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Recognising research problems

Research Skills required by PhD students A1: The ability to recognise and validate problems...

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9 March 2010

Research Skills required by PhD students

A1: The ability to recognise and validate problems

Check this skill

By the time students complete a PhD, they should be able to answer ‘Yes’ to most of these questions.

  • Can you identify the research questions addressed in the research papers that you read?
  • Have you clearly defined the research question(s) you will pursue in your PhD?
  • Can you develop valid research hypotheses from your research question?
  • Can you give examples from the literature of problems that have been addressed by others, explain why those researchers addressed the problems as they did and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of those approaches?
  • Can you explain the sorts of evidence and/or arguments that are seen as valid in your field?
  • Can you design a research study that addresses one of those research questions?

Evidence of this skill

These are examples of documents you can collect. Each implies a piece or work, which may be a good way for you to develop this skill.

  • The research question component of your probation assessment
  • Notes from a discussion on gaps in the literature
  • Written analysis of problems addressed in the literature (for example, in a selection of studies) with a description of how the problems were addressed, and a discussion of the benefits and limitations of those approaches.

This page is based upon material produced by The Open University’s research school to support doctoral students.

Extra content

Settling on a research question isn't as easy as it sounds.

Here are links to the research blogs of three PhD students who tracked the development of their research questions from the start to the finish of their PhD. question

Rebecca Ferguson
15:29 on 9 March 2010

Embedded Content


Kristine Stevart
1:57pm 5 October 2017

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