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Tutorial 1: Finding a Phenomenon and Asking a Question About It#

Good Research Practices

Content creators: Dionessa Baton, Marguerite Brown, Zane Mitrevica, Natalie Steinemann, Yuxin Zhou

Content reviewers: Katrina Dobson, Sloane Garelick, Maria Gonzalez, Nahid Hasan, Paul Heubel, Sherry Mi, Beatriz Cosenza Muralles, Cheng Zhang

Content editors: Jenna Pearson, Chi Zhang, Ohad Zivan

Production editors: Wesley Banfield, Paul Heubel, Jenna Pearson, Konstantine Tsafatinos, Chi Zhang, Ohad Zivan

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Tutorial Objectives#

In Tutorials 1-4, you will learn about the process of research design. This includes how to

  1. Identify a phenomenon and formulate a research question surrounding it

  2. Efficiently review existing literature and knowledge about the phenomenon

  3. Identify what is needed to study the phenomenon

  4. Formulate a testable hypothesis regarding the phenomenon

By the end of these tutorials you will be able to:

  • Understand the principles of good research practices

  • Learn to view a scientific data set or question through the lens of equity: Who is represented by this data and who is not? Who has access to this information? Who is in a position to use it?


In order to illustrate the process, we will use a sample research question about how the surface temperature of the earth depends on the CO\(_2\) content of the atmosphere.

Video 1: Finding a Phenomenon & Asking a Question about it#

Activity: Asking Your Own Question#

Write down a phenomenon you would like to gain understanding about. Take 5 minutes to construct a question about the phenomenon. Discuss amongst your group to improve the question. For some inspiration:

  • Are there other aspects of the planet that may influence the average surface temperature?

  • Are there other features of the planet that may be impacted by changes in the average surface temperature?

Make Sure to Avoid the Pitfalls!#

Click here for a recap on pitfalls

Question is too broad

  • Science advances one small step at a time. Narrowing the scope will help clarify your next steps

Question does not identify a precise aspect of the phenomenon

  • Clarity will help identify next steps in your research
  • If you are struggling to identify a precise aspect, you might need to learn more about the phenomenon. Look to the literature (Step 2)!

Question is about an analysis method

  • An analysis method is a tool, not the big picture