Just Tell Me What I Need To Know: Problem, Purpose, and Research Questions

I remember feeling frustrated and confused during my first year of the program. Like all I wanted was for someone to tell me what I needed to do!

People would speak in this very theoretical, heady way and had no idea what they were saying let alone meaning.

I just wanted someone to just tell me what I needed to know and do.

I understand that this is not as easy because there is no one way to do a thing and some people are just not good teachers.

Some things to remember:

  • I’m providing a starting point. This is not meant to be taken as the right way to write. It is intended to give you some guidance during a confusing process.
  • It is easier to edit an existing thing than to start from scratch. So…the goal is to write the worst draft ever! This is not about spending hours and hours making the perfect first sentence. Writing is a process. You will spend more hours editing than you think. So the goal is to have something to edit.
  • Show up with something! Always, always, always refer to the Graduate’s school guidelines, your program’s manual, and your advisor/chair. This guide is meant to give you something to show up with.

Part one is about how to write your problem statement, purpose statement, and research questions. For each section, I will provide:

  • A brief overview,
  • Questions or points to address,
  • A fill-in-the-blank guide, and
  • Examples (one I made up and two from published journals)

Let’s jump right in!

Research Problem

The research problem: the “why” of your study. The problem explains the history and context of why your study needs to be conducted. The problem statement should address such questions as:

  • What is going on?
  • What are some reasons that it may be happening?
  • Who does this effect?
  • What is being done about it?
  • What information is missing or needed to solve the problem?

Problem statement: (Existing literature), yet (this is missing).

Ex. Researchers have examined the experiences of first-generation college students at historically White institutions, yet there is little that is known regarding first-generation college students’ experiences at historically Black colleges and universities.

Ex. African American women tend to enroll in institutions of higher education at far greater rates than their male counterparts, with women accounting for approximately 60% of the total enrollment of African American students (Allen, Jayakumar, Griffin, Korn, & Hurtado, 2005). Yet, much of the African American college student literature that has explicitly explored gender has focused on African American men, often comparing them to the racial/ethnic counterparts or documenting their experiences at predominantly White institutions (PWIs; e.g., Bonner, 2010; Harper, 2008b, 2012; Harper & Griffin, 2011). [Greyerbiehl & Mitchell Jr., 2014, p. 282]

Ex. Some popular media outlets have described the importance of social media in sexual violence activism (Ludden, 2014), yet little scholarship has examined the role of social media in campus-based sexual violence activism (Linder, Myers, Riggle, & Lacy, 2016, p. 232).

Research Purpose

The research purpose is the “what’ of your study. The purpose clearly states the goal of your project. Your research problem informs your research purpose.

Think about it as a funnel. The problem section provides a broad overview of the issues. Your writing become more narrow as you get to the purpose statement. The goal is to have a concise statement that provides the reader an overview of your study. Think about a thesis statement. The purpose statement may also include information about the following:

  • Paradigm
  • Methodology
  • Central phenomenon
  • Participants
  • Research Site
  • Theoretical Framework

Purpose statement:

The purpose of this____________ (paradigm) (methodology) study is to _____________ (understand, explore, describe, develop) _____________ (central phenomenon) for _______________ (participants) at _____________ (the site).

Ex. The purpose of the critical narrative inquiry is to examine sense of belonging for first-generation college students at historically Black college and universities.

Ex. In this study, we documented the experiences of African American women involved in historically Black sororities at a PWI using an intersectional social capital framework (Greyerbiehl & Mitchell Jr., 2014, p. 282).

Ex. In this study, we examine the strategies of campus sexual violence activists, including the role of social media in sexual violence activism (Linder, Myers, Riggle, & Lacy, 2016, p. 232).

Side Note On Significance:

Providing a statement of significance is often overlooked by novice researchers because…well…simply, we just want to research what we want to research.

As great as that feels, it’s important to be clear about who this study is for and what they should do with the data. Your significance statement(s) may address:

  • So what?
  • Why are you doing this study?
  • How will this contribute to your field?
  • What are readers supposed to do as a result of reading your study?
  • Who are your ideal readers?

Ex. The findings and implications of this study may benefit practitioners at HBCUs to develop and maintain more intentional programming for first-generation college students, which may also increase retention rates.

Ex. In turn, researchers and practitioners may gain more insight on the experiences of African American women involved in historically Black sororities and build on the findings (Greyerbiehl & Mitchell Jr., 2014, p. 284).

Ex. Finally, we describe and discuss findings from our observations and interviews with sexual assault activists, and provide implications for those supporting campus-based activists (Linder, Myers, Riggle, & Lacy, 2016, p. 232).

Research Questions

Research questions help guide your study. There are different schools of thoughts about questions. Some will say it is the most important thing and that you should only look for information related to those questions.

My philosophy is that your questions provide boundaries to your study with a lot of wiggle room. You don’t know what you are going to find and you shouldn’t limit the possibilities. This comes down to paradigms and understandings of qualitative research. For the purposes of this workshop, we will develop one main research question.

Golden Rule: Always check with your advisor/chair regarding their specific expectations.

What are the experiences of ______________ (participants) who ____________ (central phenomenon) at _________ (the site)?

How do ______________ (participants) who ____________ (central phenomenon) at _________ (the site)?

Ex. How do first-generation college students experience sense of belonging at HBCUs?

Ex. The research questions for this study included: What are the strategies of campus sexual assault activists? What role did social media play in campus sexual assault activism? (Linder, Myers, Riggle, & Lacy, 2016, p. 235)

Ex. The following research questions shaped the study: (a) What are the experiences of African American women who joined historically Black sororities at a PWI? (b) How does the intersection of race and gender shape their experiences within historically Black sororities at a PWI? (Greyerbiehl & Mitchell Jr., 2014, 282)

There you have it, folks!

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Phenomenology or Narrative Inquiry Methodology?

A friend asked me to review their dissertation prospectus before their defense.

I provided feedback and told them some suggested changes. Their committee, however, did not agree with me about the methodology.

I took some time to reflect on the committee’s thoughts and to separate from my ego. After a few days, their decision bothered me.

I took personal offense. So much so that I decided to write a blog post about it.

This post is not about my friend per se. It’s about something I see so often. Everyone thinks they are completing a phenomenology research study. Phenomenology seems like the “go to” methodology for people who know NOTHING about qualitative research.

I will share excerpts for my friend’s prospectus. I have changed some things to protect the study and identity of my friend. This post is not about their writing or critiquing them. I am merely using this as an example to demonstrate a common occurrence.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to identify and describe the experiences of first generation Black undergraduate women at a small PWI. I plan to investigate the first generation Black undergraduate women’s experiences and explain how these first generation Black undergraduate women made sense of their experiences.

Rationale: This study has the potential to help increase retention rates and first generation Black undergraduate women student college enrollment. Additionally, this qualitative study will provide a body of literature undergraduates and college administrators can utilize to grasp a personal understanding of the first generation Black undergraduate women’s lived experiences.

This research is guided by the following questions:

  • What are the lived experiences of first generation Black undergraduate women at small predominately White institutions?
  • How do first generation Black undergraduate women make meaning of their identified experiences?

Theoretical Framework: Critical Race Theory and Black Feminist Thought

Paradigm: Critical Research Perspective

Methodology: Phenomenology

Methods: In-depth interviews, field notes, and observation

My initial thoughts: Your research design has inconsistencies with your paradigm and what you stated as your purpose. Discuss your identified methodology with your chair. It is incongruent with your purpose and the nature of phenomenology. Please see notes
listed throughout the paper.

IMO, the methodology should have been narrative inquiry because it is more consistent with the rest of the research design (i.e., purpose, research questions, theoretical framework). My friend’s committee disagreed. They concluded that phenomenology was absolutely the correct methodology and that the theoretical and conceptual (not included above) framework was inappropriate.

That ?? sh*t ?? don’t ?? make?? sense!

While I fully operate in feelings being my epistemology; I will make my point with proper ? citations.

All of the components of a research design is interconnected, nothing exists in isolation. Meaning, research questions, theoretical perspective, conceptual framework, methodology, and so on influences one another. There are reasoning and logic behind these things. Don’t just pick what sounds good without some thought and intentionality behind those decisions.

Phenomenology is not the appropriate methodology because it is not concurrent with the outlined purpose, questions, or theoretical framework.

First, let’s explore some definitions…


Methodology is “the study – the description, the explanation, and the justification-of methods, and not the methods themselves” (Kaplan, 1964, p. 18).

The primary focus of phenomenology is the essence of a particular phenomenon or lived experience and is rooted in constructivism. For those of you who like to just focus on the lived experience part, most qualitative research focuses on the lived experience! THERE ARE SEVERAL PHILOSOPHIES OF PHENOMENOLOGY. Meaning lived experience could mean different things.

“Points up the unique experience of each of us”
“Tends to resist the critical spirit”
Crotty, 1998, p. 58

However, let me back up. Most education research projects use hermeneutic phenomenology (even if you don’t explicitly say it). Hermeneutics is about the researcher’s understanding of a subject’s relationship to a particular object.

Now, I’m no expert, I just know how to read. And it is my understanding that to “do” phenomenology work, is to get at explanation/understanding/essence of a specific phenomenon.

“The very nature of a phenomenon, for that which makes a some-’thing’ what it is – and without which it could not be what it is” (van Manen, 1990, p. 10).

Phenomenology is less about the participants’ experiences and how they make meaning of that phenomenon and more about the essence of the phenomenon (if we had to choose between the two). The role of the participants is to help aid in context and understanding of the phenomenon.

ALSO, to truly do phenomenology research, one much engage in constant reflexivity through epoché and bracketing. If not these activities, then at the very least explicitly laying out your thoughts, assumptions, experiences, and beliefs about the phenomena. It is an ongoing activity that the researcher engages in to separate the phenomenon out from the researcher and participant.

Narrative Inquiry

Narrative inquiry, in short, is about stories and participants’ lived experiences. Additionally, it is ALSO about the histories and contexts that surround those stories. Meaning, narrative inquiry is about how the participant tells and understands their experiences AND how society, culture, and institutions shape those experiences.

Most will get hung up on the “storytelling” conflating methodology with methods.

Narrative inquiry is about the relationship that exists between the researcher and participant. The researcher is not separate (nor can separate) themselves from the process and/or stories. Both are an active participant in the meaning-making happening through storytelling.

Similar to phenomenology, the researcher must also state their thoughts, assumptions, experiences, and beliefs about the phenomena to inform instead of separating themselves from their telling of the phenomena.

Narrative inquiry has also been thought to be rooted in a constructivist perspective.

There are some overlaps between phenomenology and narrative inquiry.

The shifts are subtle and blatant; (both/and).

Phenomenology is about engaging in formalized processes of understanding a phenomenon and the contexts that influence that phenomenon by separating that phenomena from the persons researching and experiencing.

Narrative inquiry is about the person’s story (it’s context, the person telling it, and the person researching) – there is no separation; a dance an entanglement. It is reported through the story and connection of this – it’s about the phenomena, the context, and the people.

Back to the example…

The purpose and research questions place emphasis on the meaning-making of the lived experiences of first generation Black undergraduate women.

If it was about describing a concept of a phenomenon (i.e.,  college persistence, first generation college student) then I would say this is a phenomenology methodology.

That’s not how the study was framed.

My friend also made a point to state a critical perspective for their theoretical perspective and critical theories (i.e., CRT BFT) as their theoretical framework. They also place great emphasis on the women’s experiences. Placing emphasis on the participants themselves and not solely the phenomenon.

No right or wrong exist (IMO).

I’m sharing my opinion and my perspective I have and would have had in the defense or as my friends’ chair.

Going back to my opening statements, it comes down to how YOU define your terms, your research design, and the literature used to situate the design.


It comes down to:

  • What is your paradigm? How do you see the world? Describe your epistemology, ontology, and axiology. You have to know yourself.
  • What is guiding your understanding of methodology? Which theory/lens used in your methodology? How does your methodology provide justification for the methods being used?
  • Or vice versa, how do the methods collect the data that justifies or validates your methodology and paradigm? In other words, how do you know you are using the appropriate methods that will collect the data that corresponds with your understanding of the world – collecting what you intended to collect?

Based on the information provided, which methodology would you choose? I would love to know your thoughts!

Until next time!

Want helpful posts like this straight to your inbox?

Bowleg, L. (2017). Towards a critical health equity research stance: Why epistemology and methodology matter more than qualitative methods. Health Education & Behavior, 44(5), 677-684. doi: 10.1177/1090198117728760

Carter, S. M., & Little, M. (2007). Justifying knowledge, justifying method, taking action: Epistemologies, methodologies, and methods in qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research, 17, 1316-1328. doi:10.1177/1049732307306927

Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Kaplan, A. (1964). The conduct of inquiry: Methodology for behavioral science. San Francisco, CA: Chandler.

Katz. S. (2015). Qualitative-based methodology to teaching qualitative methodology in higher education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 27(3), 352-363.

Jones, S. R., Torres, V., & Arminio, J. (2014). Negotiating the complexities of qualitative research in higher education: Fundamentals elements and issues (2nd. ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Willig, C. (2013). Introducing qualitative research in psychology (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.


8 Steps To Writing A Qualitative Literature Review

Literature reviews are not the most exciting things to write (IMO).

I often get so lost in the reading and research that there is often no energy to actually write the review.

And exactly what are you supposed to put in a literature review?

Do you include EVERYTHING that has EVER been written on the subject?

What do you include? Leave out?

Do I need a conceptual framework? A theoretical framework? What’s the difference again?

It can all be so frustrating and irritating.

Let’s take a deep breath.

Today, I’m going to walk you through what to do.


In this post, I will:

  • Give an overview of literature reviews and the 3 main things you need to know.
  • Explain the difference between conceptual and theoretical frameworks.
  • Identify the 8 steps to take when writing a literature review.

Literature Review

A literature review should provide an overview of concepts that will be discussed in your study. It should better prepare the reader for your study and results. The literature review sets the context, the stage of your study.

Three things to consider when writing your literature review:

  1. Write a synthesized synopsis of current literature; not a list of everything that has ever been written about said subject.
  2. The review should include 3-5 important concepts the readers need to understand in order to be properly setup for your study and findings.
  3. Include any theories that you will use in data collection and data analysis.

Where people get confused is when the terms of conceptual framework and theoretical framework are used instead of the term, literature review.

Some Definitions

Concept (Constructs)- abstract or generalized idea about an object or phenomenon.

Ex – Activism, Self-Esteem, or Anxiety

Framework – a basic structure, boundaries, guidelines

Conceptual Framework provides a general structure of concepts that help inform the boundaries of your study. It is the 3 or 5 topics your readers need to understand in order to better understand your results.

Theoretical – concerning theory

Theoretical Framework:

  • Is there a particular theory that relates to your study that helps guide your individual understanding of your study, data collection methods, and/or data analysis? It generally provides an overview.
  • You may be applying to a specific context to see if you get similar results.
  • The theory (theories)  may also explain relationships between concepts.
  • The theory can be a part of your literature review or it can be separate. You will make the decision.

8 Steps To Writing Your Literature Review

I have identified 8 steps to follow when you are writing a literature review. I used this when completing chapter 2 for my dissertation. These steps helped me to write the most painful section of the dissertation.

  1. Get A System
  2. Gather Literature
  3. Read, Read, Take Notes, and Read Some More
  4. Outline The Mess
  5. Write It Out
  6. Include Theoretical Framework
  7. Send to Your Advisor and Celebrate
  8. Review Feedback and Go Back to Step 2

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Get A System

I think it’s helpful to figure out your organization system before you begin reading. This will help make life so much easier in the long run. You will be reading so much information and you may think that you will be able to keep everything in your head. At some point, it will become overwhelming and everything will just disappear out of your head.

I started off using Refworks and it just wasn’t working for me.

I would suggest a spreadsheet or a plain document where you begin your reference page.

The spreadsheet will track each thing that you read by it’s citation and any notes that you found while reading. You will see sections Primary Construct and Secondary Construct. Remember, construct = concept (see above for the definition). These sections will become imperative when you begin writing your literature review.

Here is an example of a spreadsheet you can use: https://goo.gl/NP2pNx

Here is an example of using a document. I used Evernote because I can have access to it wherever I go . Feel free to use whatever you are most comfortable with.

When using the document method, I also had a different document for each of my constructs.






What will you use to organize your literature?

Step 2 – Gather Literature

Find a reference librarian.

You will try to do this alone and ultimately you will come back to the first sentence.

Go find a reference librarian.

They LOVE searching for information and know all tricks and hacks to getting all of the articles.

Also, don’t be lazy. If an article does not have the pdf attached, order it through the interlibrary loan system. The article (or book) will come fast enough. Limiting yourself to just what you instantly have access to will severely hinder your literature review.

Figure Out Online Database

I would also suggest that you ask the reference librarian to give you a crash course on your school’s library’s online database system. You may have had a long presentation during orientation or your first class. Trust me, you want to go through it again. One-on-one training is so much different than class training.

Where To Save Documents

Save your pdfs and readings a specific place. I suggest Google Drive or Dropbox. Again, you can take it everywhere with you.  This also saves storage on your personal device.

Naming Documents

Additionally, how you name your documents is also important. One suggestion, 1st Author’s Last Name, Year, First few words of title (Ex. hooks.1992.BlackLooks). Organizing your documents by name will help make the search process easier later when you need to review a specific article.

Unlikely Places to Search

Lastly, it does not hurt to do a search on Google Scholar and Google. You never know what you may find.

Step 3 – Read, read, take notes, and read some more!

Read each article, book, or document.

Avoid the urge to highlight the entire article because you think it’s all important. It’s not.

When you are new, you think EVERYTHING is important. The authors are saying everything you want to say exactly the way you want to say it. This is especially true when you are new to research or the topic.

Here are few things to do:

  • Create two new word documents and label them Literature & Methodology.
  • The Literature document is where you will write down citations that you find when you are reading the introductions and literature reviews of the articles you have found. You will come back to this list and find these articles at a later time. This will help you avoid going down the rabbit holes and distractions.
  • The Methodology document is similar. You will write down any cool methods you find or methodologies that you may want to explore when you begin to write this section. Remember, come back to it later.
  • Focusing on one task at a time will help you be more efficient.
  • Pay special attention to findings and discussion sections of the articles. This information will inform your literature review.  
  • Most important: Give yourself a deadline. At this date, you will STOP reading and begin writing. You will write even if you have not finished reading. This is a process. There is no ultimate endpoint. Please refer to my last article (LINK). Reading is never done. However, if you never stop to write then you don’t progress. Fuck perfectionism, just write!
Step 4 – Outline The Mess

Picture of handout

  • What are the 3 – 5 topics that seem to come up over and over as you were reading?
    • Also, refer to your research questions for guidance and the terms you used when searching for materials.
    • These 3 -5 topics should be broad and still relate to your topic.
    • Example:  Evaluation of a Bystander Education Program
      1. Principles of Bystander Education
      2. Five-Step Model of Bystander Intervention
      3. Evidence to Support Bystander Interventions
    • Example:  The Comparative Impacts of Social Justice Educational Methods on Political Participation, Civic Engagement, and Multicultural Activism
      1. Service Learning
      2. Intergroup Dialogue
      3. Lecture-Based Diversity Course

  • For each concept, what are 3-5 things that are important to say about this?
    1. These are main ideas
    2. Repeat often throughout existing literature
    3. May also provide something contradictory to repeated points
    4. May not be as clear until after data collection and analysis
    5. How does this concept relate to your study?
    6. How does it fit/not fit for your study?
    7. Any critiques?

The outline does not have to be perfect. Just put whatever words come to mind. You can always change it later. It’s going to be okay.

Step 5 – Write It Out!

Begin to write your literature review following your outline.

  1. Start with your organizing sentences. Just used what you wrote on your outline for these sentences.
    • (Concept 1) is (Main Idea 1), (Main Idea 2), and (Main Idea 3). I will conclude with a critique of the current literature related to (Concept 1) and explain how (Concept 1) relates to my study.
  2. Brain dump everything you know about this topic.
  3. Read through the brain dump and organize it according to your first sentence.
  4. Edit the section for mechanics, word choice, etc.
  5. Go to the next section
  6. Remember: we are not trying to be perfect, just making progress
Step 6 (Bonus)- Theoretical Framework

Are there any theories that explain the relationship between concepts or that you will use in your study?

  • Provide an overview of the theory.
  • A concise explanation of major points (think elevator pitch).
  • Explain why it is relevant for your study – why are you using it?
Step 7 – Show to your advisor/major professor. Celebrate while you wait.

Step 8 – Review feedback and start back at step 2.

Want to know more?
Get your own copy to the Literature Review Guide!

4 Ways to Read More as a PhD Student

You get your new syllabi for the semester.

You’re all excited to see what books will be used, what assignments you will have to do, and how much the class is going to require from you.

However, you turn to the weekly view and see ALL THE READING that is required for this class.

How will you get it all done? #How Sway

The first thing I want to say is
Yes, I’m yelling!



This is usually the hardest lesson for most who are new to a Ph.D. program to learn.

More reading is assigned than is expected to actually be read.

Look at the list as providing you more options for understanding a concept. Many different viewpoints exist on a concept. No more are things as simple a right and wrong.

The whole point of getting a Ph.D., it is to teach (or show) you that you have your own viewpoints. The program through classes and research activities give you practice on how to articulate your viewpoints in a more informed matter. Informed by the voices of other people who have been deemed “experts” in your field. People such as old White men who wrote

something of the top of their heads a billion years ago (IMO).

The theory is the more you engaged with a concept from various viewpoints, the more you will be able to uncover your own viewpoint. However, a lot of people merely treat reading assignments as separate items on a weekly to-do list with no connection to each other.

But who has time for all of that reading? You have a billion other things you need to get done than to sit around thinking about thinking. Am I right or am I right?

Truth bomb: That’s exactly what you signed up for!

4 Ways to Read More

Either way, I understand that life is busy. There are a lot of things that need to get done. Today, I’m going to share with you some ways to navigate getting all of your reading completed.

Set aside 3 hours a day, every day for reading.

This is for my readers who want to read every word assigned. Especially if you are not a speed-reader, you are going to need a significant amount of time to get the reading done. Your number may be different than 3 hours; however, the more you get into it, the more accurate you can plan out reading. It would be helpful to make these three hours the same every day.

Why three hours?

Reading is more than words on a page. Notes about the meaning of these words strung together need to be made. You have to organize it in a way that will help you remember this information for later. Unless you a photographic memory you will no doubt have some mechanism like highlighting important points, writing notecards, writing in the margins, typing out notes and thoughts, or some combination of all. The more you read, the faster you will get and it will still take a considerate amount of time to get it all done.

Speed-Reading Hacks

When I want to read something to get an idea of what the authors are saying and I don’t want to read word-from-word, I use this hack. Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph.

If the authors are true academic writers, their manuscripts will give all the important information at the beginning and end of each chapter, sections, and/or paragraph. That’s what makes doing academic writing difficult, tedious, and boring to some. However, as a reader, it makes following along easier and more efficient.

I also had a friend who would read every other word. These hacks require that your mind stay in the moment and focused on what you are reading. As you will likely be going faster than you normally would go, you are going to need to focus more. I especially use this hack when reading articles.

Pick some and leave the rest.

Honestly, you can generally get an idea of the reading if you are paying attention to class discussion. Still, in order to be a participating member in that discussion, you have to do some reading. That does not mean all of the reading.

Look at the list for the week, what stands out to you? Are there titles or authors that grab your attention? Pick those and leave the rest. Now the ones that you pick, you are going to want to read them and be very familiar with them. These selected articles will be what you use to inform your comments in class. You can choose to read these words from word or using one of the reading hacks like the ones mentioned above. You may feel like you are somehow cheating however these are your own thoughts of wanting to be perfect. Perfectionism is a disease.

Group Notes

You can find a few people, I say no more than three people, who you trust. Each person reads their assigned readings, take notes, and shares it with the group. This is for those who are not comfortable with not reading everything and do not have time to read everything.

It is critical for everyone to set their own expectations. The discussion should address such questions as:

When will you assign readings (each week, beginning of the semester)?
How detailed should the notes be?
What should be included?
How will you make sure it is equitable? Not all titles are created equal.
When will the notes be due to the group by?
Where will said notes be kept?
If someone else wants access to the notes, how will that decision be made?

Going with the flow and skipping this conversation will cause headaches and frustration later. Even if you are all friends and deeply love each other, a discussion of expectations is needed.

You can download me!

There are four ways to attack your reading for the semester. How do you handle your reading? Is there anything from this article that you can take with you? Let me know in the comments.

How To Write A Research Question

First, figure out:

Topic: What is the general thing you want to talk about?

Problem: What issue will you research address?

Purpose: What will be the point of your research project and how does it connect to the problem?

Once you know those two things, then you can write your main research question. Some other things that you can do to figure out your first question:

  1. Get all of the thoughts out of your head. Take a brain dump, either writing, talking to someone, or recording yourself. You want to say or write everything that you are thinking in relation to your topic. This will help get clear and to focus down on your topic.
  2. Read existing literature. You have to know what has already been done regarding your topic. What have other people found? If there is nothing, what does that mean? WARNING: Please don’t get stuck here. Using reading as an excuse will hinder your progress. [CONNECT ARTICLE]
  3. What is your time frame and capacity with this project? How much time do you have? Is this a project that you can do alone or will you need others? There is more time to do more research projects, however, let’s get this one done first.

Need help writing your research question? Share it in the comments or email me at Marvette@marvettelacy.com and I’ll give you feedback on it.

Being Productive Has Nothing To Do With Being Busy

Getting shit done has nothing to do with the perfect to-do list or planner.

It has EVERYTHING to do with how you feel about you and why you do what you do.

Do you know your purpose in life?

Do you believe that you will and deserve to complete that purpose?

If the answer is YES to BOTH of those, the other shit will fall into place.

Everything comes into focus. It’s easier to prioritize the real shit from the bullshit. Your mindset shifts.

If the answer is no, answer these questions:

  1. Where do you currently spend time? What things are you doing? 
  2. Why do you spend time on these specific things? (No judgment, this is for your eyes only!)
  3. Who are you doing these things for? (Is it for you or for someone else?)

Take time with this last question. Seriously think about why you spend your time the way that you do. Are you really doing the things that YOU want to do?

The answers to these questions are the things you care about most. These things are your current purpose in life. 

Check in on the Facebook Group, to let us know any aha moments or questions that you have. Make sure you tag me @MarvetteLacy so that I can see it.

For the next post, we will build on the work you completed today and find out what’s really blocking you.

You Need To Read More

Do you hear this often?

You need to read more to better understand qualitative research.

When I first started, I felt like I read thousands of articles and was still confused. I would pay attention to what the researchers did, how they wrote their purposes statements and research questions. I would try to copy how they wrote (oops) and pass it off as my own. I didn’t know what I was doing, it’s no excuse though.

The problem with that is one, it’s plagiarism and two, it still does not get you any closer to understanding purpose statements and research questions.

The truth is that it is difficult to fully understand the research process when you haven’t done it before. Right now, it’s all theoretical.

You probably have read what you’re supposed to do in writing a proposal and it is just not translating on paper… or with your major professor.

Yes, reading is important for your learning; however, if you don’t know what to look for while reading than you will keep going down this road of confusion.

That’s why I created the Qual 101 virtual workshop.

During the Qual 101 virtual workshop, we will be discussing exactly what you need to look for when you are reading.

I will also help you to write your research proposal by explaining the necessary components needed.

I will walk you step-by-step on what each component is, why it is important, and how you can write it.

Research doesn’t have to be difficult and stressful.

It is actually fun!

Once you learn more, you will begin to enjoy it as well.

I would love to see you there on Saturday, September 9th.

Sign up here for more information about Qual 101

3 Things To Stop Doing In Qualitative Research

Here is a quick rant…

I’m going to make this short.

I’ve started this post at least 20 times trying to find the best way to write this in an approachable, non-judgmental manner. Didn’t find one and so I’m just going to write.

I will say that I have a list of things to stop doing that surpasses the three I describe below. I’m just going to start with these to take into account those of you who simply just don’t know, who are new to this, or somewhere in-between.

Here we go:

Qualitative research does not equal interviews.

Interviews are one option for data collection. Interviews are not exclusive to qualitative research. Therefore, let’s all agree that we will no longer say something like “because this is a qualitative research project, the researcher used interviews”. Some of you will not even acknowledge that you are intending to do a qualitative study; you just write that you did interviews.

Simply put: Qualitative research is a type of research; an interview is a type of data collection. Neither are a methodology. Which brings me to my next point.

There are other methodologies than phenomenology…and chances are your intended design isn’t a phenomenological study.

Those of who think this doesn’t apply to you because you do recognize the need for a methodology and only use phenomenology…Nope!

Phenomenology…is great. Especially those who understand it and can identify which type of phenomenology you are using. I rarely, if ever, see that identified though.

Phenomenology is not a catch-all for when you are unsure or too lazy to research methodologies. There are histories and theories attached to phenomenology.

You can also research other methodologies (narrative, case study, etc.). The methodology that you do choose should match with the rest of your design and who you are as the researcher.

If the researcher is the instrument, why is there no description of that instrument?

The researcher is the instrument in qualitative research. The researcher collects the data and analyzes the data. The researcher has a worldview, past experiences, and understandings that shape how that data is understood and used. As a result, the reader should know about the researcher (the instrument) in order to understand the research findings (results).

This requires the researcher to let us know who they are and how they see the world. Objective research does not exist. I need to know your experiences, assumptions, and expectations so I understand more how you reached your findings.

Just reporting the findings as if it is fact or obvious is not cute.

Want to know more? Click HERE to receive a quick checklist of what to include for qualitative research.