Research Questions & Reflections

Goles and Hirschheim (2000) present an examination on the role of paradigms within scientific inquiry. The “quest for knowledge” through a scientific approach is described as a “convention related to societal norms, expectations, and values, which is used to engage in a search for understanding” (p. 251). Decisions on the specific tools and approach utilized should be informed by the subject matter.

The proposed study aims to explore the concerns and issues facing adoptive families after the adoption finalization utilizing a community-engaged approach, thus reflecting an epistemological view that “knowledge (truth) is a communal achievement. It is what the community agrees to bestow the label ‘knowledge’ or `truth’ upon. It is also not arbitrary as it is based on the accepted conventions of the time” (Goles & Hirschheim, 2000, p. 251).

Using the high standards and criteria established by Michael Sherraden in “Asking Questions Well: The Role of Theory in Applied Social Research” to critically assess the research questions guiding the proposed study reveals a number of strengths and some limitations. This assessment can further inform the decision-making process within each stage of the research process.

To begin, the research questions established for the proposed study are the following:

  1. Examine the extent to which gaps in adoption-competent services for adoptive families exist in the community.
  2.  Assess the parenting experiences of adoptive families after finalization of adoption.
  3.  Examine the extent to which barriers exist in the community, which negatively impact the coordination of effective services available to adoptive families.

An empirical examination asking the above research questions is vitally significant to addressing the challenges post-adoptive families face, potentially leading to an adoption dissolution, and the child returning to the child welfare system. Seeking answers to these questions will inform the development of interventions that specifically address the problems faced by post-adoptive families, and therefore benefiting the community as a whole.   The criteria to evaluate the research questions are below:

  • is simple, understandable, communicable and doable
  • is highly explanatory (ie has meaningful effects)
  • is adaptable to multiple forms in multiple situations, fitting a wide range of circumstances, people, institutions and conditions
  • can be framed in terms of core values in society
  • is ethical
  • is affordable
  • is politically within the realm of possibility
  • is subject to multiple tests
  • has benefits that exceed the costs of intervention
  • can be implemented by the average person or organization
  • To what extent does the research question and approach reflect the best practices of community-engaged research?

It is believed that the research questions communicate a clear understanding of the aims of the proposed study.  Furthermore, the issues facing the adoption community can be realistically addressed within the study.  It is worth noting that Question 2 aims to “assess” which has the potential to unintentionally imply a value judgment of an individual’s parenting ability. A recommendation is to revise the wording to “examine,” which is consistent with both Question 1 and 3. Taking steps to seek answers to the research questions informs a meaningful response to the currently high rate of adoption dissolutions in Manatee County, Florida. Children who are available for adoption through the child welfare system have experienced abuse and/or neglect. These childhood experiences shape the early foundation of a child’s life. The permanency of adoption offers many benefits throughout an individual’s life-course.  Both adoptive families and adoptees face challenges at various points throughout life.  Individuals lacking the necessary tools and resources to overcome these challenges can potentially experience additional negative consequences, impacting the adoptive family and society.  The US societal core value of Equality, “holds that all people must be treated fairly and with dignity and be able to embrace opportunities for education, economic success, political involvement, and a fulfilling life.”  The research questions demonstrate the core value of equality by directly responding to a high rate of adoption dissolution and the negative implications that result when children re-enter the child welfare system.  Utilizing a CEnR approach to answer the research questions adheres to the ethical values of respect for persons, beneficence, and justice.  Empowering individuals within the adoption community to collaborate and share in all decision-making within the research process demonstrates a respect for persons and an informed research plan that protects participants from experiencing harm related to the research study, while seeking justice.

In assessing the last five criteria, additional information is needed to determine the affordability of the proposed study and the costs to implementing a proposed intervention.  Engaging the adoption community to participate in a study has several potential costs related to compensation of participants, conducting a focus group in the community at a location that has the capacity to accommodate a large number of individuals, and the provision of monetary compensation to community researchers for their time-committment while conducting in-depth interviews and administering community surveys.  Given the lack of funding for post-adoption services across the US, continued advocacy and empirical examination are warranted to ensure the needs of adoptive families are not overlooked across communities.  A significant strength noted is the implementation of a mixed-methods approach to answer the research questions.  The proposed participatory action research research team will be comprised of  adoptive parents and adoptees possessing a wide variety of skills and knowledge related to conducting research.  Ensuring all individuals receive adequate training to conduct research demonstrates a study inclusive of individuals possessing basic research skills.  Finally, the proposed study fully reflects the best practices of CEnR through partnering with and the inclusion of representative members of the adoption community research team while ensuring the voice and perspectives of the adoption community guides the research process.


Goles, Tim, & Hirschheim, Rudy. (2000). The paradigm is dead, the paradigm is dead…long live the paradigm: The legacy of Burrell and Morgan. Omega, 28(3), 249-268.

This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW

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