Tag Archives: choosing research topic

What makes a good research question?

You are sitting in front of the computer, staring at one of the thirty browser windows that you have opened as a result of your online search for a research topic. For the past few days, you have been going round in circles, trying to nail down a research problem to work on, but to no avail. In fact, as a last resort to this exasperating quest, you have now decided to Google for “how to find a research topic”. If this sounds familiar, it is because it is not new. If you have the experience of conducting your own study, chances are, at the early stages of your research, you have faced with the difficulty of deciding on a research question and have constantly wondered if you were asking the right question. In truth, the search for a good research question is a daunting task, especially when researchers are often expected to know how to identify or figure out a good research question on their own.

Fortunately, with every problem, there is always a place at which we can use as a starting point that will hopefully lead us to a desirable solution.

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Is qualitative research still considered the poor relation?

It sometimes seems that the entire area of psychology is characterised by the friction between words and numbers. When I first considered a career in psychology, as a UK student, I was faced with the confusing choice of psychology as either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. The former spoke to me of enticing social science research, such as interpersonal attraction, whilst the latter screamed scary statistics – avoid, avoid, avoid! However, in the years that have passed since I had this decision to make, psychology has increasingly come to be defined as a science and the presiding impression is that the discipline takes a distinct pride in its commitment to numbers. This is perhaps the natural outcome of living in a world which dictates that evidence counts for everything, a trend which is keenly reflected in the media’s thirst for statistics-based research stories. However, I hear you ask, what has happened to the fate of “words” during this numerical domination of psychology?

This is where the field of qualitative research enters into the equation, with a number of researchers having elected to favour data gathering in the form of words, pictures or objects rather than through the standard route of numbers and statistics. However, there has long been a sense of qualitative research as the “poor relation” of quantitative efforts. The question is whether qualitative research is still somehow perceived as being of lesser value than quantitative research, and how this affects publication possibilities?

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How to search for literature?

One of the first skills we learn at the beginning of our university career is how to search properly for psychological literature. It reflects one of the first steps we employ conducting a psychological study and follows us throughout the entire research procedure when looking for additional knowledge.

The longest journey starts with a single step. A researcher would rather state: The longest research starts with a multiple literature search. Have you wandered from one database to the other desperately looking for a place to start with? Or do you never know when to end your search?

 

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Sina Scherer

Sina Scherer

Sina Scherer, studying at University of Münster, Germany, and University of Padova, Italy. I have previously worked as JEPS Bulletin Editor and am active in a NMUN project simulating the political work of the United Nations as voluntary work. I am interested in cognitive neuroscience and intercultural psychology, anthropology and organizational psychology (aspects of work-life balance, expatriation).

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Tips to find a good research topic

It’s a common knowledge that a good topic is not a very extensively studied one – research should bring new information to science. Still, how to find out what topics are worth to study and what not? Check out the tips by Dr. Konrad Janowski from Department of Clinical Psychology in Lublin, Poland.

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Magdalena Kossowska

Magdalena Kossowska

Updated description for author (Magdalena Kossowska) : Magdalena Eliza Kossowska is a Psychologist, Project Manager, Recruiter based in Cracow and also a PhD student at a Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. She has volunteered for various NGOs (including EFPSA, AEGEE, Polish Psychologists Association), and participated in scholarships in Prague, Czech Republic; Tromso, Norway; and London, United Kingdom. She is interested in organisational, clinical, as well as cognitive psychology.

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