DOURS: A Heuristic for Discovering Research Questions

12 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2020

See all articles by Brian Larson

Brian Larson

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: September 7, 2020


This short essay describes a heuristic device for developing research questions in legal communication and rhetoric. It is a case study: In Part I, I describe and apply the DOURS framework for developing research questions to a research project on which I have been working for a number of years. Though the example I give here relates to an empirical study, readers may adapt the same approach to developing questions in rhetorical studies of legal communication.

In Part II, I suggest that researchers consider their dominant research paradigm when developing their research questions. Finally, Part III discusses issues of ethics surrounding this type of research project.

Research questions and study designs do not burst full formed like Athena from Zeus’s forehead. Instead, a research question is often what David Kirsch would call an “ill-defined” problem, one where the “problem is largely being made up as it is being worked on.” My goal here is to describe a process that is a little messy but can result in valuable research.

Keywords: dissonance, originating question, specifying question, research ethics, legal rhetoric, legal argumentation, legal communication, research paradigm

Suggested Citation

Larson, Brian, DOURS: A Heuristic for Discovering Research Questions (September 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Brian Larson (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States

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