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Research Method in
Associate Professor Dr. Lay Yoon Fah
Faculty of Psychology and Education
Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Selecting and Defining a
Research Topic
Identifying a Research Topic
1.The first step in selecting a research topic is to identify a
general subject that is related to your area of expertise and is of
particular interest of you.
2. The five main sources of research topics are theories, personal
experiences, previous studies that can be replicated, electronic
mailing lists, and library searchers.
3. Theories are organized bodies of concepts, generalizations, and
principles. Researchers often study particular aspects of a theory
to determine its applicability or generalizability.
4. A researchers personal experiences and concerns often lead to
useful and personally rewarding studies. Common questions, such
as Why does that happen? and What would happen if ? can
be rich topic sources.
5. Existing studies are a common source of research topics.
Replication of a study usually involves changing some feature
from the original study.
Identifying a Research Topic
6. Library searches are generally not efficient ways to identify
research topics. Handbooks, encyclopedias, and yearbooks that
cover many topics briefly are more useful. Library resources are
invaluable, however, after you have identified a topic to study.
7. Electronic mailing list services are designed by organizations to
facilitate communication (usually via the Internet) among their
members. Other digital tools such as RSS feeds, Facebook,
Twitter, and Blogs keep researchers updated on what others are
8. After an initial topic is identified, it often needs to be
narrowed and focused into a manageable topic to study.
9. Quantitative research topics are usually narrowed quickly at
the start of a study. Qualitative research topics are not usually
narrowed until the researcher has more information about the
participants and their setting.
Identifying a Research Topic
10. Two basic characteristics of a good research topic are that it
is of interest to the researcher and that it is researchable using
the collection and analysis of data. Topics related to philosophical
and ethical issues (i.e., should questions) are not researchable.
11. A good topic has theoretical or practical significance; its
solution contributes in some way to improving the educational
12. A good topic is one that is ethical and does not harm
participants in any way.
13. A good topic for you must be a topic that can be adequately
investigated given your current level of research skill, available
resources, and time and other restrictions.
14. The topic statement is the first item in the introduction to a
research plan and the introduction to the final research report. It
provides direction for the remaining aspects of both.
Identifying a Research Topic
15. A well-written topic statement for a quantitative study
generally indicates the variables of interest, the specific relations
among those variables, and, ideally, the characteristics of the
participants. Qualitative research topics usually are stated in
general language because qualitative researchers need to become
attuned to the research context before narrowing their topic.
16. Developing research questions breathes life into the research
topic statements.
17. The research questions add another level of specificity to the
development of the research topic and provide the researcher
with an action plan for the development and identification of
research instruments.
Formulating and Stating a Hypothesis
1. A hypothesis is a researchers prediction of the research
2. Researchers do not set out to prove a hypothesis but rather
collect data that either support or do not support it.
3. A hypothesis in a quantitative study is formulated based on
theory or on knowledge gained while reviewing the related
4. A critical characteristic of a good hypothesis is that it is based
on a sound rationale. A hypothesis is a reasoned prediction, not a
wild guess. It is a tentative but rational explanation for the
predicted outcome.
5. A good hypothesis states clearly and concisely the expected
relations or differences between variables. Variables should be
stated in measurable terms.
6. A well-stated and well-defined hypothesis must be testable.
Formulating and Stating a Hypothesis
7. An inductive hypothesis is a generalization made from a
number of observations. A deductive hypothesis is derived from
theory and is aimed at providing evidence that supports, expands,
or contradicts aspects of a given theory.
8. A research hypothesis states the expected relation or
difference between variables, which the researcher expects to
test through the collection and analysis of data.
9. A non-directional hypothesis predicts only that a relation or
difference exists, a directional hypothesis indicates the direction
of the difference as well. A null hypothesis predicts that there is
no significant relation or difference between variables.
10. A general paradigm, or model, for stating hypotheses for
experimental study is P who get X do better on Y than P who do
not get X (or get some other X). P refers to participants, X refers
to the treatment or independent variable (IV), and Y refers to the
outcome or dependent variable (DV).
Formulating and Stating a Hypothesis
11. The researcher selects the sample, measuring instruments,
design, and procedures that will enable him or her to collect the
data necessary to test the hypothesis. Those data are analysed to
determine whether or not the hypothesis is supported.
12. Typically, qualitative researchers do not state formal
hypotheses prior to the study. However, a qualitative researcher
may develop guiding hypotheses for the proposed research.
13. Having identified a guiding hypothesis, the qualitative
researcher may operationalize the hypothesis through the
development of research questions that provide a focus for data
collection. Qualitative researchers are likely to generate new
hypotheses as a result of their studies.