T7-ALT1-1 - A Method for Transforming a Broad Topic to a Focused Topic for Developing Research Questions

2. Research-to-Practice Full Paper
Nathan Kanter1 , Vetria Byrd1
1 Purdue University

In this research to practice paper, the results of an approach for transforming topic ideas into questions for developing research questions are presented. The first step in developing research questions is identifying an interesting topic. The purpose of this study is to assess students’ perception of a method designed to motivate students to develop research questions based on a topic of interest. The concepts of critical thinking and habits of the mind frameworks are utilized, specifically, the process of questioning and posing questions. The first aim of the study is to introduce an activity worksheet approach for transforming topics to questions for developing research questions. The second aim is to assess students’ perception of the usability of the activity worksheet method. This is intended to help students ask significant questions to better inform their future steps in the development of research questions. In this paper we examine, compare and present results from undergraduates who used the activity worksheet method to develop questions from topics of interest. The main research question is “How do students perceive the usability of the activity worksheet method for developing and evaluating questions about topic ideas?” The worksheet asks students to answer the following questions regarding their topic: “What do you want to find out about the topic?”, “Why is the topic important (what is the significance of the problem)?”, and “How do I want my reader to respond?” The activity worksheet was completed by 56 students enrolled in two sections of an undergraduate data visualization course in a research-intensive university in the Midwest of the United States. After completing the worksheet students were asked to provide feedback on the usability of the worksheet. Results show that 69% of the responses from students in the combined sections had positive responses based on a five point Likert Scale. In this scale, the range was from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). This research is significant because it helps students to answer critical questions about their topic, further clarifying the significance of the project. Understanding the questions asked in the worksheet informs the development of the next stage of the developing research questions: developing a significant problem statement. The implications of this work will help students to build skills in questioning and posing questions. The contribution of this work is in helping students to pose questions and ask questions that will strengthen their critical thinking skills in the practice of engineering and computer science.