I Have to Do Research – Where Do I Start?

Lots of us research things, whether it is researching views on a particular Bible passage for our Bible Study Group, researching the historical or social background for a dance or other artwork, finding out what people in our church would like to have included in our Sunday services, or an online search for information on different brands of washing machine.

The following are some questions you need to ask before you start:

First Question: What question(s) you need the answer(s) to?
You may be like me – I often find it hard when I am researching online. What question do I need to ask to get the information I need? Being clear about the question will help us to look in the right places for answers (or help Google to find the answers we need!). If my research involves asking people for their views, then I also need to give them very clear simple questions; if my questions are not clear, the people being surveyed will be confused about how to answer, and I will end up with a survey that was a waste of everyone’s time!

Second Question: How am I going to report on this research?
Am I going to produce a series of focus questions or a short paper for the Bible Study Group, a dance or other artwork, a summary for the church newsletter, or a hand-written summary of features of the best washing machine?

Questions when your research involves people:
For an academic research project involving people, there are a lot of ethical questions that have to be answered before the academy will give permission or funding for the research project. But I think we can learn something from this, even if we are not doing academic research. These ethical issues are really about respecting people: things like asking permission from leaders or elders, making sure you survey a wide range of people, ensuring that people’s names and photographs are not included in the final report unless they give permission, allowing people to opt out if they don’t want to answer a question (or even be involved).

Whatever you are researching, these are important questions to answer before you start. I pray that God will bless and lead you as you look for answers.

— Dr Debbie Bright (New Zealand)

Header image: By Matl – own work (photography), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3758023

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