Research 101: The summary

Let’s dive right in!

1plus1is3-basicThe Problem: The thing that challenged your current knowledge. When you saw the image on the left, you probably immediately recognized something was “off”. THAT is your problem. That little twinge that tells you something is amiss. Put that into words and you are golden.

The Question/Statement: Following on the problem, you probably asked yourself – “What’s he trying to say here? How can 1 + 1 = 3?” If that’s true, then you’ve already stumbled upon the foundation for your research question. Often, many students (and more accomplished scholars alike) get caught in the differentiation between problem definition and question articulation, because we become conscious of the problem through the thought of the question. Don’t let it happen to you!

The Literature: Would you spend time and money looking for an answer if someone else had already written it down? I don’t think a single person from the “Copy and Paste” generation – or even those from generations before – would do so. Your “Literature Review” or “Review of Literature” is simply this. Checking, and showing the reader, that you are aware about what others have said about the problem as well as the particular question you’ve asked, and there hasn’t been an answer to it yet so you intend on diving deeper. “Umm.. so what if I find an answer?” – Simple. Challenge it!

The Theoretical Framework: We all see and understand things based on a set of assumptions we use to create perspective among other things. For instance, the designer saw the image and thought “Why did he choose that colour combination?” whilst the math junkie saw it and thought “I can prove 1 = 0; but 1 + 1 = 3? Hmmm…”. In research, this section is simply you declaring set of assumptions you will be using to create your unique perspective of the problem and how the question may be answered.

The Instrument: This is your “evidence maker”. The only way you can arrive at an “answer” is by observing, recording and ultimately measuring the phenomena

The Sample: You know what you want to measure; you have acquired everything you need to measure it – all that is left to go out and do just that measure. The sample represents the objects (sometimes people, sometimes not) within which the phenomena you’ve chosen to study occurs. The sample for your research about that image will be this blog post, and every website you’ve visited since you’ve started reading this post to try to figure out just how the heck 1 + 1 = 3.

The Test: This is simply the implementation of the instrument within the sample, and the ensuing active observation and recording of the phenomena. If Google were your instrument, and the websites listed in the search results your sample, then the test would be a combination of the action you took to get to Google, generate the search results and record what you found out about “1 + 1 = 3” in the sample.

1plus1is3The Findings: You’re looking through the websites right now… all the mental notes you’re taking ARE your findings. You just need to write them down. (NB: In some institutions an Analysis section may be required. This is simply moving your findings from a record of what you observed, to a record of what your observations mean within the context of the question).

The Conclusions: You’ve generated a ton-load of findings and even arrived at the part of the post where the entire image has been revealed – so what? What do you now take away from the experience? For some, the conclusion is obvious – “This looked strange because it wasn’t the entire image, and it was an attempt to promote safe sex and family planning. Within this context, the equation still is not quite right, but accomplishes it purpose in drawing the attention of the viewer and communicating the risks of unprotected sex”. Remember this little tidbit: Though your Findings give you answers to your Question, but it is the further extrapolation of meaning from those answers that provide you with insight to the Problem.

The Recommendations: You’ve spent the last 5-10 minutes reading this post and finding out that one plus one can indeed equal to three (3). What then are your recommendations for those who may follow your footsteps and do similar kinds of research. Make it good, or they’ll think you were goofing off!

The Limitations/Weaknesses: The very last thing you want to do (some argue it is the one of the first things you should do) is to acknowledge your imperfections. Ensure to let the reader know where you may have fallen short or things may have been especially tough.

That’s it! If I were to give you a single piece of advice about research, it would be: Get your PROBLEM right – then stick to it! At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how complex or simple your work is, if you cannot sufficiently address your problem, then you’ve wasted both your and the reader’s time.


The book on research methods…

Yes. It’s true. I intend to write and self-publish an e-book on research methods aimed primarily at college students later this year. If you are interested, just keep an eye on my website: or let me know via my contact form.