I wrote two previous entries on how to write an academic article, one was focused on free writing, the other one, was on the issue on how to work with all the possible bright ideas that pop up when free writing.
Now the focus is on the research question. After much writing one have to stop somewhere and this might be in two weeks or two months if you wish, but the astonishing amount of words produced will mean a lot of edition, which means to think about a possible theme to aim for. However, the best way to form an idea of what you are writing is to aim for a possible research question to jump from the why to the how?
What is the research question and why is it so important? and then “how” do we develop a great research question? The quality of the research is not in the issues you know but in the issues that you don’t know, and this means, the greater and deeper the questions the greater the advancement of the possible understanding of the issues.
I have to thank that there is people around the world that are prompt to help either directly and indirectly, and this is the case with an article that I came across written by Sundhya Pahuja, “Practical Methodology: Writing about How we do research“, she wrote a great article on how to focus on the research question and how to formulate a great research question.
The quality of our research question then can prompt us to the possible methodology to apply in international law, and talking about the methodology for international lawyers is something that we are afraid to talk about. Well at least for me it gives me the shivvers.
Coming back to the research question
As Pahuja says:
Great research questions can
“encourage reflection and trigger intellectual activity. Posing a good question is just as important as finding an answer…better questions are ones which help us to meet the demands of the genre of scholarly, or research-writing. That is, they help us (i) make an original contribution to knowledge; (ii) be critical and reflexive in a generic sense; and (iii) write something rigorous which can be relied upon by researchers in the future…that I mean they challenge the reader’s taken-for-granted assumptions in some way.“
Then how do we formulate great research questions?
First don’t aim for the whys, aim for the hows, and then aim for good or better questions:
“Better questions might have different goals (predictive, theoretical, synthetic, diagnostic), and can be expressed in different words, but will often be underpinned by an underlying curiosity about how we might understand something. Examples of good questions include variations on this ‘how can we understand?’ question. Often they invite new descriptions of things we think we already know. So for example, questions which invite useful (re)descriptions include enquiries into how a particular set of legal arrangements works, the kinds of relations instituted by a particular law, or what kinds of effects a particular law might produce.”
But, after having this possible great question, which I guess I am far from producing one good at the moment, meaning that more tinkering must occur. A further test to a possible research question is the “so what?” type of question, like for example the Jurassic Park “… nobody cares” Meme
So if the research question is great, the so what question will be answered and will provide a more rounded approach to a possible academic article.
After having a great research question, I can have a possible article with a possible initial structure –also provided by Sundhya– is 1) Context, 2) Question, 3) Method, which comprises the object and interpretation, and finally 4) Significance of the research question.
If this can be done, then the article is to a good start maybe setting apart the article from common articles, the aim then is to get away from the why questions since those type of questions can give a cause and effect, and might not be pushing forward the science of International Law, I recommend highly Sundhya’s article so you can have a better grasp on the elaboration of possible research questions.
My aim is to have fun tinkering on research questions, let’s see what would happen.
Well, have fun writing!