MMED 2016

Seventh annual Clinic on Meaningful Modeling of Epidemiological Data

African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa
May 30 - June 10, 2016

Return to the Main Page.

Return to the Schedule.

Formulating Research Questions (Track B)

In this exercise, we ask participants to go through a series of steps designed to help them think about their approach to research and about communicating their research to those outside their specialization.

Step 0

  • Find a partner who is someone you haven’t talked to yet.

Step 1 (individual, 5+ minutes)

  • Write down your research question in plain language. Use words that anyone could understand.

Step 2 (individual, 5+ minutes)

  • Think about the processes that will determine the answer to your research questions.
    • Do any of these processes involve dependence between individuals?
    • Are there any effects that you expect to be nonlinear - eg, where you would expect a 20% change in one variable or parameter to be associated with with a larger or smaller percent change in another variable?

Step 3 (partner, 10+ minutes)

  • Decide which partner will go first to discuss your research.
  • State your research question, then allow them to ask you questions about your question. Discuss your question until you arrive at a common understanding of what the question is and why it’s important.
  • Describe to your partner the dependent processes and nonlinearities you’ve identified in your system.
    • Try to convince your partner that these processes are not expected to be independent and/or linear.
    • Let your partner try to convince you otherwise, if they don’t agree that these effects would occur.

Step 4 (partner, 10+ minutes)

  • Repeat Step 3 for the other partner’s research question.

Step 5 (individual, 5+ minutes)

  • Think about the aspects of your question that needed additional explanation for your partner to understand them and what helped you get your message across (e.g., figures/diagrams, gestures, analogies, etc).
  • Modify your research question to make it as clear as possible to a broad audience.
  • Write down your partner’s research question in your own words.

Step 6 (group)

  • Share (your version of) your partner’s research question with the group. Explain the dependent processes and other nonlinearities that you have identified that will be important for addressing their research question.

Step 7 (individual)

  • Make any further adjustments to your research question that seem appropriate after hearing your partner’s interpretation of your research. You can adopt their language if you feel they have done a particularly good job of wording your question so it can be understood by those outside your field of study.
  • Post the revised version of your research question on the MMED participants repository, by following the instructions :
    • follow the link to the repository and make sure you’re signed in using your GitHub username and password
    • navigate to the ‘researchQuestions’ folder
    • click on ‘create a new file’ at the top of the page to create a new file
    • name your file using the filename convention ‘’
    • type your research question under ‘edit new file’
    • scroll down to where the page says ‘commit new file’, add a commit message, and click the green button