My question concerns the placement of secondary research questions (SRQ) within a Master Thesis for a Software Engineering program.

Currently I describe my primary research question in a chapter on the Methodology of my Thesis. In the same chapter I describe 6 SRQs as auxiliary questions.

In the next chapter I describe my Experimental Design, and I answer 4 of the SRQs as they relate to the design and how it can properly test my hypothesis.

However, my supervisor suggested I cut the amount of SRQs to < 5 and that I answer the SRQs in my Introduction. I find that to be an odd place for SRQs since I would have to describe and answer them in the first chapter of my Thesis.

To be fair, the first 4 questions concern the Software framework to use, which dependent variables should be measured, which independent variables should be manipulated and how to guarantee reproducibility of the experiments (this is a big issue in Software Engineering and particularly for my subject). So I understand his issue with the questions. However, I feel that answering them in the chapter concerning my Experimental Design is actually quite fair and avoids a cluttered introduction.

Here is my current structure:

  1. Introduction <- Supervisor suggests describing and answering 4 SRQs here, or to remove them
  2. Use-case
  3. Related Work
  4. Methodology <- Currently describing PRQ and SRQs here
  5. Experimental Design <- Answering 4 SRQs here
  6. Results
  7. Conclusion <- Answering PRQ and 2 SRQs here

I tried finding some literature on SRQs but I couldn't find anything on their placement, only what type of question they should be.

Any suggestions are appreciated.

1 Answer 1


I agree with your supervisor about the positions for the questions: Those should be in chapter 1. Answering the question about the position of the other questions is difficult because we now neither your work nor the questions.

But the answer in chapter 1 as well seems to be odd - I would assume that those could be a result of a state-of-the-art analysis (in your case chapter 3) or of the "Results".

But maybe those questions are not really research questions but sub-tasks you have to do in order to achieve your goal. Then the "Methodology"-chapter would be appropriate, but I would not list them as SRQs but as "tasks".

In the end, readability should be considered, too.

Finally, your advisor is grading you - and if (s)he strongly suggests one option, I would follow the suggestion. But I would show my "optimal" solution, first.

  • I agree. Since the first 4 SRQ's primarily address the structure of the experimental design I'll just provide the answers as a given, add the appropriate reasoning behind them and remove the questions entirely. I'll describe the PRQ and the remaining 2 SRQ's in the introduction, expand on them in the Methodology chapter then answer them in the conclusion. Does that seem reasonable?
    – Byebye
    Jan 7, 2019 at 15:30
  • 1
    @Byebye sounds good!
    – OBu
    Jan 7, 2019 at 15:37
  • great :D! Thanks for the answer! I'll mark it as accepted.
    – Byebye
    Jan 7, 2019 at 15:48

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