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Section 1

Common Project/Dissertation-in-Practice Question Mistakes

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The purpose of your question is to serve as the directional inquiry for your applied doctoral project or dissertation-in-practice. Poor questions will lead to a disconnect between the purpose of the project and what is actually assessed. Your Chair will guide you in developing appropriate research questions. 

Here are some common question errors and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: “Yes” or “No” Question

Poor Questions

1. Do performance-based pay systems for school teachers improve student achievement?
2. Is there a relationship between the cost of foods with high fructose corn syrup and obesity in rural communities in the Midwest United States?

Remedy

Research questions should not be answerable with a “yes” or “no” because a “yes” or “no” does not indicate the subject being investigated. Knowing that performance-based pay systems for school teachers either do or do not improve student performance is just the first step. It is important to learn How or Why such systems do or do not improve student performance. These questions are more informative in that they lead to a deeper understanding of the subject and can lead to action or more research down the line.

Better Questions

1. To what extent, if any, do performance-based pay systems for school teachers improve student achievement?
2. How does the price of foods with large amounts of fructose corn syrup influence obesity in children ages three to twelve in Midwest United States rural communities?

Mistake #2: Research Question vs. Survey/Interview Question

Poor Questions

1. What reentry services are most ideal for keeping offenders from reoffending? a) drug treatment  b) housing c) education d) employment training e) child care 
2. Do you think police officers should wear body cameras?

Remedy

It is easy to confuse research questions with survey/interview questions. The questions above are interview questions—they are the questions that you will ask subjects in your interview or survey. They are not the underlying questions that you are trying to answer with those survey/interview question. Your goal is to answer the underlying research questions, and survey/interview questions are the tool used to answer research questions, they are not the research questions themselves.

Better Questions

1. What reentry methods are most effective for keeping offenders from reoffending? 
2. To what extent, if any, do body cameras contribute to lower rates of police brutality. Miami police?

Mistake #3: Too Many Variables

Poor Questions

1. What are ways to market products to millennial generation consumers?

Remedy

It is important to limit the number of variables being measured in a study because too many variables make it hard to connect one variable to another. There are too many things being measured by this question. To answer it you much first catalogue the many attitudes of millennials, then catalog the ways to market various products, and then determine how the various attitudes are connected to the various ways to market various products. This makes for many correlations to track. It is better to pick a single attitude and a single perception to measure.

Better Questions

1. What is the ideal way to market product X to millennial generation consumers? 

Mistake #4: Controversial Assumptions

Poor Questions

1. How does the failure of import tariff policies diminish trade with developing countries?
2. To what extent does widespread prejudice by school teachers undermine immigrant achievement?

Remedy

It is important to not appear biased in your study such that you are attempting to establish a conclusion using a controversial premise. You might establish a controversial conclusion, but must do it on solid footing.

Better Questions

1. To what extent, if any, do import tariffs on Mexican goods influence trade with Mexico?
2. How do the attitudes of elementary school teachers influence immigrant achievement?

Mistake #5: Overly broad topic

Poor Questions

1. What are the causes of business failure?
2. What makes for a good leader?

Remedy

The questions above are far too broad to be answered in a doctoral project or dissertation in practice. These questions have multiple answers that are impossible to review within the context of a project. 

Better Questions

1. How do supply chain management challenges contribute to business failure?
2. What are the dominant characteristics of successful managers in the food service industry?

Mistake #6: Data collection is too difficult

Poor Questions

1. What is the impact of domestic violence on children?
2. How do FBI agents view the organizational structure of the agency?

Remedy

Any study gathering data from a survey needs to target an audience that can be identified, reached, and is willing to respond to questions in sufficient numbers to reach statistically significant results. There are many ethical concerns regarding interviewing children, and it is unlikely that you would be able to interview them. It also seems unlikely that it will be easy to find a list of FBI agents, and even more unlikely that they will be willing to discuss the organizational structure of their agency.

Better Questions

1. How have reports of children involved in domestic violence incidents influenced the training practices of social workers?
2. What are the primary motivators of employment persistence among Federal employees?