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Developing a research question

Before you start searching, it can be helpful to help identify the key aspects of your question. Consider as well if there are any possible synonyms/related terms for each aspect of your question. Your starting question can be broad, but ultimately your goal should be to narrow it down to something you can answer within the scope of your class project.

Step 1: Start with a broad topic of interest

  • Eg. Therapeutic taping

Step 2: Search for literature on your topic

  • Start with a background search using an encyclopedia from the library or by searching on Google. Then, move onto searching for peer-reviewed articles in an academic database.
  • Possible search terms: Therapeutic taping = athletic tape, elastic therapeutic tape, kinesio tape, k-tape, KT, etc.

Step 3: Identify a research gap

  • Before you develop a question, you should (ideally) find a research gap. A research gap is an aspect of your topic that's not sufficiently covered by the existing literature.

Step 4: Develop a draft research question

  • Eg. Is therapeutic taping effective for relieving pain?

Who is my population group? What parts types of pain is therapeutic taping used for? Is there a specific sport I should focus on? Type of athlete?

  • Eg. Soccer players OR football players (in Europe)

Step 5: Refine research question and choose study method

  • You will need to revise your PICO(T) research question several times so it is clear and concise. During this process, you will want to think about how you would answer this research question and choose a method. You can choose a method by borrowing from existing academic papers or by using a reference handbook/database.
  • Eg. Is therapeutic taping an effective method for treating knee pain in young soccer players?

Other tips:

  • Consider your study feasibility. Can you answer your research question in the scope of this class?
  • Study should be low risk, meaning there should be little to no discomfort or risk of injury for your research participants.
  • Searching for literature can help you narrow your question. You can start with a broad question when you start for literature search. Use the literature you find to help you narrow your question.

Before you start searching, it can be helpful to help identify the key aspects of your question. Consider as well if there are any possible synonyms/related terms for each aspect of your question.

Does athletic identity affect an individual's ability to prepare for life without sport?

Identity - could this also be worded as self concept?

Life without sport - could this also be worded as life after sport, post-competitive, former athlete, career transition, or retirement?

Should professional athletes be idolized or viewed as role models by their fans?

Idol or role model could also be worded as hero

Lit review videos

Conducting a systematic review (critical review)

Finding literature

Search different spellings and plural/singular

An asterisk (*) or truncation symbols means I don't care how it ends  e.g. sprain*

Search phrases

Use quotation marks "" to search for a particular phrase  e.g. "risk taking"

Proximity searching

Proximity searching lets you search for two words near each other e.g. ankle N2 sprain* will look for those words within two words of each other in any order

Using AND/OR

Avoid typing sentences into the search box. Always use AND or OR between different ideas:

  • AND (if you want all the words to appear in your search results) e.g. hazing AND sport*
  • OR (if you don't care which word shows up) e.g. college OR university

Subject headings vs keywords

Keywords Subject terms

Natural language words that describe your topic

Pro: Easy to combine terms

Pro: Can search for them anywhere in the source

Con: Can be difficult to narrow results

Con: Might retrieve irrelevant results

Pre-defined vocabulary that describes your topic

Pro: Can quickly rule out irrelevant sources

Pro: Often retrieves more accurate results

Con: Harder to combine terms (need to know which terms exist)

Advanced search tutorial videos

Strategy 1: Carefully review the references of relevant articles you've found

Article: Lohmander, L., Östenberg, A., Englund, M., & Roos, H. (2004). High prevalence of knee osteoarthritis, pain, and functional limitations in female soccer players twelve years after anterior cruciate ligament injury. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 50(10), 3145–3152.

Strategy 2: Use Google Scholar or Scopus to find out who cited the articles you've found

Citation management tools

Templates for documenting and summarizing literature

The above Google Docs are for you to use.

Instructions: Copy to your Google Drive

  • Open the document link
  • Select "File" and then "Make a Copy."

Instructions: Download to MS Word (.docx)

  • Open the document link
  • Select "File"
  • Select "Download"and "Microsoft Word (.docx)"

Finding an appropriate method for your research

Finding tests and measures and datasets

(Search suggestions take from McGill University Library's research guide "Finding instruments, measures, scales and tests in education, health, psychology, and social work.")

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Erik Christiansen

Phone: 403.440.5168
Office: EL4423D
Website Skype Contact: egchrist