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THE CRAFT OF RESEARCH, CH. 4 From Question to Problem
MOVING FORWARD TCOR it looks to draw the distinction between “Practical and Research Problems” (52). They point out here that what one is doing more than simply answering a question that needs to be solved, but rather researchers must be aware that their problem requires an answer that solves a problem with a solution aimed at their audience (52). This is where they want the researcher to pay closer attention to the significance of their topic.
PRACTICAL PROBLEMS WHAT SHOULD WE DO? The authors note that, “Everyday research usually begins not with dreaming up a topic to think about but with a practical problem that, if you ignore it, means trouble” (52). They provide the audience with a task breakdown to help illustrate:
PRACTICAL PROBLEM Moving forward, it is noted that, “Problems like that are in essence no different from more complicated ones”. An example from the book asks: § “The National Rifle Association [NRA] is lobbying me to oppose gun control. How many voted do I lose if I refuse? Do a survey. Most of my constituents support gun control. I can reject the request” (52). This example works by showing us that to solve a “practical problem” one has to first research the problem to better understand it. Once that is done, the understanding allows for a better, informed, decision.
THE BOOK PROVIDES A GRAPHIC TO HELP ILLUSTRATE:
ACADEMIC RESEARCH PROBLEMS WHAT SHOULD WE THINK? This section begins by offering a distinction between Practical and Academic Problems: “A practical problem is caused by some condition in the world [that] by doing something” we can change or alter it. This is in contrast to “academic research [ where the problem is] a conceptual [one that] arises when we simply do not understand something about the world as well as we would like. We solve a conceptual problem not by doing something to change the world but by answering a question that helps us understand it better” (53). With our Research papers, we are dealing with an academic research problem.
COMMON STRUCTURE OF PROBLEMS Both practical and conceptual problems have a two-part structure: § a situation or condition § undesirable consequences caused by that condition, costs that you (or your readers) don’t want to pay The distinction comes from the nature of those conditions and costs (54).
NATURE OF CONCEPTUAL PROBLEMS For us, we want to recognize that “The condition of a conceptual problem, however, is always some version of not knowing or not understanding something” (56). The “cost” for a conceptual problem centers around the consequence. “The consequence of a conceptual problem is a second thing that we don’t know or understand because we don’t understand the first one, and that is more significant, more consequential than the first” (57).
FINDING YOUR RESEARCH PROBLEM Steps to help you out: § Ask for Help § Look for Problems as You Read § Look at Your Own Conclusions § Learning to Work With Problems
EXERCISE In our last chapter and earlier we looked at answering THREE opening part questions to establish topic, reasons, and then significance. You were asked to answer them: § What are you writing about? (Topic) § What don’t you know or want to share with your audience? (Reasons) § Why you want your reader or think your reader should know about it? (Significance) We now want to compress those answers into ONE research question. Let’s do this by asking and formulating a question that asks TWO things: § Ask about the situation or condition under investigation (Name the TOPIC and the REASON, questions 1 and 2) § Ask what an audience might or can learn from the answer (SIGNIFICANCE) Formulate these 2 points into one question