Discussion: Formulating Research Questions


Post two potential research questions related to the Sessions episode. Consider potential ethical or political issues related to the feasibility of investigating the questions.

Evaluate each question in terms of how it might:
1. Contribute to development of new knowledge for social work
2. Lead to more effective practice interventions
3. Lead to social change
4. Be useful to other researchers

Johnson Family Episode 1 Program Transcript

ERIC: Ladies, what’s going on? TALIA: Hi.
ERIC: I’m Eric.
TALIA: Talia SHERRY: Sherry.
ERIC: Excellent. So I know some good-looking guys looking for some good-looking girls.
SHERRY: You do, huh?
ERIC: We’re throwing a party Saturday night, and invitation only. I want you guys to come. Lots of booze. You like to dance?
TALIA: I love to dance.
ERIC: Me too. You should dance with me. You better come.
TALIA: All right.
ERIC: Both of you.
SHERRY: Thanks.
ERIC: I’ll see you then? All right, see you later.
TALIA: He’s hot.
SHERRY: You think?
TALIA: Oh, yeah. You gonna go?
SHERRY: Well, yeah, if you’re going to go.
TALIA: Yeah, I’m definitely gonna go.
SHERRY: OK, then we’re going.
ERIC: Hey, there. How you feeling? I’m drunk.
ERIC: Yes, you are. Here, have some more.
TALIA: I need to lay down. I don’t feel so good.
ERIC: Oh, no. No, no, no. Not here.
TALIA: Take me home.
ERIC: It’s my frat party. I actually– I’ll tell you what. I’ll take you upstairs. You can use my bed, OK?
TALIA: Sure.
ERIC: All right. Come on, Talia. I got you.
SHERRY: Talia. Hey, are you OK?
TALIA: I’m fine.
SHERRY: You sure? Do you want to go with him?
ERIC: It’s fine. She likes me. Don’t you?
TALIA: Uh-huh.

Assignment: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Questions

Submit a 2-page paper that highlights one of the research questions you shared in your Discussion post. Design a quantitative research question related to this problem and a qualitative research question related to the same problem. Please use the resources to support your answer.

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen S. M. (Eds.). (2014). Sessions: Case histories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].
· The Johnson Family

Yegidis, B. L., Weinbach, R. W., & Myers, L. L. (2018). Research methods for social workers (8th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
· Chapter 3, “Developing Research Problems and Research Questions” (pp. 52-70)
· Chapter 4, “Conducting the Literature Review and Developing Research Hypothesis” (pp. 71-99)

In Darley, J. M., Zanna, M. P., & Roediger III, H. L. (Eds) (2002). The Compleat Academic: A Career Guide. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


Examples of Examples. When developing complex conceptual arguments or introducing technical materials, it is important not only to provide your readers with illustrative examples, but to select the examples with care. In particular, you should try to compose one or two examples that anticipate your actual findings and then use them recurrently to make several interrelated conceptual points. For example, in one of my own studies of trait consistency, some participants were consistently friendly but not consistently conscientious (Bem & Allen, 1974). Accordingly, we used examples of friendliness and conscientiousness throughout the introduction to clarify and illustrate our theoretical points about the subtleties of trait consistency. This pedagogical technique strengthens the thematic coherence of an article and silently prepares the reader for understanding the results. It also shortens the article by removing the need to explain the theory once in the introduction with hypothetical examples and then again in the context of the actual results. This article you are now reading itself provides examples of recurring examples. Although you don’t know it yet, the major example will be the fictitious study of sex differences in emotional expression introduced earlier to illustrate the hourglass shape of an article. I deliberately constructed the study and provided a sufficient overview of it at the beginning so that I could draw upon it throughout the article. Watch for its elaboration as we proceed. I chose dissonance theory as a second example because most psychologists are already familiar with it; I can draw upon this shared resource without having to expend a lot of space explaining it. But just in case you weren’t familiar with it, I introduced it first in the context of “examples of opening statements” where I could bring you in from the beginning—just as you should do with your own readers. And finally, the Bem-Allen article on trait consistency, mentioned in the paragraph above, has some special attributes that will earn it additional cameo appearances as we continue. The Literature Review. After making the opening statements, summarize the current state of knowledge in the area of investigation. What previous research has been done on the problem? What are the pertinent theories of the phenomenon? Although you will have familiarized yourself with the literature before you designed your own study, you may need to look up additional references if your results raise a new aspect of the problem or lead you to recast the study in a different framework. For example, if you discover an unanticipated sex difference in your data, you will want to determine if others have reported a similar sex difference or findings that might explain it. If you consider this finding important, discuss sex differences and the pertinent literature in the introduction. If you consider it to be only a peripheral finding, then postpone a discussion of sex differences until the discussion section. The Publication Manual gives the following guidelines for the literature review: Discuss the literature but do not include an exhaustive historical review. Assume that the reader is knowledgeable about the field for which you are writing and does not require a complete digest. . . . [C]ite and reference only works pertinent to the specific issue and not works of only tangential or general significance. If you summarize earlier works, avoid nonessential details; instead, emphasize pertinent findings, relevant methodological issues, and major conclusions. Refer the reader to general surveys or reviews of the topic if they are available. (APA, 2001, p. 16) The Publication Manual also urges authors not to let the goal of brevity mislead them into writing a statement intelligible only to the specialist. One technique for describing even an entire study succinctly without sacrificing clarity is to describe one variation of the procedure in chronological sequence, letting it Writing the Empirical Journal Article 8 convey the overview of the study at the same time. (You can use the same technique in your own method section.) Here, for example, is a description of a complicated but classic experiment on cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959): Sixty male undergraduates were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. In the $1 condition, the participant was first required to perform long repetitive laboratory tasks in an individual experimental session. He was then hired by the experimenter as an “assistant” and paid $1 to tell a waiting fellow student (a confederate) that the tasks were fun and interesting. In the $20 condition, each participant was hired for $20 to do the same thing. In the control condition, participants simply engaged in the tasks. After the experiment, each participant indicated on a questionnaire how much he had enjoyed the tasks. The results showed that $1 participants rated the tasks as significantly more enjoyable than did the $20 participants, who, in turn, did not differ from the control participants. This kind of condensed writing looks easy. It is not, and you will have to rewrite such summaries repeatedly before they are both clear and succinct. The preceding paragraph was the eighth draft. Citations. The standard journal format permits you to cite authors in the text either by enclosing their last names and the year of publication in parentheses, as in A below, or by using their names in the sentence itself, as in B. A. “MAO activity in some individuals with schizophrenia is actually higher than normal (Tse & Tung, 1949).” B. “Tse and Tung (1949) report that MAO activity in some individuals with schizophrenia is actually higher than normal.” In general, you should use form A, consigning your colleagues to parentheses. Your narrative line should be about MAO activity in individuals with schizophrenia, not about Tse and Tung. Occasionally, however, you might want the focus specifically on the authors or researchers: “Theophrastus (280 B.C.) implies that persons are consistent across situations, but Montaigne (1580) insists that they are not. Only Mischel (1968), Peterson (1968), and Vernon (1964), however, have actually surveyed the evidence in detail.” The point here is that you have a deliberate choice to make. Don’t just intermix the two formats randomly, paying no attention to the narrative structure. Criticizing Previous Work. If you take a dim view of previous research or earlier articles in the domain you reviewed, feel free to criticize and complain as strongly as you feel is commensurate with the incompetence you have uncovered. But criticize the work, not the investigators or authors. Ad hominem attacks offend editors and reviewers; moreover, the person you attack is likely to be asked to serve as one of the reviewers. Consequently, your opportunity to address—let alone, offend—readers will be nipped in the bud. I could launch into a sermonette on communitarian values in science, but I shall assume that this pragmatic warning is sufficient.

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