How to Develop your Research Question - Martin Gertler - ebook

How to Develop your Research Question ebook

Martin Gertler



Without a determined problem no objective, without an objective no research question – without a research question no achievement of the objective and no solution to the problem!Each semester it becomes clear how difficult it is for students to design clear formulations for these basic elements of a scientific paper and to develop a logical, comprehensible approach.Therefore, this guide uses examples from mentoring in webinars to show how to develop a goal-oriented research question and what role the basic elements preceding it play: the problem and the objective.In addition to each example, a sketch is given of what the further structure of the research project could look like.The e-book links directly to suitable places for further information, e.g. to FAQ pages and instructional videos at  Martin Gertler earned his doctorate in 1999 from the University of Nijmegen (Netherlands) because of an interdisciplinary study on the reception of a TV series.Since 2002, he is professor for media design (especially audio visual and interactive media), media production, media theories and reception research in the media department of the Rheinische Fachhochschule Köln.In 2008 he was appointed founding rector of a new continuing education university in Berlin and for university professor.Since 2011 he is visiting professor for doctoral supervision and promotor in the part-time graduate college of the University of Humanistic Studies / Universiteit voor Humanistiek, Utrecht (Netherlands).

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Martin Gertler

How to Develop your Research Question

Examples from Webinars

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The following "circle" is important for the targeted development of the research question.



The topic or the formulation of the topic is the determining guideline, everything that follows depends on it: the problem definition, without which no investigation would be necessary; the objective for solving the problem posed; it is followed by the research question in order to shape the path to achieving the goal and to be answered at the end of the whole.

You will also find these connections in this short Video - an excerpt from one of our webinars:






(Note: all links - including those to such videos - always lead you from the e-book to your device's browser. Your e-book will be waiting for you at the same place afterwards.)


In this way, the procedure and choice of methodology can also be defined. One produces results, so to speak, which in turn are measured by the extent to which they have made the topic or the formulation of the topic "true".

We also discussed which structural elements an investigation requires, in a webinar on the development of a research question. This was about how one could also prepare oneself for a written exam if there are tasks that concern the sketching of a research project. See the cutout here:




Six topic suggestions from different courses of study are now to serve as examples for actually experiencing the above circle in motion. They were introduced and discussed by the author in one of his webinars. This is followed by an example from an exam, combined with suggestions for optimization.

May the following considerations and tips help you to plan a coherent scientific procedure for your own project!


Berlin, August 2018


Prof. Dr. Martin Gertler


Example 1: Secure Password Transmission in a Network


This practical example has been found in the field of business informatics.

The problem definition could be expressed as follows: "How can you send someone his new password in a secure way?" This refers to cases where someone has lost or failed to renew their network access password in time so that access is currently no longer possible, but the problem also applies if someone has joined the organization.

In fact, this topic comes from a large municipal administration, the town hall of a metropolis, whose administration extends over many buildings and districts and functional areas.

Now one does not know in this context which transmission technique would work - and one must also take the own structures of his organization into account.

Previously it had been done in such a way that the office colleague was contacted within the intranet – and this person then passed on the access code to the person concerned.

But such a thing is increasingly problematic: not always a second person sits in the same room, furthermore there are people working alone, some are working in the home office. You need a new solution for that.

The objective of the investigation will therefore be "to find a solution that corresponds to relevant safety aspects".

This objective thus also sets the standard for the research question, as can be seen in the circle model. In processing the research question, the achievement of the objective can be expected where the results will have arisen.

The goal is to get there! And now, please formulate the research question in order to achieve the goal well.

For example, if you are travelling from Berlin to Cologne, Cologne is the destination – and the research question will focus on how best to reach this goal – fast, cheap, environmentally friendly or however defined.

So the target has to be determined first. Then one can search for the way and the research question contributes to finding the way. That is their crucial function.

So if the objective here is to find a solution that corresponds to relevant security aspects, the research question could be:

"What paths for secure password transmission could *here* be considered?"