How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Three research questions
There are three types of research questions that may be answered. Here they are.
A research study can simply be an observation of something, in which the researcher takes the effective role of 'witness', answering the basic question of 'What happened?'
The critical activity here is to describe completely and accurately what is observed, no more, no less. A survey, for example, will give you simple data about the proportion of a population who own a car.
A relational study considers how individual items relate to one another (or not), with the researcher comparing different objects and asking the question 'How are these connected?'
A relational study thus requires more than one object and one or more variables that describe the relationship between them. In a survey, the variables of 'income' and 'gender' may be explored in relation to car owners.
A causal study may start with a given event and seek to discover the events that necessarily precede the given event. It may also start with two or more events and seek conclusions about whether one causes the other and what sequences are involved. The researcher thus seeks to answer the question 'Why did this happen?'
In a survey, an exploration might be undertaken as to the reasons why a person buys a particular car and the influence that different advertising has over that decision.
A causal investigation may be viewed as a kind of relational study in that it explores the causal relationship between events. It also may require description and thus be a combination of all three questions. It is thus worth noting that it is likely to be the most difficult question to answer.
And the big