Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thinking about my research question

I am wrestling with my research topic for my literature review and research proposal for my Research Methodologies class at SJSU. I'm fascinated by the way that iPad book apps combine many types of reading and learning. I would like to delve into understanding how children respond to digital reading, especially multimedia, multimodal types of reading. But this research is just beginning to emerge. So for my initial literature review, I've had to broaden the scope of my topic to investigating digital reading more broadly.

I'd like to keep in mind the key questions that Dr. Josepch Stetar (2009), of Seton Hall University, posed in his Slideshare "Developing Research Questions".

Criteria for identifying research problem:

  1. Must be interesting enough to hold my interest 
  2. Must be within my range of competence. 
  3. Must be a manageable size 
  4. Must have some basis in theory—ie, topics found in the lit review 
  5. Must have the potential to make an original contribution—can’t be a duplicate of something that’s already been done. 
  6. Must be based on obtainable data—research plan must be viable and practical. 
  7. Must permit me to demonstrate my independent mastery of both subject and research method

Clearly, I have a long way to go. At the moment, I am interested in seeing how I would extend on the research started by the Cooney Foundation (Chiong, et al., 2012), but extending it to school-aged children. The Cooney Foundation research focuses on children ages 3-6 and how they read book apps with their parents. I'm interested in how children ages 6-10 read book apps, the ways that they absorb information, interact with the digital elements, and comprehend the story/information. I really want to know whether book apps appeal to children because they seem so much like games and movies, or if they are drawing children into a book-like experience.

I wonder if Slater would argue that my topic is still too broad, that I need to focus it down more to just one or two variables. I suppose the Cooney research from 2012 (Chiong, et al., 2012) did this by comparing comprehension from a print, ebook and enhanced book app for similar books. I can see doing this with the Magic School Bus: Oceans book, which has a print and excellent iPad book app - perfect for a 6 to 9 year old.

The dilemma that I'm facing is that there is very little research out there right now on this specific topic. So to meet the literature review element of my assignment (15 or more scholarly articles), I need to look more broadly at digital reading. One of the aspects I will examine is how other researchers have structured their investigations into students digital reading, say with Kindles.

I'm curious if theoretical articles that define and identify issues within this area are a part of the literature survey. They are not other studies, per se, but they lay an important foundation, especially in this developing field.

Ahh, much to ponder. But it's certainly holding my interest!

Chiong, C., Ree, J., Takeuchi, L. and Erickson, I. (2012). Comparing parent-child co-reading on print, basic and enhanced e-book platforms. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Spring 2012. Retrieved from

Stetar, J. (2009). Developing Research Questions. Slideshare. Retrieved from

1 comment:

  1. You make a good point about the lack of research so far into digital reading. I imagine there are studies in progress that haven't been finished or published yet. You are thinking on the cutting edge!

    I wanted to respond to two things in your post. One, the issue with not having a lot of research studies for your lit review. Here is what de Groot said about the selection of materials for the lit review (I got this from the assignment details Google doc):
    "There must be a minimum of 10 scholarly, peer reviewed articles. Other sources may be articles written for practitioners,the general public, blog entries, popular books (i.e. Born Digital - Palfrey and Glass, Totally Wired - Goodstein), documentaries (i.e. Growing up Digital - PBS or TED talks)."

    So maybe that makes things a little easier for you? Also, the ten scholarly, peer-reviewed articles don't all have to be research studies. In terms of your question about the theoretical articles, YES! There is definitely a role for them in the lit review. The lecture that de Groot posted about her lit review process was helpful to me, because it helped me understand that my lit review should be divided into sections. So, one of your sections can be theoretical--and you can explicitly say that this is a new area of research and there are fewer research articles.

    Two, in terms of variables and your research question, you will of course narrow it down. I think that to make this process feel manageable, you will need to identify a few variables that you want to focus on and just pin those down. If you look back through the articles you've already read, are some big variables or themes jumping out? That is where I would go next.