping you to solve the umbrella dilemma?
But, where do those sub (research) questions come from?
The short answer is—the literature. Everything needs to emerge from your review of current research. For example, will a particular research question start with the word “does,” “how,” “will,” “why,” or “when” (or any number of other question words)? You will need to figure that out based upon what you are concluding from the literature.
Sometimes, your research questions will lead to clear factors and possible relationships. That is, you might develop hypotheses. Sometimes, your research questions do not yield known factors. In other words, you do not have hypotheses.
As you can see, your topic, problem statement, purpose, and review of the literature is leading you to construct a theoretical frame from the literature to help you answer your umbrella question. Your literature review will lead to the foundational theories, research questions and/or research hypotheses.
Develop a set of research questions emerging from your dissertation work so far. For each question, briefly support why it was chosen and how the answer to this question relates to the purpose of your study. Also propose the expected outcome for each question. Where appropriate, develop research hypotheses based upon your research questions. You should also include a section on definition of terms, significance of the study (i.e., Why does it matter? How will it contribute to the literature? How will it help practitioners?) and limitations (i.e., potential weaknesses) of the study.
- Present the research questions/hypotheses, definition of key terms, significance of the study, and limitations in a 3- to 5-page paper (you do not need to include your full topic selection, problem statement, purpose, or literature review in the research questions paper. However, provide enough explanation and support that the rationale for your questions, hypotheses, etc., is clear).
- Use APA style in preparing your paper and citing references.
- Post the paper to the Milestone 5 Submissions Area.
- Notify your chair (e.g., e-mail) when you have submitted the topic paper.
Note: A successful dissertation requires self-directed behaviors. To successfully pass each dissertation course, you must successfully complete (pass) each milestone presented in the course materials. Additionally, you must complete the milestones in the order they are presented in the course. The tasks in some milestones may take you more than a week to complete. Finish each milestone before you move on to the next milestone. In your planning, also allow time for feedback from your dissertation chair/committee and revisions as part of completing each task.