Research Questions

My ever expanding list of research questions

by karlyn on April 8, 2012

As I’m closing in on the time when I need to start my dissertation in earnest, more and more research questions are popping into my head.

Since I started my Ph.D. journey, I have been interested in exploring whether or not there is a link between individuals who use social media to communicate with their peers and job performance and job satisfaction. I’m not talking about people who passively make connections via LinkedIn – I’m talking about individuals who are actively engaging via these networks from a genuine intrinsic motivation to learn more and grow. I’ve got two research questions that I’m interested in:

  • Is there a link between professional networking via online social media and job performance?
  • Is there a link between professional networking via online social media and job satisfaction?

So, essentially, does social media make people better at their jobs and does social media make people happier in their work? Of course, there are several problems with this type of inquiry, at least as it pertains to a formal dissertation. The first is that I’ve had a hard time convincing potential faculty mentors that this is a psychological inquiry. For me, it seems cut and dry – this is social learning their at it’s finest. But when I saw social media, it conjures of very distinct pre-conceived notions in their head that may not be entirely accurate. Plus, it’s a harder sell since very little research has conducted on social media in the I/O psychology realm. I fear that these may be questions that have to wait until after I’ve done the formal dissertation to pursue.

A second area that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is workplace bullying. This is something that so many people experience, both at the hands of their peers and of their boss. It’s something that isn’t generally recognized, rarely corrected and can be deeply damaging on both a professional and personal level.

Of course, an inquiry like this screams out for a qualitative study: What are the lived experiences of individuals who have experienced workplace bullying by their peers?

But for a dissertation, a quantitative approach will allow me to get it done faster. I’ve yet to find any research linking workplace bullying to groupthink, which seems rather obvious to me. Therefore, a possible research question is: Is there a link between workplace bullying and groupthink behaviors?

Of course, this comes with many problems by itself – how do I identify people who are the victims of workplace bullying? How do I identify workplace groupthink? And how do I study these too phenomenas in a way that will hold up to academic scrutiny?

Finally, and this one just occurred to me last night, I’ve been thinking a lot about employees who are more or less evolved. For example, one thing you can look at is whether or not employees are capable of recognizing and acknowledging the differing points of view of others. When I originally started to learn about it, it seems more a question of motivation – if a person was predominantly intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. More recently though, I have begun to wonder if personality type is actually more directly responsible. Therefore, a question could be: Is there a link between personality type and ability to recognize differing viewpoints of colleagues?

The big glaring problem with this one is how do I assess personality type? An easy answer would be the MBTI, but that has a lot of problems with it since it is not without problems itself. But what kind of personality test is?

So I’ve got a lot to think about, and much research to do. Right now, my current favorite is probably the topic of workplace bullying. I’m sure that in the coming months, many more potential topics will make themselves known. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Debra Sanborn April 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Hi Karlyn: Your third topic reminded me of this dissertation. It may be a good read for you.

Engstrom, M. C. (2005). A study of emotional intelligence as it relates to organizational outcomes beyond what is contributed by personality. Ed.D. Loyola University Chicago, United States — Illinois.

This study explores the relationship between psychological type (as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® – MBTI®) and emotional intelligence (as measured by the Emotional Quotient Inventory® – EQ-i®) and how they relate to work outcomes, specifically job satisfaction (as measured by the Job Satisfaction Survey© – JSS adjusted) and organizational commitment (as measured by the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire). Survey instruments were administered on-line via the researcher’s website. Participants were active Chicago Police Department sergeants. Survey sample sizes ranged from 179 (EQ-i) to 245 (JSS). Canonical correlation analysis and hierarchical multiple regression analysis were used to examine the relationships among the data from 131 participants who completed all four survey instruments. In the first canonical function, emotional intelligence correlated with job satisfaction and organizational commitment. The significance of an overall relationship was established by Wilks’s λ = .741, p < .001. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis confirmed the contribution of psychological type and also supported the hypotheses that emotional intelligence contributes to organizational outcomes over and above psychological type. However, when the opposite dependent variable (JSS or OCQ) was controlled for, the effect of emotional intelligence was lessened and no longer significant. Multiple regression analysis supported the existence of a partial relationship between psychological type and emotional intelligence.


karlyn April 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Hi Debra,

You know, I took a class where I did basically all of my research for papers and what not on different research based on the MBTI and I vaguely remember seeing this paper. Thanks for the reminder!



Alexis April 8, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Hi Karlyn,
I was also thinking about your third question. I know lots of people at work have taken the DiSC, so I wonder if that would give you a little insight or a sample.
I have to admit, though, I’m curious about how you could link workplace cyber-bullying with groupthink.


Liz Gross April 9, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I love your first two questions, of course :) And they are definitely different. You can be really good at a job you don’t like (at least I think you can be). It would probably be hard to measure job performance (because it may look different for each person in each position), but I’m sure there are already established job satisfaction questionnaires. If you ever pursue one or both of those questions, I’d love to read the results.


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