Concise Analysis of Research Questions Variables and Types of Data Essay

Pages: 3 (1428 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Education  ·  Written: February 22, 2017

Fundamentally, a correlational question assumes that a relationship exists between variables. This is one of the major strengths of correlational research questions -- they not only describe variables, but also establish relationships between variables (Bryman, 2008). In this case, for instance, some 10th grade students may score poorly in Mathematics due to their socioeconomic background -- due to poverty, their home environments may not have sufficient physical, psychological, and academic resources to support their learning. Nonetheless, it is important to note that association may not necessarily mean causation (Bryman, 2008). This is one of the major limitations of correlational research questions -- they do not necessarily explain causality. In this case, for instance, even if correlation between academic scores and socioeconomic background may be found, socioeconomic background may not necessarily be the cause of lower achievement level.

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The problem of causality is addressed by causal research questions, meaning that causal research questions provide greater understanding of the research problem compared to descriptive and research questions. In causal research questions, the researcher essentially seeks to establish causal (cause-and-effect) relationships between two or more variables in one or more groups (Burton, Brundrett & Jones, 2008). This is often achieved via experimental or quasi-experimental studies such as randomized controlled trials. An example of a causal research question would be: What is the relationship between teaching quality and achievement level in Mathematics amongst 10th students? This question indicates that achievement in Mathematics may be as a result of the quality of teaching as opposed to just socioeconomic background.

Essay on A Concise Analysis of Research Questions Variables and Types of Data Assignment

While causal research questions provide better explanation of the research problem compared to descriptive and correlational research questions, a number of weaknesses cannot be ignored. First, coincidences may at times be interpreted as cause-and-effect relationships (Burton, Brundrett & Jones, 2008). Also, reaching objective conclusions can be quite difficult as the research problem may be affected by multiple variables in the social environment (Bryman, 2008). In other words, whereas causality may be established, it may not be proved with absolute certainty. For instance, academic achievement may be predicted by other factors in the social environment other than just teaching quality such as peer pressure, curriculum, and parental support.

Quantitative research questions differ from qualitative research questions. While the former seek to reach objective conclusions, the latter seek to reach subjective conclusions (Bryman, 2008). In other words, the researcher seeks to understand individual or contextual interpretations of the research phenomenon. This premise influences the character of qualitative research questions. Instead of words like cause, influence, impact, relate, and effect, qualitative research questions are formulated using words like "how" or "what". This implies that the researcher seeks to describe, identify, explore, or discover the research problem. These exploratory verbs inform the reader what the study will do. It is particularly important to avoid starting a qualitative research question with the word "why" as this implies that researcher seeks to explain a relationship, which is a characteristic of quantitative research (Burton, Brundrett & Jones, 2008). For instance, the researcher may use an ethnographic design to explore how 10th grade students perceive Mathematics.

Dissimilar to quantitative research questions, qualitative research questions do not have to be formulated with reference to extant literature. This means that the researcher uses open-ended questions. Furthermore, the questions may change in the course of the study (Blaxter, Hughes & Tight, 2006). Indeed, in qualitative research, the researcher continually reviews and reformulates the research question.

Overall, the type and character of the research question determines the design the researcher adopts in conducting the research. It determines the variables the researcher will focus on as well as how data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted. Proper formulation of the research question is, therefore, important for success in research.


Blaxter, L., Hughes, C., & Tight, M. (2006). How to research. 3rd edition. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Briggs, A., Coleman, M., & Morrison, M. (2012). Research Methods in Educational Leadership & Management. 3rd Edition. London: Sage.

Bryman, A. (2008). Social research methods. 3rd edition. Buckingham: Open University Press.

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