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Writing Research Questions

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In addition, awareness of current trends and technological advances can assist with the development of research questions. Indeed, some granting institutions e. In-depth knowledge about a subject may generate a number of questions. It then becomes necessary to ask whether these questions can be answered through one study or if more than one study needed. Any additional questions should never compromise the primary question because it is the primary research question that forms the basis of the hypothesis and study objectives.

It must be kept in mind that within the scope of one study, the presence of a number of research questions will affect and potentially increase the complexity of both the study design and subsequent statistical analyses, not to mention the actual feasibility of answering every question. Hulley and colleagues 2 have suggested the use of the FINER criteria in the development of a good research question Box 1.

The FINER criteria highlight useful points that may increase the chances of developing a successful research project. A good research question should specify the population of interest, be of interest to the scientific community and potentially to the public, have clinical relevance and further current knowledge in the field and of course be compliant with the standards of ethical boards and national research standards.

Adapted with permission from Wolters Kluwer Health. Whereas the FINER criteria outline the important aspects of the question in general, a useful format to use in the development of a specific research question is the PICO format — consider the population P of interest, the intervention I being studied, the comparison C group or to what is the intervention being compared and the outcome of interest O.

Knowing the specific population of interest, intervention and comparator and outcome of interest may also help the researcher identify an appropriate outcome measurement tool. Conversely, a broadly defined study population and inclusion criteria may be representative of practical clinical practice but may increase bias and reduce the internal validity of the study.

A poorly devised research question may affect the choice of study design, potentially lead to futile situations and, thus, hamper the chance of determining anything of clinical significance, which will then affect the potential for publication.

Without devoting appropriate resources to developing the research question, the quality of the study and subsequent results may be compromised.

During the initial stages of any research study, it is therefore imperative to formulate a research question that is both clinically relevant and answerable. The primary research question should be driven by the hypothesis rather than the data. This sounds intuitive; however, if we take, for example, a database of information, it is potentially possible to perform multiple statistical comparisons of groups within the database to find a statistically significant association.

Multiple statistical testing of associations from data previously collected could potentially lead to spuriously positive findings of association through chance alone.

The research or clinical hypothesis is developed from the research question and then the main elements of the study — sampling strategy, intervention if applicable , comparison and outcome variables — are summarized in a form that establishes the basis for testing, statistical and ultimately clinical significance. The investigative team would first state a research hypothesis. This could be expressed as a single outcome e. The null hypothesis for the preceding research hypothesis then would be that there is no difference in mean functional outcome between the computer-assisted insertion and free-hand placement techniques.

After forming the null hypothesis, the researchers would form an alternate hypothesis stating the nature of the difference, if it should appear. The alternate hypothesis would be that there is a difference in mean functional outcome between these techniques. At the end of the study, the null hypothesis is then tested statistically. If the findings of the study are not statistically significant i.

In other words, hypothesis testing confirms or refutes the statement that the observed findings did not occur by chance alone but rather occurred because there was a true difference in outcomes between these surgical procedures. The concept of statistical hypothesis testing is complex, and the details are beyond the scope of this article. Another important concept inherent in hypothesis testing is whether the hypotheses will be 1-sided or 2-sided. A 2-sided hypothesis states that there is a difference between the experimental group and the control group, but it does not specify in advance the expected direction of the difference.

For example, we asked whether there is there an improvement in outcomes with computer-assisted surgery or whether the outcomes worse with computer-assisted surgery. We presented a 2-sided test in the above example because we did not specify the direction of the difference. A 1-sided hypothesis states a specific direction e.

A 2-sided hypothesis should be used unless there is a good justification for using a 1-sided hypothesis. The research hypothesis should be stated at the beginning of the study to guide the objectives for research.

Whereas the investigators may state the hypothesis as being 1-sided there is an improvement with treatment , the study and investigators must adhere to the concept of clinical equipoise. According to this principle, a clinical or surgical trial is ethical only if the expert community is uncertain about the relative therapeutic merits of the experimental and control groups being evaluated. Designing a research hypothesis is supported by a good research question and will influence the type of research design for the study.

Acting on the principles of appropriate hypothesis development, the study can then confidently proceed to the development of the research objective. The primary objective should be coupled with the hypothesis of the study.

Study objectives define the specific aims of the study and should be clearly stated in the introduction of the research protocol. Note that the study objective is an active statement about how the study is going to answer the specific research question. Objectives can and often do state exactly which outcome measures are going to be used within their statements. They are important because they not only help guide the development of the protocol and design of study but also play a role in sample size calculations and determining the power of the study.

For example, the most methodologically sound randomized controlled trial comparing 2 techniques of distal radial fixation would have little or no clinical impact if the primary objective was to determine the effect of treatment A as compared to treatment B on intraoperative fluoroscopy time.

However, if the objective was to determine the effect of treatment A as compared to treatment B on patient functional outcome at 1 year, this would have a much more significant impact on clinical decision-making. Second, more meaningful surgeon—patient discussions could ensue, incorporating patient values and preferences with the results from this study.

The following is an example from the literature about the relation between the research question, hypothesis and study objectives:. Low-intensity pulsed ultrasound for chronic patellar tendinopathy: How does low-intensity pulsed ultrasound LIPUS compare with a placebo device in managing the symptoms of skeletally mature patients with patellar tendinopathy?

The development of the research question is the most important aspect of a research project. For example, researching a broad topic such as "business management" is difficult since there may be hundreds of sources on all aspects of business management.

On the other hand, a focused question such as "What are the pros and cons of Japanese management style? How do you develop a usable research question?

Choose an appropriate topic or issue for your research, one that actually can be researched Exercise 1. Then list all of the questions that you'd like answered yourself.

Choose the best question, one that is neither too broad nor too narrow. Sometimes the number of sources you find will help you discover whether your research question is too broad, too narrow, or okay?

If you know a lot about the topic, you can develop a research question based on your own knowledge. If you feel you don't know much about the topic, think again. For example, if you're assigned a research topic on an issue confronting the ancient Babylonian family, remember, by virtue of your own family life, you already know a great deal about family issues. Once you determine what you do know, then you're ready to do some general reading in a textbook or encyclopedia in order to develop a usable research question.

It's a good idea to evaluate your research question before completing the research exercise Exercise 3 and to ask the writing tutor for feedback on your research question. And you also should check your research question with your course tutor. A topic is what the essay or research paper is about. It provides a focus for the writing.

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In this article, we discuss important considerations in the development of a research question and hypothesis and in defining objectives for research. By the end of this article, the reader will be able to appreciate the significance of constructing a good research question and developing hypotheses.

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RESEARCH QUESTIONS Nature of Hypothesis The hypothesis is a clear statement of what is intended to be investigated. It should be specified before research is conducted and openly stated in reporting the results. This allows to: Identify the research objectives.

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The following video, Hypotheses vs. Research Questions, discusses how to choose whether to use a hypothesis or a question when creating a research project. It provides a definitions, a comparison of the two, and examples of each. CHAPTER SEVEN Research Questions and Hypotheses I nvestigators place signposts to carry the reader through a plan for a study. The first signpost is the purpose statement, which establishes the.

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2 Research Questions, Hypotheses, and Clinical Questions Judith Haber KEY TERMS clinical question complex hypothesis dependent variable directional hypothesis. Experimental Questions and Hypotheses. One of hypothesis: I predict that arousal and test performance will be significantly related. question We can actually think of these aspects of research questions and hypotheses as three variables, each with two levels, as we discussed in the variables tutorials.