Posted by: eheino | April 1, 2014

EER500 Assignment 1b Reflections

Doing this assignment has really taught me a lot about how to write a good research question. I thought the research question I had come up with for Assignment 1a was pretty good, but after having done extensive reading in the area, it was clear there was room for improvement. My original question was:

Does the use of mobile technology in the primary mathematics classroom truly result in higher student achievement levels? 

I have learnt that a good research question:

  • must be clear; that is, intelligible and specific (Laws, Harper & Marcus 2003; Kinmond, 2012; Bryman, 2012)
  • any comparisons implied by the question need to be made explicit (Laws, Harper & Marcus, 2003)
  • question must be framed within clear boundaries if the research is to be manageable, both in terms of time and resources (Punch, 2005; Kinmond, 2012; Bryman, 2012)
  • not so narrow that the researcher can’t make a significant contribution to their field narrow (Bryman, 2012; Kinmond, 2012)
  • both researchable and answerable
  • neither too abstract (Bryman, 2012) nor laden with value judgements that could be problematic to measure (Laws, Harper & Marcus 2003)

After having created this framework for good research questions, and applying it to my research, I changed my question to:

Does the use of mobile applications for practising mathematical concepts result in faster mastery of these concepts for Stage 1 students than using physical materials?

The majority of the changes I made were to make the question more specific. The first question was quite general, and would have been hard to address in a small-scale study. It would have been a massive undertaking to answer the question using the whole primary maths curriculum, and all age groups. So I changed it to stage 1 and mathematics concept practice to make it clearer which area I would be assessing.

From my assignment: “This rephrased question addresses the clarity issues identified above, and reduces the research area to something more manageable for a small-scale project. This question identifies mastery of mathematical concepts as the area of mathematics to be addressed by the study and Stage 1 students as the study group. It also clearly identifies the comparison that will be made, a much improved formulation when contrasted to the implied comparison in the original question.  The rephrased question also identifies a measureable area of student achievement: the speed at which concepts are mastered. This is far more explicit than the ‘higher student achievement levels’ identified in the original question. It is the author’s opinion that this rephrased question is more likely to be addressed thoroughly by the research than the original as it is much clearer, quantifiable and more specific. ”

I believe my new research question is much better than the first iteration, and it will be interesting to see if the marker has any further recommendations for it before I start my second assignment.


Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods (4th ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Kinmond, K. (2007). Coming up with a research question. In C. Sullivan, S. Gibson & S. Riley (Eds.) Doing your qualitative psychology project (pp 23-36). London: Sage.

Laws, S., Harper, C. & Marcus, R. (2003). Research for development. London: Sage. Retrieved from:

Punch, K. P. (2005). Introduction to social research: Quantitative and qualitative approaches (2nd ed.). London: Sage.


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