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Seven steps for framing and testing a research paper

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I use the steps in this presentation to:
(i) test research ideas for research papers,
(ii) shape research papers, and
(iii) help draft the Introduction section of a research paper.

For each step I draft one or two concise paragraphs.
I then present and share these with co-authors, collaborators and colleagues to test the ideas and get feedback on how interesting and valid they are.

I consider and work through these steps several times during the life of a research paper framed.

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Seven steps for framing and testing a research paper

  1. 1. SEVEN STEPS FOR FRAMING AND TESTING A RESEARCH PAPER Professor Ian P. McCarthy Email: ian_mccarthy@sfu.ca Twitter: @Toffemen68 Blog: http://itdependsblog.blogspot.com/
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION • I use the steps in this presentation to: – test research ideas for research papers, – shape research papers, and – help draft the Introduction section of a research paper. • For each step I draft one or two concise paragraphs. • I then present and share these with co- authors, collaborators and colleagues to test the ideas and get feedback on how interesting and valid they are. • I consider and work through these steps several times during the life of a research paper framed.
  3. 3. 1. What is your X? 4. What are your research questions about X? The ‘X’ is the phenomenon, issue or problem you aim to advance understanding about.
  4. 4. STEP 1: WHAT IS YOUR X? • Introduce the phenomenon, issue or problem (the 'X') you aim to advance understanding about. • Concisely and precisely define it and illustrate it (i.e., provide a prototypical example of the X in practice). – Provide a statement about the actual reality, not just what researchers and their research say about the reality. • Explain why the X is interesting, important and worthy of study? – Who cares about it? Who will care about the new insights you hope to publish?
  5. 5. STEP 2: WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT X? • What has prior research on X focused on? • What questions have been examined? • How were the questions examined? • What are the findings and what are the implications? • What has prior research called for in terms of future studies on X?
  6. 6. STEP 3: WHAT DON’T WE KNOW ABOUT X? • What are the gaps in our understanding of X? • Are there inconsistencies, problems or puzzles about X that really should be examined? • If yes, why do they need to be examined? • Who will care? How might the insights change reality?
  7. 7. STEP 4: WHAT SPECIFIC QUESTIONS ABOUT X DO YOU INVESTIGATE? • State your research question. Make sure it is arguable. • Make sure you care about it. • Make sure others will care about it. • Is it a “why”, “what” or a “how” question? • Is it researchable within the given time frame and resources?
  8. 8. STEP 5: HOW WILL THE QUESTIONS BE TACKLED? • How will you theoretically address the questions? – Why? • How will you methodologically address the questions? – Why? • What is the data and context for addressing the questions? – Why? • Give the readers a sense of what it would be like to a participant or object in your study.
  9. 9. STEP 6: WHAT NEW INSIGHTS ARISE? • What new insights (theoretical and practical) does your study generate? How do you advance understanding of X? • Don’t just restate the findings. Explain their significance. • How exactly are they interesting? For example, from Davis (1971): – What seems to be a disorganized phenomenon now seems to be an organized phenomenon, or vice versa. – What seems to be assorted heterogeneous phenomena now seems to be really composed of a single element, or vice versa. Davis, M.S., 1971. That's interesting! Towards a phenomenology of sociology and a sociology of phenomenology. Philosophy of the social sciences, 1(2), pp.309-344.
  10. 10. STEP 7: WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY? • What are the boundary conditions and limitations of your study? • What are the future research directions? – What questions remain answered? – What new questions arise from your study? – Explain why they are really worth pursuing.
  11. 11. WHOM • As you go through the seven steps consider the audience for your paper. For most research papers: – Primary audience = the reviewers who review your paper and the other researchers you hope will read and learn from your paper. • Identify actual people. Have photos of them on the first page of the paper. Write for them. – Secondary audience = the members of society who will use your research to improve society. • List the reasons for: – Why these audiences will like and approve of your research. Deliver on these reasons. – Why they will ignore or reject your research. Address these reasons.
  12. 12. SUMMARY • Using these seven steps will help to ensure that your paper will: – Be framed around a problem or puzzle in the world, not just a gap in the literature – Contributes to theory and practice. – Appeals to a discernible audience. – Be published. • Good luck! Professor, Technology and Operations Management Beedie School of Business Simon Fraser University Email: ian_mccarthy@sfu.ca Twitter: @Toffemen68 Blog: http://itdependsblog.blogspot.com/

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