Scope of the Investigation

Determine the Scope of the Investigation

“Should I get a flu shot? Do those really work?”

“I’ve seen lots of patients with the flu lately. What’s going on this year?”

“I’ve got to write a research paper on the flu, but isn’t that a big topic?”

If you don’t first determine the scope of your investigation, you risk wasting time sifting through search results. Additionally, what you find may not fit your project. For example, there is too much information about flu shots to fit into a five-page research paper.

It can be hard to determine the scope of an investigation when you don’t know much about the topic. Fortunately, the 5W criteria , which you may have learned in elementary school, can help you solve this problem. (16)

Who? The individual or specific group of people that you are investigating.

What? The element of your research topic that affects the Who.

When? The time frame in which you focus your research.

Where? The geographical location in which you focus your research.

Why? The reason for this research that adds importance or meaning for this investigation.

Watch the video, Brainstorm your Research Topic to see how the 5W criteria and concept mapping are integrated to narrow a broad topic.

Self-Check

Read the research question then for the 4 questions that follow identify the response that describes the “W.”

Research Question: What are the most important factors that have influenced the spread of influenza in U.S. adults in the past ten years?

1. Who?

  1. Past ten yearsIncorrect, try again!
  2. Important factors that have influenced the spread of influenzaIncorrect, try again!
  3. U.S.Incorrect, try again!
  4. AdultsCorrect!

2. What?

  1. Past ten yearsIncorrect, try again!
  2. Important factors that have influenced the spread of influenzaCorrect!
  3. U.S.Incorrect, try again!
  4. AdultsIncorrect, try again!

3. When?

  1. Past ten yearsCorrect!
  2. Important factors that have influenced the spread of influenzaIncorrect, try again!
  3. U.S.Incorrect, try again!
  4. AdultsIncorrect, try again!

4. Where?

  1. Past ten yearsIncorrect, try again!
  2. Important factors that have influenced the spread of influenzaIncorrect, try again!
  3. U.S.Correct!
  4. AdultsIncorrect, try again!

5. Which 5W criterion would you add to the following research question in order to narrow the scope of investigation?

Research Question: Are flu rates higher among elderly people than in other populations in the past decade?

  1. WhoIncorrect, try again!
  2. WhatIncorrect, try again!
  3. WhenIncorrect, try again!
  4. WhereCorrect! Selecting a country, region, or other smaller population would help narrow down the research question.

6. Which question contains all 5Ws and is the most developed?

  1. What are the best practices in communicating about the flu vaccine?Incorrect! This question lacks the “who” “when” and “where” elements of the 5Ws. It is the least developed of the choices.
  2. What are the current best practices in communicating with area at-risk urban families about the safety of the flu vaccine to encourage immunization?Correct! This question contains all 5W elements: Who—at risk families; What—best practices in flu vaccine communication; When—current; Where—urban; Why—to encourage immunizations.
  3. What are the best practices in communicating with area families about the safety of the flu vaccine to encourage immunization?Incorrect! This is a developed research question, but it lacks the “when” element and the “who” element is not as developed as the correct choice.
  4. What are the current best practices for communicating about the flu vaccine to encourage immunization and build trust for future conversations? 16Incorrect! This research question lacks a “who” and “where” component, making it less developed than other choices.

Putting it All Together

The scope of every investigation is different. As you begin your investigation you may discover that your question is too broad or too narrow, in which case you can use the 5Ws to add, take away, or modify criteria.

Select the blank line to reveal the definition.

Research Topic: A subject you are interested in investigating.

Research Question: Drives your investigation; it is something you want to explore and answer.

Scope of Investigation: Determines how large or small your investigation will be.

You now know how to determine the scope of an investigation by forming a research question. Revising your question against your task and the available information on your topic can help you arrive at the best information quickly. (16)

Conclusion

The inquiry process involves questioning. A question is a request for information. The more information you gather, the more questions you ask, and the more you research. It is a repetitive course of action. That is what differentiates search from research.

As the researcher, you must analyze a broad topic and narrow the focus to a manageable size. Your research question will help you to determine the scope of your investigation, in other words, the extent of subject matter on your topic and how much you will need to search for answers to your question. Revising your question based on the task and the information available on your topic will help you to research more effectively. (1)

Although the research question does not appear in your submitted report or project, it does influence the final product. (17) The research question will reflect the intention of your research (i.e. to explain or predict outcomes; cause-effect relationships; describe a group or situation). This should guide the methods you use to find relevant information. The intention of your research, driven by the question, will affect the claims (i.e. thesis or hypothesis) or conclusions you make as a result of your research, i.e. results. (1)