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The Cycle of Enquiry


The cycle of enquiry is a method of moving away from common-sense reactions and towards an examination of appropriate evidence.

An evidence-based discipline?

What do we mean when we say that Speech-language pathology (speech therapy) is an evidence-based discipline?

The basic principle is that it is necessary to have some means of evaluating the answers to research questions about speechlanguagevoicefluency and communication. Sherratt and her colleagues (Sherrat, Goldblatt, Mackintosh and Woodward, 2000) devised a so-called circuit of knowledge as a way to help students examine evidence and move away from common-sense reactions to social science questions.

A version of this may be called the cycle of enquiry (see Figure 1).

Four elements of the cycle of enquiry

The Cycle of Enquiry

Figure 1. The cycle of enquiry [Source: based on Sherratt et al., 2000, pp. 17–18]

There are four elements in the cycle of enquiry:

  1. Speech therapy research starts with the framing of appropriate, answerable questions.

  2. The answers to these questions are claims. These claims have to be clearly identified so that they can be thoroughly assessed. This process is known as operationalization.

  3. Assessing claims requires the amassing of information called data. The word ‘data’ is a plural word for the building blocks that make up the evidence that is presented in support of a claim.

  4. The evidence then has to be interpreted and evaluated.

The process of evaluation often generates new questions to be addressed as well as providing support for, or disconfirmation of, the original claims. This repeated interplay between framing answerable questions and amassing evidence/data which is appropriately evaluated can lead to the generation of theory (a set of statements – hypotheses – about the relationship between two or more variables or concepts, put forward to explain a particular class of phenomena).


Sherrat, N., Goldblatt, D., Mackintosh, M. and Woodward, K. (2000) DD100 An Introduction to the Social Sciences: Understanding Social Change, Workbook 1 Milton Keynes: The Open University.


[Information last accessed: 27 July 2017]

This article draws on ‘Psychology in the 21st century’. An OpenLearn ( chunk reworked by permission of The Open University copyright © 2016 – made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence v4.0 As such, it is also made available under the same licence agreement.