This paper examines chapter three of the book entitled “The craft of research”. Chapter three of the book deals with “From Topics to Questions”. The research process includes the selection of a topic of one’s interest and narrowing it down to a research question that sets the research in motion (Booth, Colomb, and Williams, 2008). The following narration would show that arriving at a research question is not as simple as that. Once the selection of the topic is made, the real challenge is to crystallize a research question which should be an original idea or thought.
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If the researcher has to select a topic himself without being assigned with one, the process of selection will appear to be never-ending that at some stage or other, the researcher has to compromise on a topic since the topics he will come across will be equally appealing. Again the persisting problem will be on framing the research question. It is so important because it should be capable of arousing the reader’s interest (Booth et al, 2008).
At times, questions are readily available from popular topics such as “whether traits like shyness or an attraction to risk are learned or genetically inherited” (p 35). Usually, researches are not launched with such popular topics or questions as they will not be found to be unique or original. With this in mind, the researcher, in his constant contemplation, will stumble upon “a mental itch” (p35) and select a topic and question that will turn out to be very original; such as “why do cats rub their faces against us?” or “why does a coffee spill dry up in the shape of a ring” (p 35). The authors insist that researches are initiated in this manner alone and not with a topic already popular. Be that as it may, the question chosen should be to finding a solution for a problem irksome for quite some time (Booth et al, 2008).
The authors posit that one does not have to be an expert on the topic one chooses or that the researcher should have a better knowledge of the topic than his faculty knows. Research should not be done on a topic just to satisfy others, but it should be the one that interests the researcher the most since his affinity to the subject alone would ensure the quality of the end product (Booth et al, 2008). The authors advise
Start by listing as many interests as you can that you would like to explore. Don’t limit yourself to what you think might interest a teacher or make him think you are a serious student. Let your ideas flow. Prime the pump by asking friends, classmates, even your teacher about topics that interest them (p 36, 37).
The authors move on to say that after the selection of the few topics, the researcher would find it useful to further search in a library the subheadings to the topic listed in a general bibliography. Next, the task is to search for the topic on Google without too much surfing. Though Wikipedia is a good source of knowledge or references, it should never be cited as it is not yet a trusted reference (Booth et al, 2008) This is not applicable if the topic itself is “Wikipedia” (p37).
The brief examination above underpins the idea of the originality of a research topic for which purpose the researcher cannot have a readymade research question. It is by sheer contemplation, that the researcher will get the “mental hitch” that will unfold originality to differentiate with a new question under the beaten track of the same broader topic.
Booth, W.C., Colomb, G.G., & Williams, J.M. (2008). The Craft of Research (3rd ed) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.