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Short background: I started my PhD last November and now I am helping a master student writing his MSc thesis. I still have problems when I need to formulate a concise research question and even, at least in workshop papers, some publications fail in formulating clear research questions as well.

The topic the CS student writes about is the following. There is this work by Bracha on pluggable / optional type systems, e.g. for scripting languages. The student wants to solve the same problem that these 'pluggable typesystem' solves. But he is using dependent-type theory, i.e., to check that values in the scripting language are valid according to a given type. This can solve (or better solve) problems related to scripting languages (e.g. security problems in web programming; because everything is basically a string in scripting languages).

I find it hard to come up with a concise research question. (And possibly also with a method to evaluate the approach).

So, my question is:

  • Are there any references that can help me to formulate valid research questions?

The closest reference I have found is this mini-tutorial by Mary Shaw.

From Germany there is also a Memorandum that is interesting, but the focus is only on information systems research and not CS. (I can't find a link to the long version in either English or German yet.)


1 Answer 1

Problem formulation is crucial phase in the research process. It start from; what is known at certain point of time and what is gape/defect/uncertainty/challenge/weakness in existing knowledge/system/model/solution or answer to a quest. Also Problem formulation starts from thrust/quest/hunger for new knowledge/knowing to unknown or need for exploration/extension/enhancement of the existing knowledge at a point of time. Finally Problem formulation precisely needs to define and draft the statement of the weakness in aforementioned knowledge using crystal clear words with preferably directional hypothesis. In statement it should cover 1)what is required?, 2) desired inputs and outputs with desired features and inter-linkage.