S7-BR7-4 - A Method for Transforming a Question into a Problem for Developing Research Questions

2. Research-to-Practice Full Paper
Devun Pecher1 , Zongcheng Chu1, 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 purpose of this study is to assess students’ understanding of the research problem they pose to address. The goal is to motivate students to think beyond their own interests in the topic and consider the interests of a broader audience. Elements of cognitive constructivism are used in the worksheet to help students think about and state the undesirable consequences that might result if the research is not done. The worksheet asks students to articulate if the problem they plan to address is a practical or a conceptual problem. The first aim of the study is to introduce an activity worksheet approach for transforming questions to a problem statement for developing research questions. The second aim is to assess students’ perception of the usability of the activity worksheet method. In this paper we present results from undergraduates who used the activity worksheet method to transform questions to a problem statement. The main research question is “How do students perceive the usability of the activity worksheet method for developing problem statements?” The activity worksheet for transforming questions to a problem statement was completed by 50 students enrolled in two sections of an undergraduate data visualization course in a research-intensive university in the Midwest United States. Students were asked to provide feedback after completing the worksheet. Results show that 68% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the activity worksheet method was helpful in transforming a question to a problem statement. The responses were based on a 5-point Likert Scale ranging from 1-5: Strongly Disagree (1), Disagree (2), Neutral (3), Agree (4), and Strongly Agree (5).  The implications of this work will help students to build skills in developing strong research questions that inform a practice that is required in engineering and computing education. 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.