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Research Questions

Formulating good research questions is a critical first step in planning an effective field test program (e.g., the list of required sensors and their placement around the house cannot be determined without the appropriate research questions). When drafting research questions, begin with the big picture. What are you trying to accomplish in the project at hand? The research question should flow from a clear project objective. Next, clearly define the areas that need to be addressed and determine why they need to be addressed. This process should include both research questions and hypothesized outcomes.

Research questions should be clear, specific, and structured in such a way that the outcome of the research can be more broadly valuable than simply addressing the particular range of conditions covered in the test. Questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no" and questions very narrow in scope (e.g., What is the temperature in the wall?) are unacceptable research questions.

Research Question Examples

Below are some examples of possible research questions.

Poor Question: What is the annual energy use of the heat pump?
Better Question: What is the installed efficiency of the heat pump in an occupied home, and how does the performance vary under a range of operating conditions?

Poor Question: What is the duct leakage?
Better Question: What is the net increase in air change rate when the air handler is operated in cooling mode?
Even Better Question: What are the major sources of duct leakage, and the system performance impacts of each?