Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsNICK BARTER: If I was to ask you how honey is produced and sold, you might talk about - getting the honey from the hives, - bottling it in a factory of some sort, - and then shipping it to the supermarket. Simple, right? This response makes perfect sense but only within the narrow confines of thinking about producing and selling honey from an economic and consumer perspective. Let's think a little broader and consider the question in relation to monetary exchanges in the wider economy. We soon realise the system relies on banks, individuals having bank accounts, people being paid, the ability to buy bottles to put the honey in, packaging materials, lorries, and so on.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsWith all of those aspects working, all of a sudden, our simple answer is based on an assumption that a lot of things will just happen. And when we think about it even less economically and just biologically, the boundaries open up even more. The reality is the whole process relies on humans being healthy and having air to breathe, which in turn relies on the process of photosynthesis, which in turn relies on healthy plants. Similarly, the actual production of honey relies on the health of the bees and them having flowers to visit and those same flowers producing nectar.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 secondsThe health of the flowers relies on the local weather conditions and the quality of the soil, and even having available land for them to grow. And, obviously, it doesn't end there because those same assumptions on the health of the soil relies on even more factors. So the question-- how is honey produced and sold?-- can be answered simply if a lot of things are assumed. Or it can be answered with greater complexity if the assumptions aren't made. So how does this relate to research? When you ask a research question and define a process for answering that question, you need to always consider the hidden assumptions you're making. I suggest you list those assumptions and keep a record of them.

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 secondsDuring the process of your research, continue to review them and their validity when it comes time to explaining your answers to your research question.

Portfolio activity: your research question

It’s time to create a research question for your project.

The question itself is entirely up to you. Research requires commitment, so choose a topic that is practical and will keep you motivated. Revisit Step 1.8 for a refresher on deciding what research area will keep you interested and motivated.

We recommend that you do so using a portfolio.

Why a portfolio?

You’ll have plenty of opportunities throughout the courses in this program to build a portfolio of your work. Slowly building up your portfolio will help you to develop a well-thought-through research plan.

During the fifth course on research planning, you’ll use the material in this portfolio to create a research proposal which can then be assessed by experts. If their assessment is that the research you propose will be useful and feasible you are guaranteed to receive credit for prior learning for a number of Masters courses at Deakin and Griffith Universities.

Setting up your portfolio

When you set up your portfolio, leave at least five major sections with space for sub-sections or sub-headings. This will give you one section each for the courses of this program that occur prior to assessment.

Once you’ve done that, keep an eye on the ‘Your tasks’ in portfolio steps to give you an indication of the sub-sections that you should create and, of course, fill in.

Building your portfolio should be an iterative process. If you regularly revisit each section of these portfolios, you will find that you have new ideas or would like to make refinements based on what you’ve learnt in later courses. If you do this thoughtfully and regularly, this will pay off handsomely when you come to prepare your research proposal for assessment.

Portfolio tools

There are a number of free online tools that you can use to create this portfolio. We’re going to ask the learning community to share and review each other’s portfolios later on in the program, so it’s best to use an online tool rather than save a file to your computer.

Portfolio tool Description
Google Docs Similar to Microsoft Word, it allows you to create and share documents simply and easily. We couldn’t have made this course without it.
WordPress A popular tool with bloggers, it is often used to make visually appealing portfolios and showcases
Wix A website creation tool that will help you make your portfolio look good
Canva If presentation matters to you, Canva might be the way to go. Designed as an online presentation tool and poster creator, this little gem can be used to make anyone’s work look incredible.

There are a huge variety of other tools you could also use. The main thing is finding one that lets you link to your work so you can share it with your fellow learners.

Your task

Create a portfolio which includes your description of your research question and share it with the group.

Your description should include:

  • a brief introduction to the problem your research will address
  • your specific, well-defined question.

While doing this, it is worth also listing:

  • the assumptions you will make about your problem
  • what you already know and what you need to know to answer the question
  • which research approach you will take to find out what you don’t know, and why
  • what data you might need to collect to answer your research question.

Thinking back over the course will help you when doing this. By the time you come to write your research proposal, detailed notes like these will save you time and improve the quality of your work.

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This video is from the free online course:

Why Research Matters

Deakin University