Deciding on the Topic, Problem, and Research Question

Deciding on the Topic, Problem, and Research Question
Successfully conducted research studies often provide answers to challenges of social work practice, of obstacles in social work research, and of gaps in knowledge within the field. But how do they generate those answers? The foundations of a research study are a well-defined problem statement and research question. The research question drives the rest of the research choices, in particular how the study is conducted—the methodological approach.

A quantitative approach involves investigating the statistical relationships between variables, whereas a qualitative approach involves exploring participants’ lived experiences and describing phenomena. These two methodological approaches are represented differently in research questions. For example, suppose a researcher wanted to learn more about the mental health treatment of returning soldiers. One question could be: In the first 3 months following active duty, how often did soldiers access mental health treatment? This points to a quantitative approach because the treatments are quantifiable. A different question could be: In the first 3 months following active duty, what are soldiers’ experiences of mental health treatment? This points to a qualitative approach because the soldiers’ thoughts and experiences could not be counted or otherwise measured; they would need to be conveyed via the participants themselves, in interviews or open-ended surveys. Note how the topic is the same but the research then goes in two different directions depending on the question it seeks to answer.
This week, you formulate a research question to drive your own research and then identify the methodological approaches of the research articles you have gathered on your topic.
Learning Objectives
Students will:

Analyze the relationship between a research problem and social work practice
Develop a research question
Identify research questions and methodological approaches in peer-reviewed research.

t this point, you may have an idea of your general social work topic, but what specific problem does that point to and how can that problem be conveyed as a question to be explored? In order to conduct a successful research study, the research question must be clearly defined, well justified, and offer something new to the social work knowledge base. The research study can only be as good as the research question that guides it.

For this Discussion, you articulate the problem you are focusing on and craft your research question to address that problem. You also consider the value of the identified problem by considering how it relates to social work practice.
To Prepare:
Review the Learning Resources on identifying research problems and developing research questions.
Consider the problem that you would like to study in your proposed research, the gap in knowledge that it addresses, and how it connects to social work practice.


By Day 3
Share the problem you are focusing on in your research. What would you like to know about this topic; that is, what is a gap in knowledge that your research on the topic could fill? Based on the identified problem, develop and share your research question here. How does this problem relate to practice?


Yegidis, B. L., Weinbach, R. W., & Myers, L. L. (2018). Research methods for social workers (8th ed.). Pearson.

Chapter 3: Developing Research Problems and Research Questions (pp. 52–70)

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