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RES 502 - Research Strategies: Assignment #1

Two credit online course for Associated Canadian Theological Schools

Background to the Assignment

This assignment is intended to help you to narrow a topic and formulate the direction you want your research to take. As you will discover from the reading assignment for this topic, the strategies used in getting started with a topic are very important if you want the product to be of any worth.

Let’s consider some principles:

Research Has a Purpose

You need to buy a new car, and you certainly want something better than the lemon you currently own. Knowing your own transportation needs and your budget, you decide to do some research on automobiles. For weeks, you scour every book and magazine you can find. You even take notes on what you are learning and write a summary of your findings. Then you put everything in a drawer and buy the same model of car that you had before, except that it is four years newer.

Foolish? Of course it is. Your past car was a lemon, a disaster. After all the research you did, you must have seen data about better automobiles. But finding a better car depends on your research goal. If you were simply gathering information about cars in order to summarize it and put it in a drawer, you were not meeting the goal of finding the best car for you. You were not, in fact, doing research at all, just gathering data.

Let’s consider the reason why we do research: We do research because we have a problem to resolve. Research has a purpose, a goal, an intent. It is not just the gathering of data.

There’s a Difference Between Data and Information

Data constitutes the facts about a topic. Information is what you do with those facts. Let’s look at it this way: When you did your research on automobiles, your intent was to find out which car you should buy, given your budget and transportation needs. In other words, you began with a question you needed to answer, a question that was focused and purposeful: Which car should I buy? You may gather as much data about cars as you want, but if your data doesn’t lead ultimately to an answer to your question, it’s of limited value.  Only as you sift through the data and evaluate it does it become information that can bring you to a solution.

All too often, people assume that we do research in order to discover facts. Actually, we do research to gather facts that will help us answer a questionFacts must never be an end in themselves. Rather, they are a means to determinie what we should do or believe.

Let’s consider a few examples:

  • You want to investigate the claims of the theological position, "Open Theism." You could simply find the writings of some Open Theists, determine what this theological movement is saying and then conclude with something like, "There appear to be some critics of Open Theism, so it might be a good idea for someone to investigate its claims." But that isn't really research until you actually do the investigation yourself and come up with a conclusion on Open Theism. You could ask, "To what extent does Open Theism present a biblical accurate portrayal of God?"  That question would demand analysis and problem-solving.
  • You’ve been told to write a research paper on Sigmund Freud. Your research and subsequent paper could be entitled "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Freud in Ten Pages Plus Table of Contents and Bibliography," but if you have simply gathered facts in order to regurgitate them, you have not really done research. It is when you ask a question like: "Has Freud's approach to psychotherapy demonstrated the success rate that proponents of Psychoanalysis assure us exists?" that the data becomes information.


The relationship between data and information works this way:

Data = the facts about a topic.

Information = evaluated data used to answer a question.

In its most basic form then, research is the gathering of data to identify information that can answer a question, leading to a conclusion that will influence belief or action. Anything less than this is not research. It will never tell you what car to buy or what you’re supposed to do with Open Theism or with Freud’s Superego.

Read the material related to this assignment from Research Strategies. The APPENDIX is especially helpful, because it contains lots of examples. Be sure that your research question is focused, researchable, and that it is only one question rather than several. You want to avoid gathering existing information just so that you can report on it (information as goal).  You want to use information to solve a problem or deal with an issue whose answer is not obvious (information as tool).

Create a Sermon-Free Zone

Seminary students love to preach.  They are often so eager to preach that they do only minimal investigation before launching into a huge exhortation intended to make all things right in this fallen world.

But you must remember this dictum: A research project is not a sermon, nor is it a how-to manual. 

What's the difference? 

Research Project Sermon/How-To
Investigates options Presents results of investigation
Evaluates various points of view   Promotes one point of view
Is a question leading to an answer Is an answer leading to an application
Generally asks why, looks at cause and effect, etc. Generally takes a how-to approach that leads to action


Don't preach sermons when what you need to do is investigate an issue in order to find an answer.

Assignment #1

[Click on the file link above to download a template in rich text format (works in most word processors).  It will form an outline so you can insert your answers under each heading. You can then submit the complete document to Prof. Badke by e-mail attachment].


   

  1. Read Research Strategies, 6th edition, Preface, Chapters One to Three, and Appendix, A.1.1-A.1.8 (The appendix is especially helpful.).
  2. View the presentation, "What is Scholarship?" - https://prezi.com/nqa9fylhmqef/what-is-scholarship/- and answer the following questions arising out of the presentation. Don't just copy information. Interpret the presentation's information in your own words:

a. Explain what is meant by the statement, "Authority depends on context."
b. Why is it important to understand the process by which information was created?
c. What are four "dimensions of value" given to information?
d. In considering Research as Inquiry, what is true research and what is not?
e. What is meant by "Scholarship is a Conversation?" Be sure to explain what is meant by "conversation."
f. In what ways is searching "Strategic?"

Choose two topics from research projects you are doing for other courses, or from the list in Introduction to Assignments or from your own interests. 

Some tips:

1. Make sure these topics will not simply repeat what you read in your sources (information as goal).  
2. Choose topics for which there are clear issues or problems that need solutions (information as tool). 
3. Be careful about questions with a local emphasis (Canada, Korea, etc.) It is often difficult to find sufficient information to make these topics researchable. The same is true for new topics that may not have much of a literature surrounding them. You may use such topics, but be aware that your assignments will be much more challenging.
4. The appendix of the textbook is designed to help you avoid bad questions. I will, as well, advise you if I think your topic area is going to make doing the assignments more difficult than should be the case.


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1. For each of your topics, consult Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page) and one more established reference source, such as what you find in the reference collection of a library (for example, Encyclopedia of Early Christianty, or Encyclopedia of Counseling). The best way to find established reference sources is through our Research Guides (link from library home page - http://libguides.twu.ca/?b=sā€‹). Once you get there, navigate to a particular guide, then choose the books/ebooks tab at the top to find links and information on relevant reference sources.

2. List the titles of the reference sourceyou used and indicate the titles of the entries you looked up in them - I'm just as interested in what you searched for as what you found.

You will thus have:
       Topic One - Wikipedia + an established reference work 
       Topic Two - Wikipedia + an established reference work 


Remember that reference works are dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, commentaries, etc. that provide a short overview of a topic. Whole books on a topic, or journal articles won't do. 


For a guide to established reference works available in electronic form, see http://libguides.twu
. Choose a relevant subject area, and then choose the Books/E-books tab for information on how to locate electronic dictionaries, encyclopedias and guides.


Some Tips:
a. For your established reference sources, b
e sure that you are not just using general encyclopedias such as Britannica but are using specific subject dictionaries, handbooks or encyclopedias relevant to the subject discipline you are working with. 
b. Do not use journal articles or whole books devoted just to your topic. 
 Use reference sources (i.e. dictionaries, encyclopedias on the discipline you are dealing with). 


In 200-300 words, present a working knowledge summary of each of your topics (the basic facts required to make someone familiar with the topic to a limited extent), based on what you have discovered about the topics from your reference sources (one summary of information for each topic).  Do not here explain what you want to do with the topic. Rather explain the basic features of the topic itself - what it is, some of its main facts, etc.

Some Tips:

      1. Make sure you include the relevant basic information and issues that you think are going to be important to know. 
      2. Don't use this working knowledge to argue the case of your paper but just to provide a working knowledge of the topic itself.

For each of your topics briefly formulate 3-4 possible research questions, even though you will only be choosing one of these possible questions as the one you will use in your project. 

Some Tips:

     1. The APPENDIX in the textbook is helpful in giving you a number of examples of good and bad research questions.  
     2. Formulating a good question is not as easy as you may think. Above all, avoid asking questions that just call on you to gather information and report on it.  You need questions that deal with real issues or problems.


Choose what you believe to be the best one of the possible research questions for each topic.  This will then become your research question for that topic (though you may find you need to revise it in the next few assignments).  

Some Tips:
     1. Make sure for each topic that you have one question that is narrowly focused and deals with a problem or issue for which analysis is required.  
     2. Recognize that your question may need revision/refinement as you complete the next few assignments.

Prepare a 3-4 point potential outline for each topic based on your research question and drawing its main points out of your research question.

Some Tips:

    1. Each outline should include what you need to cover in order to answer your research question and should be firmly based on that question. 
    2. Your outlines are preliminary and will need revision/expansion as you complete the following assignments (especially assignment #5)      

Don't forget to use the assignment template at the top of this column as a framework in order to do your assignment correctly.


Rubric for Assignment One.  Highest grade meets these criteria:

  • Reference sources highly relevant to the topic
  • Good working knowledge that points to possible issues that could be addressed
  • All potential research questions are excellent, demanding analysis
  • Chosen research questions are very well formulated and should make real contributions to subject.
  • Outlines show signs of being excellent guides for research on chosen research questions