Many at times choosing an appropriate topic seem like a herculean task as a lot of problem areas may come to mind at the time of choosing the topic. What is more frustrating is being able to settle on a brilliant topic. Choosing the research topic is one of the most critical steps in conducting a successful by all standards. The truth is, the search for a good research topic is a daunting task, especially when researchers are often expected to know how to identify or figure out a good research question by themselves.
It also is important for us to keep in mind that an initial topic that we come up with may not be the exact topic which we end up writing about. Research topics are often fluid and dictated more by the student’s ongoing research rather than by the original chosen topic. Such fluidity is common in research, and should be embraced as one of its many characteristics. The ability to identify and develop a good research topic depends on a number of factors. Fortunately, with every problem, there is always a place at which we can use as a starting point that will hopefully lead us to a desirable solution.
The first important factor to consider when selecting or choosing a good research topic is to choose a topic that is of interest to them. The researcher should be able to ask themselves and identify where their interest lies, after all every individual will have at least an interest in one area or another. The fact that students approach their supervisors/ advisors with questions if they are faced with any confusion when conducting their research, the importance of the research advisor also having an interest in the chosen topic cannot be over emphasised.
Research supervisors or advisors to a large extent, has a duty to coach, and give critical comments and reviews to the chosen topic. Uri Alon, a theoretical physics major turned systems biology expert (who is now one of the most renowned scientists in his field), per his own experience gave this piece of advice; “listen to your inner voice. ” As he indicated, interest in a research problem is a subjective experience. In most instances, one’s actual interest clashes with the public interest and makes it impossible for the researcher to identify what their actual interest lies in.
This however does not mean that pursuing a research of public interest is not a good option; in any case, a good research should be able to benefit the general population as a whole. We must be able to distinguish what we are interest in from other people’s opinion. This is what will inspire us and enable us stay focused throughout our research journey. For instance we can search within our hearts and minds problems in our various communities, industries or even continents which we are passionate about and would wish for these problems to be solved.
This will help sieve out the many options from external sources such as the media, and focus on what we are interested in. In effect, if we have a research problem that has been bugging us for quite some time, chances are we have found our true interest to conduct our research on. Another attribute that makes a chosen topic a good one is whether the researcher has the requisite knowledge in their area of interest. It should be noted that doing a literature review enables us to have more insights in our area of interest, narrows down our research focus and directs us to ask more specific questions.
In addition, knowing how much knowledge base is available on our chosen field will help us figure out what strategy to adopt in finding data. We can also read some other publications other than the text books and famous business journals available online as well as in print versions to be abreast with our chosen problem area. No matter how much potential our research question has, if we do not have the needed time to conduct our study, it can easily be a wasted effort and disappointment.
A researcher can work on a time-feasible research project without having to sacrifice their interest, by breaking down the research problem into several smaller, manageable and more specific questions. It all depends how early they start their research activity. The main point here is for us as researchers to be more realistic about the time available and identify our research question accordingly. In order to ascertain whether an identified problem area must be researched on, it must satisfy primarily three (3) main conditions: i.
There should be a perceived difference between what the current situation in the problem area is and what it should have been, all things being equal ii. The reason or reasons for this difference should be ambiguous. If the reason is readily known, then there is no point researching this problem area iii. There should be more that one (1) possible solution to the problem identified. It is very important and of a high significance that one chooses a research topic which is of significance to the current scenario in the society and one’s field of study.
One therefore has to select research topics pertaining to business and management practices. Relevance is the key word in this regard. A clear understanding of the assignment will allow the student to focus on other aspects of the process, such as choosing a brilliant topic, which is, identifying the problem area and identifying their target audience. If a possible research topic is not addressing a priority problem, it is not worthwhile researching into it. To avoid duplication, care must be taken to ensure that the chosen topic has not been researched on.
If one can find answers to the identified problem in already available, published or unpublished information, or just by using their common sense, then it will not be worthwhile conducting the research on the selected topic. Where it has been established that the problem area has already been researched into, the researcher must investigate whether the most important aspects of the problem area(s) still require some answers or the answers gathered by the predecessor researcher does not address the problem in its entirety.
In this case, the same topic could be chosen otherwise the topic should be dropped. One of the most common difficulties in selecting a research topic is focusing on appropriate questions. Initially it might appear that the most exciting, interesting and relevant questions require a 10 year research programme, a team of research assistants and a multi-million research budget! But that isn’t actually the case. The question here is, “how can you make sure that the research project is feasible, manageable and ‘do-able’ within the normal constraints that he/ she will find themselves in? There are several practical considerations that almost always need to be considered when deciding on the feasibility of a research project.
First, the researcher has to think about how long the research will take to accomplish. In addition, the researcher has to question whether there are important ethical constraints that need consideration. Also, one needs to establish whether they can achieve the needed cooperation to take the research project to its successful conclusion. Last and most importantly, the researcher should consider how significant the costs of conducting the research will be.
Failure to consider any of these factors can be disastrous to the whole exercise. In general it is advisable for the one conducting the research to choose a topic that has the interest and support of the relevant authorities. This will increase the chance that the results of the study will be implemented. Topics that do not have the support or backing of the decision makers should be avoided as chances are they might never be implemented. In choosing a good research topic, the researcher must also consider the urgency in the needed research results for making a decision or developing interventions.
Consideration must be given to which research should be done first and which could be done later. In effect, if the research cannot be done in a timely manner, then it better left not looking into. Topics or problem area that has been identified should be ethically acceptable. The researcher must be mindful of the possibility of their chosen area causing harm to others. We should consider whether there are any relevant ethical issues associated with our chosen area. If we happen to think our research isn’t ethical, we must drop the topic.
In relation to the second part of the question which requires us to give five (5) examples of a good research topic and justify why we have chose them are as follow: Why doesn’t the average Ghanaian feel the effect of low inflation in their pockets? There have been impressive stories about declining inflation rates in Ghana in the past few months. The Ghana Statistical Services recently reported that inflation rate has decreased from 15. 2% in December 2003 to 8. 8% in January 2013.
But while officials are painting a rather rosy picture of the economy, the average Ghanaian feels very ambivalent about these reported rates for the simple fact that they can hardly see the impact on their everyday cost of living. Economists have debated the seriousness of inflation since time immemorial, yet its economic cost remains ambiguous. It seems no matter the real economic cost of inflation, it does not show a real picture in the cost of living of the average Ghanaian. The confusion surrounding inflation rates in Ghana has to do with measurement problems.
There are about three (3) ways of measuring inflation, that is, by the consumer Price Index (CPI), Producer Price Index (PPI) and the Gross National Product (GNP) deflator. The most commonly used index in Ghana is the CPI. Conducting a research on this problem area will inform us whether the CPI way of calculating the inflation rates reflects the actual state of the economy. In addition, we will figure out whether the various consumer products included are realist. The pricing structure of housing units in Ghana, how can it ever be regulated? Compared with other advanced countries, Ghana’s housing industry is at a rudimentary stage.
High property prices particularly in the urban centres fuelled by a rapidly growing middle class and an uncontrollable urbanization have turned the housing industry into one of the critical developmental issues facing policy makers. It has been argued that the boom in the housing sector is largely driven by the surge to remittances. Others are of the opinions that the sector has experienced growth mainly because non-resident Ghanaians who have access to low-interest global funds are increasingly investing in the housing sector. If this is the case, then how come houses in Ghana are not affordable?
A study into this area to a large extent will reveal the factors driving the pricing of housing units and alternative ways to make houses affordable to the middle class. Women in the corporate management, are they really improving performance? The impact of gender diversity and corporate leadership is not a new phenomenon. Gender diversity within senior management teams has become an increasingly topical issue for three related reasons. First, although the proportion of women at board level generally remains very low, it is changing across the world.
Second, government intervention in this area has increased. About seven (7) countries have passed legislation mandating female board representatives to address the issue of fairness and equity. The third and most interesting of the debate around this topic has shifted from an issue equity and fairness to a question of superior performance over their male counterparts. If gender diversity on an entity’s board implies greater profitability then it would make sense to have more women in senior management regardless of government directive.
This topic is of interest to a large number of people and as such has a lot literature available on it. It will make a brilliant research topic for these reasons. Are auditors really independent as they are perceived to be? Auditor independence has been termed the cornerstone of the auditing profession, since it is the foundation for the public’s trust in the attest function. However, auditors are faced with pressure to compete among themselves and the likelihood of them not being completely independent has increased overtime that is, staying in business over conforming to ethical requirements.
A research in this area will inform us on the actual or perceived independence of auditors and how the business and ethical aspects can be managed. There will be a great literature review on this subject as are result of the Eron scandal in 2011, plus it is of interest to the corporate world. The social network phenomenon, Is it doing more harm than good to our relationships? It is a known fact there are many positives to social media and like everything, there is always a negative to balance the source.
As social networks like facebook, twitter, myspace, instagram etc have left positive tracks within our lives; it has also affected us by turning us against one another. Social media whether we like it or not affects our relationships from family, both nuclear and extended, friends, schoolmates, work colleagues, marriages, dating partners, the list goes on and on. The question here is whether the positive effects outweighs the negatives and vice versa. A study in this area will help conclude if social media is worth it after all, on our various relationships.
The importance of choosing a good research topic is the primary key to unlocking a successful research exercise. Getting the research question right is an essential, although not always a straightforward step in any research project. Settling on a research question is often difficult to do in isolation, therefore obtaining advice from experts and colleagues, collecting information from the literature and developing an awareness of the context in which the research is likely to be undertaken will all contribute to a successful outcome.
Courtney from Study Moose
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