The research problem of a study, significantly, affects the direction and the research approach taken by the researcher to accomplish his or her aims and objectives. Hence, this part of the research must be well understood. In this essay, an analysis of a research focusing on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) was conducted. The particular focus of the analysis is on the research problem of the study.
Justification for studying the research problem
Perhaps, one of the strengths of the research is its success in explaining why the research problem is relevant to be addressed in the study. The justification that is given is that the researcher has witnessed, firsthand, how ICT is being used in teaching ESL. The researcher then goes to suggest that such trend will be increasing in the future as ICTs are continuously being incorporated in the teaching strategies of diverse academic institutions. I agree with the writer with his or her explanation of the necessity to conduct a research on the stated research problem. Moreover, this style of justifying the research problem is consistent with published journal articles; such as, the study conducted by Yunus, Nordin, Salehi, Embi and Salehi (2013). The first thing that these authors did is to emphasize that there are no convincing evidence to suggest that ICTs are efficient tools in teaching ICTs. A rejoinder that a search for such evidence is therefore important then follows (Yunus et al., 2013, p. 1).
Description of the research problem
However, the research problem in the study is not easy for the reader to understand. The main reason for this is that the title of the research is too broad while the real research problem being addressed in the main body and in the methods sections is too delimited. In reading the title and the abstract one may lead to conclude that the research problem is about the effects or impacts of ICT to the performance of grade 10 ESL students in general. There is no indication in the title as to what kind of ICTs will be studied and what kind of performance would be measured. It is only later in the body that the reader will realize that the ICTs being studied are the writing tools such as paper dictionaries and electronic dictionaries, while the performances being measured are the student’s attitudes and their writing skills. The first impression that the reader could get in reading the abstract and the title is that the research problem would be about ICT equipment such as laptops.
Moreover, an additional research question was added at Section 1.3 “The research question” which states that the research will also study the effect of “writing purpose” in the development of writing skills among ESL students. This statement moves away from the research problem implied in the title and in review of related literature section. Note that most parts of the literature review section discussed the differences in student response in using pen and paper over ICT writing tools.
Another factor that is unclear about the research problem is that it does not suggest the main audience, or to whom the research is intended for. Is the research intended for students of ESL or to its teachers? While, it was noted that the researcher had a practicum in teaching ESL at Robert Lepage Secondary School, there was not an explicit statement that the research is meant for future ESL teachers. There are portions of the abstract and methods sections that imply that the research problem is for the students as well as the teachers. A particular portion that implies this is the portion in the abstract that says that the research also tackles student attitudes in writing.
The research set-up
Another point that I disagree with the researcher is with regards on how the research was set-up and carried out. The reason for this disagreement is that in section 2.2 “Approach taken and justification” the researcher added another confusing scope of the study. The researcher noted that it plans to carry out the research by using “various teaching methods, strategies and tools.” This time, the researcher wants to investigate the effect of teaching methods and teaching strategies which were not aforementioned in the literature review and introduction. Moreover, the research did not take into consideration other variables which may affect the student performance in carrying out the research. Note that the methods section and the approach use did not consider of having a control sample to which the performance of other samples could be compared. What the researcher did is to simply determine student performance and assume that the variables (presence or either paper or writing tools) caused such performance. Based from my experience as an ESL teacher, different conditions also affect student performance. ESL students usually do not feel the same every day. There are some days when they are so enthusiastic to learn and there are some days that they are so lazy and sleepy. Another factor that could affect student performance is their acceptance of the ICT used. This factor has a very strong effect that Kandasamy and Shah (2013) conducted a study focusing on this variable. Yet this variable was not even mentioned or considered by the researcher. Kandasamy and Shah (2013) explained the influence of the aid factor by utilizing the Technology Acceptance Model (p. 191). This same model could have been utilized by the research to avoid neglecting other variable which could have affected student performance.
If I were to conduct the same study I would have done differently compared to the researcher. Accordingly, I would have changed the title of the research to reflect the scope. A title that goes like this would be more appropriate in my opinion, “Investigating the effects of using ICT writing tools, student attitude, and teaching strategies on ESL student writing performance.” I would have also stated all the variables at one time in the introduction; perhaps, in a subsection called the objectives section. I would have also stated and labeled my hypothesis. This strategy would make the reading of the research easier because it is well organized. It is very hard to understand a research when the variables or parameters that are being studied are written on different parts of the paper and they seem to not be part of the scope of the research problem and title. I would have also used a control – students who will utilize traditional writing tools. The control and the samples would then be conditioned for their moods to be relatively the same. The control and the samples being studied should then undergo the same tasks simultaneously. This will eliminate the time and mood variable out of the equation and I can proceed with concentrating on the studied variables – the tools, teaching strategies, and attitude for writing.
Bases for examining the research
The bases for the examination that I have done for the research are the published journal articles delving on similar topics. These studies have been reviewed and published on competitive international journals used in the academe; hence, it can be assumed that the quality of research performed in them is high and up to the standards. I am also using my personal experience as an ESL teacher. I have had several experiences teaching writing to students studying ESL and I understand the complexities of the endeavor. It is from this experience where I drew the other variables, such as the mood, that could have affected the variables studied. As an advice to the researcher, it would be necessary that he or she read about proper crafting of research titles, research problems, approach, method, etc. This will help him or her become organized in presenting information. Also, I noticed several grammar mistakes starting at the beginning of the document. This should be avoided, especially if the topic is about writing and the most probable audience of the research are the teachers and the ESL students.
While studying the research problem is sufficiently justified, the way it is stated makes it confusing. The reason for this is the random distribution of essential variables that are being studied in the entire essay. The main problem of the research is, therefore, its organization. It is therefore concluded that in order for a research to become readable easy to understand, the research must make sure that it is organized. That is, there should be an association among the many different points from the title up to the conclusion sections of the research.
Kandasamy, M. and Shah, P.B.H. (2013). Knowledge, Attitude and Use of ICT Among ESL Teachers. GSE Journal of Education. (e-ISBN 978-967-11768-0-1). Retrieved from: <http://worldconferences.net/journals/gse/GSE%2012%20MOGANASHWARI.pdf>.
Yunus, M.M., Nordin, N., Salehil, H. Embi, M.A. and Salehi, Z. (2013). The Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Teaching ESL Writing Skills. English Language Teaching, 6(7), pp. 1 – 8.