Friday, April 04, 2008

Impressions of Research Questions

My students are working on research questions for their papers now, and I've noticed a couple interesting things.

One of my students is considering either a question about drug use in the US, or a question about recreational opportunities at the school where she'll be studying.

I'm rather proud of myself that I didn't just blurt out that she could write a paper about the intersection of those two issues.

Another student is worried about crime near where she'll be studying. I think she sort of imagines the US as a place where drug dealers will try to force her to use whatever drugs and everyone carries a gun. I assured her that drug dealers are out to make a profit, and probably not giving their product away for free, and that I've never seen a gun used except at a firing range.

A third is interested in the problem of obesity in the US.

I'm thinking that their impression of the US involves a lot of obese people shooting up and shooting each other.

Usually, when I work on research questions with US students, about a quarter end up with questions related to health, especially alcoholism and diabetes.

Here, the only health related question is about US obesity.

That seems like a big difference, doesn't it? My impression is that US students worry about health issues, while these students think of themselves as basically healthy (this is a very small sample size, though). Or maybe one doesn't talk about family health issues? Or recognize alcoholism? (Or maybe all the health and pharmacy advertising and "news" in the US prompts us to worry more than we would?)

Other than the relative dearth of health related quesitons, the questions range pretty widely and should make for really interesting papers.


  1. I don't think I would ever have though of writing a research paper on a health-related question unless there were suggested topics in that area, or similar. Health matters (apart from obesity) just don't feature much in the media I consume, and I don't think about them except when I'm ill myself!

    I think you might be right about the pharmacy advertising having an effect here. I was so amazed when I was in the USA to see advertisements for drugs on TV. I mean, especially things like chemotherapy drugs. It's not like the average person watching TV is going to go, "Oh man, I need some of THOSE." I just didn't get it.

    "I'm thinking that their impression of the US involves a lot of obese people shooting up and shooting each other."

    That was pretty much my impression of the USA before I went there too :) Thanks, media.

  2. StyleyGeek, Oh, pharmacy advertising probably contributes. And all those "news" stories about the illness of the week.

    I have to admit, I've had mental images of parts of the US that weren't a whole lot more accurate at times.