The research question
Before you start searching for information, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are exactly searching. Starting without a clear idea doesn't often lead you (or at least not quickly) to the right and reliable information. Defining the problem or research question saves you a lot of time and work, because you can effectively search for the wanted information. Ask yourself: what information do I want to find? Do I want to find general information about my topic, or am I looking into one specific aspect?
By thinking about the following questions, you can formulate a specific and well defined problem.
The most common problem with doing literature research isn't having too litlle information. It is having so much information that you digress from what you wanted to research. To increase the focus in your assignment, it helps to formulate a main research question. Your literature research aims to answer this central question.
Try to also think of sub questions. These sub questions help to answer the main research question.
A good research question comprises different, well-defined, measurable elements. A well-defined topic leads to a more precise research question.
Different types of problem definitions
Type of problem defintion
Example of how to formulate
Appropriate when you are looking into a new phenomenon. First the phenomenon need to be explored.
- What are key characteristics of x?
- What are the most important results of y?
|Explaining||When you try to find (causal) relations between different phenomena and developments, this is the right problem definition type.||
What are the causes of x?
What is the relation between x and y?
|Appropriate when you want to make evaluative statements about phenomena or measures||What is the value/quality/effect of x?|
|Advising||Aims to provide readers with advice on your research topic.||
Which measures are necessary to solve problem x?
How can y best be approached?
|Perscriptive||Aims to develop a better theoretical explanation or methodological approach of the research topic.||
How must x be executed?
Which steps are necessary for process y?
What policy needs to be in place in regards to z?
Janssen, D. (2012). Zakelijke communicatie voor professionals. Groningen: Noordhoff.
Müller, E. (2005). Het schrijven van een probleemstelling volgens de Schijf van Vijf. Geraadpleegd op 29 mei 2019, van https://students.uu.nl/sites/default/files/ gw_algemeen_schijf_van_vijf.pdf .