Research Writing

What are guiding questions How to start Methods for defining

The guiding questions, or research questions, help the student to develop the entire course conclusion work or scientific article. It is born out of curiosity, out of concern, and serves as a stimulus to carry out the study.

The research question, also known as the problem , corresponds to the information need.

What is a research guiding question?

The guiding question is some uncertainty or doubt that the researcher has and wants to solve through his study. In other words, it is a gap expressed in question form to guide all development.

A clear and well-defined question makes all the difference in the investigation process. It saves time in the search process, keeps the need in focus, and facilitates critical evaluation .

How to start a leading question?

Before elaborating a research question, it is necessary to investigate some sources of information to have prior knowledge on the subject. In addition, it is also essential to observe reality.

Faced with the analysis of other existing studies, you should not settle down. It is important to maintain skepticism in academia to seek new answers .

Methods for defining the guiding question

There are some techniques you can use to define the guiding question of the TCC more precisely. Check out:

PEAK Strategy

PICO is an acronym and each of the letters represents an item that needs to be included in the research question.

The PICO method is often used in clinical research, mainly because of item C, which concerns the creation of a comparative parameter. However, it can also be applied in other areas of knowledge.

  • P – Population or problem
  • I – Intervention
  • C – Control
  • O – Outcome

Practical example:

Isadora studies Pedagogy and decided to analyze whether the use of digital games is effective in Elementary School I students’ learning. To define her guiding question, she applied the PICO method as follows:

  • P – Students of Elementary School I
  • I – Use of digital games
  • C – Compare with students from another class who do not use these learning resources.
  • O – Did the school grades improve or not?

Guiding question: Is the use of digital games effective or not to improve the grades of elementary school students?

PICOT Strategy

The PICO strategy can consider another item, Time, represented by the letter T. Thus, the intervention period is taken into account as a type of design and the acronym PICOT is used.

  • P – Population or problem
  • I – Intervention
  • C – Control
  • O – Outcome
  • T – Intervention time

Practical example: Leandro is interested in the topic “social phobia” and decided to carry out a survey. He selected a sample of patients who suffer from the problem and is going to apply the technique of psychodynamic group therapy during the period of six months. After that time, Leandro wants to compare the results obtained with patients treated only with medication.

  • P – Patients with social phobia in São Paulo
  • I – Psychodynamic Group Therapy
  • C – Pharmacotherapy
  • O – To verify the effectiveness of psychodynamic treatment in a group of patients with social phobia
  • T – six months

Guiding question: Is psychodynamic patient group therapy effective in the treatment of social phobia?

PVO Strategy

Some research proposals have neither intervention nor control. In this case, the recommendation is to use another method to find the issue, called PVO. This method is frequently used in exploratory  systematic review papers.

  • P – Population or research problem
  • V – Variables (if any)
  • O – Outcome

Practical example: Carlos is a final year engineering student and is doing his final course. He wants to find out if a certain type of concrete is better than another in the construction of a building, as far as resistance to winds is concerned.

  • Q – The use of concrete to construct a building
  • V – Winds
  • O – Is the building likely to fall or not?

Guiding question: How can the structure of the building be affected if concrete X is used in construction and not concrete Y?

Practical example 2: Luciana studies Psychology and wants to write a scientific article . She decided to investigate what are the best clinical psychology practices to treat children of narcissistic mothers who face psychological distress.

  • P – Psychic suffering caused by living with a narcissistic mother
  • V – Role of the psychologist
  • O – To identify practices to treat the psychic suffering generated by the relationship with a narcissistic mother.

Guiding question: Which clinical psychology practices are effective for treating psychological distress caused by the relationship with a narcissistic mother?

FINER Strategy

The FINER acronym verifies that the guiding question has the basic characteristics of a good research question. The method should only be applied after you formulate the problem.

F – Doable (Is it doable?)

Check if the number of subjects that make up the sample is adequate, if you have technical expertise for the chosen theme and see if there is time and money available to carry out the proposed study.

I – Interesting

Different motivations lead a researcher to choose a research question, such as the possibility of obtaining financial support and interest from their mentors.

N – New 

Does your research provide new findings for the field of knowledge? Does it propose any innovation or change?

E – Ethical

Is the research suitable for submission to an ethics committee? Check the guidelines and required documents.

R – Relevant

A relevant study is one that makes sense not only for the researcher, but also for society and the area of ​​knowledge in which he is inserted. In addition, the work should be able to provide direction for future research.

By applying the presented techniques, you can define the guiding research question more quickly and with quality.

I have already defined the guiding question. And now?

With the guiding research question defined and validated with the advisor , you can now create search strategies to explore the databases. For this work, identify the main terms or significant words related to the study that will be developed. The question itself provides this information. See the question below:

Is consumption of flaxseed (flax seed) effective in reducing cholesterol levels in adults ?

When using a database, as is the case with the VHL , look for the terms underlined as follows:

Cholesterol AND linseed or “flax seed oil“ or “flax seed”

By doing this, you are telling the search engine that you want to find scientific publications that address the topics of cholesterol and flaxseed or flaxseed.

And and Or are Boolean operators that help to better filter the results.

After defining the question and finding reliable sources of information, it is time to think about the method (type of study, location and period, sample size, data collection and data analysis).

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