Identification of the Research Question

Janine Overcash, PhD
Elaine Slucomb, PhD

Getting Started

  • When considering a research topic, go with what you know!
    • What types of patients are generally under your care?
    • What types of procedures do you generally perform?
    • About what do you know a great deal?


Step 1: Develop a Unique and Specific Focus

  • What interests you?
  • In what are you proficient?
  • What expertise do you have to share?
    • Keep narrowing down
      • Move to a specific focus before you start writing
  • Who is the intending audience?


Example of Specific Focus

Category Fluid Balance
Topic Dehydration in the elderly
Focus Dehydration in elderly nursing home residents
Specific Focus Prevention of dehydration in cognitively capable nursing home residents who do not have swallowing deficits.


Example: Selecting Audience

  • Audience:
    • RN charge nurse working in long term care who regularly plans care and supervises activities of LPNs & nursing assistants caring for cognitively capable residents. 

Focus is critial

  • Develop strong, narrow, unique focus and identify the specific audience BEFORE you write one word!

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Method Section

Elements in a Method Section

  • Study Design
  • Setting
  • Sample
  • Measurement
  • Data Collection Procedures
  • Procedures
  • Analysis


  • The main purpose of the Method Section is replication. This section should provide enough detail so that other scientists could carry out a similar study.
  • Often, this section provides data on which to judge validity and reliability of the study.

Study Design

  • Quantitative or Qualitative
  • Descriptive
  • Retrospective
  • Randomized Clinical Trial
  • Experimental
  • Intervention Studies
    • How were the groups determined


  • Where the study was preformed
  • Agency
  • Country
  • Region


  • What type of participants were sampled
  • Inclusion Criteria
  • Exclusion Criteria
  • Informed Consent
  • How were the participants invited to participate
    • Convenient Sample
    • Breast cancer patients, aged 50 and over, English Speaking and who have never undergone chemptherapy

Measurements or Instruments

  • Illustrate each of the instruments used in the study.
  • Describe scoring of each instrument
  • Describe the validity and reliability of each instrument.

Data Collection Procedures

  • How the participants were recruited.
  • Where did the data collection taken place (exam room)
  • What period of time is required for the data collection per participant
  • How often are the participants sampled
  • Support the data points. Why is data collection required at the beginning of chemo, at middle and end.
  • How the participant's privacy will be protected.
  • Who is the data collector
  • How will they be trained
  • On what will the data be recorded (hardcopy or computer)
  • Any information that would facilitate reconstruction.

Data Analysis

  • Statistical Procedures. Organized Cogent with research questions stated in the beginning of the paper.


  • Fridlund, B. (2006). Writing a Scientific Manuscript: Some Formal and Informal Proposals. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 5, 185-187.

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Results and Discussion

  • Present the findings
  • Findings should address each of the research questions
  • No discussion or interpretation of the findings- just the facts
  • Report all findings, even the ones that are counter to the hypothesis.

Order of Results

  • Offer sample characteristics
    • Number of participants
    • Demographics
    • Means Frequencies
  • Present findings in the order of research questions
  • Use tables to further illustrate the findings

What to Report

  • Generally, do not include individual results.
  • Include selection of size effect indicators.
  • Report confidence intervals.
  • Statistical power.
  • Statistical significance.
  • Unintended or unexpected findings.


  • The discussion section evaluates and interprets results.
    • Compares with previous research findings by the author.
    • Current standards of practice.
    • Compares with other research findings.
    • Provides reasons for differing findings.
    • Problem Choice
      • Why was the problem identified
    • Application and synthesis
    • Do not over generalize findings.
    • Often subjective.
    • Be careful with the claims associated with the research.
    • Why are the results important.

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Tables And Figures

  • Efficient way to present data.
  • Exact numerical values.
  • Limited in number.
  • Can help reader compare data.
  • APA Manual pages 149-154.

Relationship of Table to Text

  • Tables must be understood without the help of explanation in the text.
  • The text discusses the highlights.
  • Standard statistical abbreviations do not need to be explained.

Points to Consider

  • Combine tables that repeat data.
  • A table is a relationship between columns and rows and figure can be a pictorial or illustration.
  • Number all tables in order of mention in the test.
  • When constructing a research article, develop tables first and then write your text.
  • Title all tables.
  • Specific types of tables
    • ANOVA
    • Regression
    • Correlations

Table Checklist

  • Is the table necessary?
  • Is the entire table double spaced?
  • Are all tables consistent in presentation?
  • Are the titles brief yet explanatory?
  • Does every column have a heading?
  • Are all abbreviations explained?
  • Is the table mentioned in the text?


  • A figure is a chart, drawing, photo or graph.
  • A figure should augment rather than duplicate the text.
  • Convey essential facts.
  • Is not distracting.
  • Easy to read and understand.
  • APA manual 177-181.

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Identifying the Research Question PPT
Method Section PPT
Results and Discussion Section PPT
Tables and Figures PPT

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) 460 W. 10th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210 Phone: 1-800-293-5066 | Email: