Every research project starts with a research question:
- Observational: I believe that the world works in a certain way. I want to give evidence in favor of (or against) my observation.
- Theoretical: This theory predicts that the world will work in this way but it hasn’t yet been tested in this particular context. Let’s do it!
- Inferential: If the world works in one way, it probably works in a logically related way as well. Let’s see!
- Incremental: The world has been shown to work in this way by numerous studies – let’s confirm the results of these studies and see if we can flesh out the story a bit.
- Exploratory: Let’s see how the world works.
- Practical: Can we get the world to work this way?
Let’s take an example. One of my specialties is the study of stereotyping and prejudice. When I hear people talking about stereotyping-related topics in the media and amongst themselves, I often find myself thinking, “Wow! You’re so busy being half right that you’re having this discussion all wrong!” That thought may be pretentious – but let’s go with it. Further, let’s pretend that I have a practical goal – to get a variety of audiences to embrace what I consider to be cutting-edge thinking and practice with regards to racial stereotypes.
So, I have a practical question which I am answering from an interdisciplinary perspective – is it true that I can get an audience to embrace this cutting-edge thinking?
Before we leap into speculating about potential measures of success or failure and potential tools for reaching our goals, let’s take a step back and consider relevant variables.