Laerd Dissertation Title Page

FUTURE RESEARCH

Types of future research suggestion

The Future Research section of your dissertation is often combined with the Research Limitations section of your final, Conclusions chapter. This is because your future research suggestions generally arise out of the research limitations you have identified in your own dissertation. In this article, we discuss six types of future research suggestion. These include: (1) building on a particular finding in your research; (2) addressing a flaw in your research; examining (or testing) a theory (framework or model) either (3) for the first time or (4) in a new context, location and/or culture; (5) re-evaluating and (6) expanding a theory (framework or model). The goal of the article is to help you think about the potential types of future research suggestion that you may want to include in your dissertation.

Before we discuss each of these types of future research suggestion, we should explain why we use the word examining and then put or testing in brackets. This is simply because the word examining may be considered more appropriate when students use a qualitative research design; whereas the word testing fits better with dissertations drawing on a quantitative research design. We also put the words framework or model in brackets after the word theory. We do this because a theory, framework and model are not the same things. In the sections that follow, we discuss six types of future research suggestion.

Addressing research limitations in your dissertation

In the Research Limitations section of your Conclusions chapter, you will have inevitably detailed the potential flaws (i.e., research limitations) of your dissertation. These may include:

  • An inability to answer your research questions

  • Theoretical and conceptual problems

  • Limitations of your research strategy

  • Problems of research quality

Identifying what these research limitations were and proposing future research suggestions that address them is arguably the easiest and quickest ways to complete the Future Research section of your Conclusions chapter.

Building on a particular finding or aspect of your research

Often, the findings from your dissertation research will highlight a number of new avenues that could be explored in future studies. These can be grouped into two categories:

  • Findings that you did not anticipate

    Your dissertation will inevitably lead to findings that you did not anticipate from the start. These are useful when making future research suggestions because they can lead to entirely new avenues to explore in future studies. If this was the case, it is worth (a) briefly describing what these unanticipated findings were and (b) suggesting a research strategy that could be used to explore such findings in future.

  • Factors that address unanswered aspects of your research questions

    Sometimes, dissertations manage to address all aspects of the research questions that were set. However, this is seldom the case. Typically, there will be aspects of your research questions that could not be answered. This is not necessarily a flaw in your research strategy, but may simply reflect that fact that the findings did not provide all the answers you hoped for. If this was the case, it is worth (a) briefly describing what aspects of your research questions were not answered and (b) suggesting a research strategy that could be used to explore such aspects in future.

Examining a conceptual framework (or testing a theoretical model)
for the first time

You may want to recommend that future research examines the conceptual framework (or tests the theoretical model) that you developed. This is based on the assumption that the primary goal of your dissertation was to set out a conceptual framework (or build a theoretical model). It is also based on the assumption that whilst such a conceptual framework (or theoretical model) was presented, your dissertation did not attempt to examine (or test) it in the field. The focus of your dissertations was most likely a review of the literature rather than something that involved you conducting primary research.

Whilst it is quite rare for dissertations at the undergraduate and master's level to be primarily theoretical in nature like this, it is not unknown. If this was the case, you should think about how the conceptual framework (or theoretical model) that you have presented could be best examined (or tested) in the field. In understanding the how, you should think about two factors in particular:

  1. What is the context, location and/or culture that would best lend itself to my conceptual framework (or theoretical model) if it were to be examined (or tested) in the field?

  2. What research strategy is most appropriate to examine my conceptual framework (or test my theoretical model)?

If the future research suggestion that you want to make is based on examining your conceptual framework (or testing your theoretical model) in the field, you need to suggest the best scenario for doing so.

Examining a conceptual framework (or testing a theoretical model)
in a new context, location and/or culture

More often than not, you will not only have set out a conceptual framework (or theoretical model), as described in the previous section, but you will also have examined (or tested) it in the field. When you do this, focus is typically placed on a specific context, location and/or culture.

If this is the case, the obvious future research suggestion that you could propose would be to examine your conceptual framework (or test the theoretical model) in a new context, location and/or culture. For example, perhaps you focused on consumers (rather than businesses), or Canada (rather than the United Kingdom), or a more individualistic culture like the United States (rather than a more collectivist culture like China).

When you propose a new context, location and/or culture as your future research suggestion, make sure you justify the choice that you make. For example, there may be little value in future studies looking at different cultures if culture is not an important component underlying your conceptual framework (or theoretical model). If you are not sure whether a new context, location or culture is more appropriate, or what new context, location or culture you should select, a review the literature will often help clarify where you focus should be.

Expanding a conceptual framework (or theoretical model)

Assuming that you have set out a conceptual framework (or theoretical model) and examined (or tested) it in the field, another series of future research suggestions comes out of expanding that conceptual framework (or theoretical model).

We talk about a series of future research suggestions because there are so many ways that you can expand on your conceptual framework (or theoretical model). For example, you can do this by:

  • Examining constructs (or variables) that were included in your conceptual framework (or theoretical model) but were not focused.

  • Looking at a particular relationship aspect of your conceptual framework (or theoretical model) further.

  • Adding new constructs (or variables) to the conceptual framework (or theoretical model) you set out (if justified by the literature).

It would be possible to include one or a number of these as future research suggestions. Again, make sure that any suggestions you make have are justified, either by your findings or the literature.

Re-evaluating a conceptual framework (or theoretical model)

With the dissertation process at the undergraduate and master's level lasting between 3 and 9 months, a lot a can happen in between. For example, a specific event (e.g., 9/11, the economic crisis) or some new theory or evidence that undermines (or questions) the literature (theory) and assumptions underpinning your conceptual framework (or theoretical model). Clearly, there is little you can do about this. However, if this happens, reflecting on it and re-evaluating your conceptual framework (or theoretical model), as well as your findings, is an obvious source of future research suggestions.

American Psychological Association (APA) style, 6th edition

To our knowledge, the APA style does not distinguish between titles for articles as a whole and dissertations. As such, we have based this style guide on the requirements for titles set out by the APA style guide, 6th edition. The main considerations when writing your dissertation title from a style perspective are: (a) capitalisation in titles and subtitles; (b) quotation marks; (c) numbers; and (d) hyphenated compounds. Each of these considerations is present below with associated examples:

  • Capitalisation in titles and subtitles

    The first letter of a title and subtitle should be capitalised. A subtitle should be separated using a colon or em dash (i.e., — and not the shorter - en dash) and then a single space (i.e., Title: Subtitle OR Title — Subtitle). If a subtitle follows a title that ends with a question mark, a colon should not follow the colon (i.e. Title? Subtitle NOT Title?: Subtitle) [examples in bold below].

    Many Forms of Culture

    Children Reason About Shared Preferences

    Leadership: Why Gender and Culture Matter

    Change Over Time in Obedience: The Jury's Still Out, But It Might Be Decreasing

    What Makes a Good Team Player? Personality and Team Effectiveness

    Does the Stepladder Technique Improve Group Decision Making? A Series of Failed Replications

    Do not capitalise articles (i.e., a, an, the) unless they are the first letter of a title or subtitle [bold below]:

    What Makes a Good Team Player? Personality and Team Effectiveness

    Inferring the Outcome of an Ongoing Novel Action at 13 Months

    Do not capitalise prepositions that have three or fewer letters (e.g., as, at, by, in, of, off, on, to, up) [bold below]:

    Women and Women of Color in Leadership: Complexity, Identity, and Intersectionality

    Sensitivity of 24-Month-Olds to the Prior Inaccuracy of the Source: Possible Mechanisms

    Do not capitalise conjunctions, whether coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, for, nor) or subordinating conjunctions (e.g., because, as, since) [bold below]:

    Women and Women of Color in Leadership: Complexity, Identity, and Intersectionality

    Follow-Up Outcome in Short-Term Group Therapy for Complicated Grief

    All adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, and verbs should be capitalized, in addition to all words that have four letters or more.

  • Quotation marks

    If quotations marks are used in a title, they should be double (i.e., "..."), not single (i.e., '...'):

    Preschoolers Infer Ownership From "Control of Permission"

    "If You Wrong Us, Shall We Not Revenge?" Social Identity Salience Moderates Support for Retaliation in Response to Collective Threat

  • Numbers

    APA includes quite a number of rules regarding the use of numbers. The following examples are based on the assumption that the rules for using numbers in-text are the same for titles. Whilst it would be worth referring to Chapter 4 of the Concise Rules of APA Style, 6th edition, for more information, we can say that:

    Numerals should be used for:

    (a) numbers of 10 or more (e.g., 10, 25, 43)

    (b) ages (e.g. 24-Months-Old), dates (e.g., 13 June 2009), exact sums of money (e.g., $24.95), scores or points on a scale (e.g., a 5-Point Likert scale), and time (e.g., 1 hr 26 min)

    Inferring the Outcome of an Ongoing Novel Action at 13 Months

    Sensitivity of 24-Month-Olds to the Prior Inaccuracy of the Source: Possible Mechanisms

    Numbers should be spelt out when they are:

    (a) numbers that start a title

    (b) numbers under 10 (e.g., three, five, seven)

    (c) common fractions (e.g., two-thirds)

    A Two-Dimensional Model of Intergroup Leadership: The Case of National Diversity

    Indentifying Two Potential Mechanisms for Changes in Alcohol Use Among College-Attending and Non-College-Attending Emerging Adults

  • Hyphenated compounds

    When hyphenated compounds capitalised in titles, both words should be capitalised (compared with just the first word in reference lists, for example) [bold below]:

    Working Memory Span Development: A Time-Based Resource-Sharing Model Account

    Gene-Environment Interactions Across Development: Exploring DRD2 Genotype and Prenatal Smoking Effects on Self-Regulation

    Indentifying Two Potential Mechanisms for Changes in Alcohol Use Among College-Attending and Non-College-Attending Emerging Adults

    Co-Leader Similarity and Group Climate in Group Interventions: Testing the Co-Leadership, Team Cognition-Team Diversity Model

    Follow-Up Outcome in Short-Term Group Therapy for Complicated Grief

If the Concise Rules of APA Style, 6th spiral edition, is not in your university library, it can be purchased on Amazon for around £15/US$24/CDN$32. It is a useful, easily accessible guide to the APA style.

References

Barrouillet, P., Gavens, N., Vergauwe, E., Gaillard, V., & Camos, V. (2009). Workign memory span development: A time-based resource-sharing model account. Developmental Psychology, 45(2): 303-603.

Cohen, A. B. (2010). Many forms of culture. American Psychologist, 64(3), 194-204.

Fawcett, C. A., & Markson, L. (2010). Children reason about shared preferences. Developmental Psychology, 46(2): 299-309.

Fischer, P., Haslam, S. A., & Smith, L. (2010) "If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" Social identity salience moderates support for retaliation in response to collective threat. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 14(2), 143-150.

Koenig, M. A., & Woodward, A. L. (2010). Sensitivity of 24-month-olds to the prior inaccuracy of the source: Possible mechanisms. Developmental Psychology, 46(4): 815-826.

Miles, J. R., & Kivlighan, D. M. Jr. (2010). Co-leader similarity and group climate in group interventions: Testing the co-leadership, team cognition-team diversity model. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 14(2), 114-122.

Neary, K. R., Friedman, O., & Burnstein, C. L. (2009). Preschoolers infer ownership from ?control of permission?. Developmental Psychology, 45(3): 873-876.

Piper, W. E., Ogrodniczuk, J. S., Joyce, A. S., Weideman, R. (2009). Follow-up outcome in short-term group therapy for complicated grief. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 13(1), 46-58.

Pittinsky, T. L. (2010). A two-dimensional model of intergroup leadership: The case of national diversity. American Psychologist, 65(3), 194-200.

Roya, A., & Korabik, K. (2010). Leadership: Why gender and culture matter. American Psychologist, 65(3), 157-170.

Sanchez-Hucles, J. V., & David, D. D. (2010). Women and women of color in leadership: Complexity, identity, and intersectionality. American Psychologist, 65(3), 171-181.

Southgate, V., & Csibra, G. (2009). Inferring the outcome of an ongoing novel action at 13 months. Developmental Psychology, 45(6): 1794-1798.

Twenge, J. M. (2010). Change Over Time in Obedience: The Jury's Still Out, But It Might Be Decreasing. American Psychologist, 64(1), 28-31.

White, H. R., Fleming, C. B., Kim, M. J., Catalano, R. F., McMorris, B. J. (2008). Identifying two potential mechanisms for changes in alcohol use among college-attending and non-college-attending emerging adults. Developmental Psychology, 44(6): 1625-1639.

Wiebe, S. A., Espy, K. A., Stopp, C., Respass, J., Stewart, P., Jameson, T. R., Gilbert, D. G., & Huggenvik, J. I. (2009). Gene-environment interactions across development: Exploring DRD2 genotype and prenatal smoking effects on self-regulation. Developmental Psychology, 45(1): 31-44.

Winquist, J. R., & Franz, T. M. (2008) Does the stepladder technique improve group decision making? A series of failed replications. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 12(4), 255-267.

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