Chapter 1: Introduction to Research Methods

1.3 Where Do Research Ideas Come From?

Where do ideas come from? Researchers find inspiration for their work in a variety of places; e.g., replicating, clarifying or challenging previous research, as well as resolving conflicting results, are common reasons for doing research. Sometimes research ideas come out of new technology (think of the impact of Facebook or Twitter on our society), serendipity (i.e., surprise findings the researcher wants to explore further), anomalies (i.e., unexpected situations that should not technically exist), or even because someone wants to explore further something we all believe we know. Some people refer to this as common sense research – history, tradition or basic common sense says this is how things are, until someone challenges it. For those in an applied field like public safety, research often comes out of a problem supplied to the researcher.


Whether an agency has a goal they are trying to achieve or a concern about a policy change, or you, as an individual, make an observation or have a question about the world around you, research is everywhere. Generally, it starts with the questions of why or how. However, even if the research starts with these basic, and often broad, questions, it is an iterative process, meaning that it requires refinement.


As the reasons for beginning a research project vary, so do the types of research questions. Research can be exploratory, descriptive, relational, explanatory, or transformative. Each has different methods and end objectives. Thus, it is important to identify the objectives of the research project to determine the most appropriate type of research method to use. The next step is to develop a research question. We will be devoting more time to this in Chapter 2.


Here is an interesting video you can check out that discuss how ideas, including research ideas, are generated:


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