The Deductive Research Question and Literature Review

The Deductive Research Question and Literature Review

Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8116-3.ch002


In this chapter, students will learn the process of developing a deductive research question. The social science process, and by virtue the methods that are employed as part of a research study, stem from the structure and nature of the research question. This chapter provides a step-by-step account of how to generate a scientifically valid deductive question. The concept and structuring of a hypothesis that is linked to a research question is also discussed. The second portion of the chapter is devoted to explaining how to complete a literature review that is relevant to your research question and hypothesis.
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Crafting A “Researchable” Research Question

The formal research question is the basis for the entire research project. Everything that goes into a research project stems from the research question. The literature review, the methodology employed, and the empirical tool or tools that will be used all stem from the nature and structure of the research question. Given this, the general structure and how to formulate a “researchable” deductive research question needs to be discussed.

First and foremost, all questions are not research questions. Simply because a line of text has a question mark at the end does not mean that one has formulated a valid social science research question. One of the most common mistakes students make when transitioning from broad topic ideas to a deductive social science research question is being too normative. By normative I mean any question that is value laden. Any question that makes social judgments or any question that is steeped in social morality is, more often than not, normative in nature. Normative question typically begin with “should.” For example:

  • “Should the government give money to lending institutions that made bad loans?”

  • “Should children be forced to reduce their exposure to violent video games for fear of increased aggressive behavior?”

These questions are inherently normative because they are steeped in values.

The simplest way for a student to formulate a deductive research question is to ensure that the question has an identifiable relationship. By relationship, I mean this: “something” impacts “something else.” In other words, “x” impacts “y.” If you can transition from a broader topic to a specific question where there is an identifiable relationship, you can be reasonably confident that you have a deductive research question from which a methodology to answer that question can be developed. Questions that have identifiable relationships might be implicitly value-laden, but their structure allows for the cultivation of an objectively valid social scientific research method to answer that question. See Figure 1 below.

Figure 1.

Generating a deductive research question

Transitioning from a broader topic to a specific research question may seem daunting at first. There is, however, a relatively straightforward way of doing this. Consider my interest in “student performance” given that I am a professor. Given that I teach research methods, I am interested in student performance as it pertains to research methods courses. This serves as my broader research topic. Now, how I would transition from a broader topic to a specific deductive research question is take the idea of student performance in research methods courses and make this one half of the “something impacts something else” equation. In other words, if a deductive research question requires a clearly defined relationship where “something” (the “x” part of this equation) impacts “something else” (the “y” part of this equation), then what I would do is make student performance either the “x” or the “y.” I would think of my research question as having two distinct possibilities:

  • 1.

    Student performance in research methods impacts something else, where student performance is the “x” of my deductive research question equation and the something else is the “y.”

  • 2.

    Something else impacts student performance, where the “x” is the something else and the “y” is student performance.

Either approach is fine. The key is to identify the missing part of the equation. In the case of scenario number one, a student would have to think about what performance in a research methods course might impact, while in scenario two the student would have to think about what might impact one’s performance in research methods.

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