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Researching Issues in Child Development (Osburn)

A guide for students in MJC's Child Development program, specifically Randi Osburn's courses, as well as any student researching issues pertaining to early childhood education.

Inquiry Driven Research: What Are You Trying to Figure Out?

Research works best when it is tackled with the true spirit of inquiry. What are you ultimately trying to figure out in regards to your topic?  Are you trying to gain an overview of of a brand new topic, or understand something familiar with greater depth and clarity? Are you trying to develop a new idea or find the best arguments for or against an existing idea? Are you trying to find a solution to a problem? Approaching research through the lens of inquiry is a great way to keep you motivated. You aren't just looking for information, you're looking for ANSWERS!

Below are a few examples of guiding research questions in the field of  childhood development:

  • How can strong community partnerships strengthen early childhood development programs?
  • What is the optimal role of the parent within early childhood development programs? 
  • What is the  purpose of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, and how does it effect early childhood education professionals and paraprofessionals?
  • Can you summarize the steps involved in creating an Individual Education Plan?
  • How do Title V and Title XXII effect early childhood education programs?

Preliminary Reading: Getting Acquainted with Your Topic

It's important to begin your research learning something about your subject; in fact, you won't be able to create a focused, manageable thesis unless you already know something about your topic.

Do a Little Background Reading:

This step is important so that you will:

  • Begin building your core knowledge about your topic
  • Be able to put your topic in context
  • Create research questions that drive your search for information
  • Create a list of search terms that will help you find relevant information
  • Know if the information you’re finding is relevant and useful

Reference sources are highly credible sources filled with thorough yet concise discussions that let you know the “who, what, when, why, and where” information on your topic right at the start of your research.

Top Picks:

Asking More Questions!

New knowledge inevitably leads to new questions. Think of a television program involving a criminal investigation. Experts arrive on the scene to answer a fundamental question: "What happened here?" But their investigation merely begins with that basic question. Soon they are finding themselves answering more specific questions in order to figure out what happened. Who all was involved with the crime? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why did it happen? Were there any witnesses? It is only by answering a series of smaller questions that they are ultimately able to see the big picture. 

A researcher investigates a topic much like a detective investigates a crime. You may start off with an overriding question -- What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and how does it affect early childhood education programs?  -- but you'll soon find yourself asking many more questions on your journey. Below are some examples of additional questions one might ask about IDEA:

  1. When was IDEA enacted, and what were the event leading up to it's creation?
  2. What is the fundamental purpose of IDEA?
  3. What are some of benefits of IDEA? 
  4. What are some of the challenges of IDEA?
  5. What research can I find about IDEA?
  6. What is the future of IDEA?
  7. Based on my research, what do I think about the role IDEA plays in my future profession?

If you want to learn more about research questions, try our guide Develop Research Questions.

You might also want to watch this short video explaining the benefits of research questions.