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How to Write a Good Research Question (w/ Examples)
What is a Research Question?
A research question is the main question that your study sought or is seeking to answer. A clear research question guides your research paper or thesis and states exactly what you want to find out, giving your work a focus and objective. Learning how to write a hypothesis or research question is the start to composing any thesis, dissertation, or research paper. It is also one of the most important sections of a research proposal .
A good research question not only clarifies the writing in your study; it provides your readers with a clear focus and facilitates their understanding of your research topic, as well as outlining your study’s objectives. Before drafting the paper and receiving research paper editing (and usually before performing your study), you should write a concise statement of what this study intends to accomplish or reveal.
Research Question Writing Tips
Listed below are the important characteristics of a good research question:
A good research question should:
- Be clear and provide specific information so readers can easily understand the purpose.
- Be focused in its scope and narrow enough to be addressed in the space allowed by your paper
- Be relevant and concise and express your main ideas in as few words as possible, like a hypothesis.
- Be precise and complex enough that it does not simply answer a closed “yes or no” question, but requires an analysis of arguments and literature prior to its being considered acceptable.
- Be arguable or testable so that answers to the research question are open to scrutiny and specific questions and counterarguments.
Some of these characteristics might be difficult to understand in the form of a list. Let’s go into more detail about what a research question must do and look at some examples of research questions.
The research question should be specific and focused
Research questions that are too broad are not suitable to be addressed in a single study. One reason for this can be if there are many factors or variables to consider. In addition, a sample data set that is too large or an experimental timeline that is too long may suggest that the research question is not focused enough.
A specific research question means that the collective data and observations come together to either confirm or deny the chosen hypothesis in a clear manner. If a research question is too vague, then the data might end up creating an alternate research problem or hypothesis that you haven’t addressed in your Introduction section .
The research question should be based on the literature
An effective research question should be answerable and verifiable based on prior research because an effective scientific study must be placed in the context of a wider academic consensus. This means that conspiracy or fringe theories are not good research paper topics.
Instead, a good research question must extend, examine, and verify the context of your research field. It should fit naturally within the literature and be searchable by other research authors.
References to the literature can be in different citation styles and must be properly formatted according to the guidelines set forth by the publishing journal, university, or academic institution. This includes in-text citations as well as the Reference section .
The research question should be realistic in time, scope, and budget
There are two main constraints to the research process: timeframe and budget.
A proper research question will include study or experimental procedures that can be executed within a feasible time frame, typically by a graduate doctoral or master’s student or lab technician. Research that requires future technology, expensive resources, or follow-up procedures is problematic.
A researcher’s budget is also a major constraint to performing timely research. Research at many large universities or institutions is publicly funded and is thus accountable to funding restrictions.
The research question should be in-depth
Research papers, dissertations and theses , and academic journal articles are usually dozens if not hundreds of pages in length.
A good research question or thesis statement must be sufficiently complex to warrant such a length, as it must stand up to the scrutiny of peer review and be reproducible by other scientists and researchers.
Research Question Types
Qualitative and quantitative research are the two major types of research, and it is essential to develop research questions for each type of study.
Quantitative Research Questions
Quantitative research questions are specific. A typical research question involves the population to be studied, dependent and independent variables, and the research design.
In addition, quantitative research questions connect the research question and the research design. In addition, it is not possible to answer these questions definitively with a “yes” or “no” response. For example, scientific fields such as biology, physics, and chemistry often deal with “states,” in which different quantities, amounts, or velocities drastically alter the relevance of the research.
As a consequence, quantitative research questions do not contain qualitative, categorical, or ordinal qualifiers such as “is,” “are,” “does,” or “does not.”
Categories of quantitative research questions
Qualitative research questions.
In quantitative research, research questions have the potential to relate to broad research areas as well as more specific areas of study. Qualitative research questions are less directional, more flexible, and adaptable compared with their quantitative counterparts. Thus, studies based on these questions tend to focus on “discovering,” “explaining,” “elucidating,” and “exploring.”
Categories of qualitative research questions
Quantitative and qualitative research question examples.
Good and Bad Research Question Examples
Below are some good (and not-so-good) examples of research questions that researchers can use to guide them in crafting their own research questions.
Research Question Example 1
The first research question is too vague in both its independent and dependent variables. There is no specific information on what “exposure” means. Does this refer to comments, likes, engagement, or just how much time is spent on the social media platform?
Second, there is no useful information on what exactly “affected” means. Does the subject’s behavior change in some measurable way? Or does this term refer to another factor such as the user’s emotions?
Research Question Example 2
In this research question, the first example is too simple and not sufficiently complex, making it difficult to assess whether the study answered the question. The author could really only answer this question with a simple “yes” or “no.” Further, the presence of data would not help answer this question more deeply, which is a sure sign of a poorly constructed research topic.
The second research question is specific, complex, and empirically verifiable. One can measure program effectiveness based on metrics such as attendance or grades. Further, “bullying” is made into an empirical, quantitative measurement in the form of recorded disciplinary actions.
Steps for Writing a Research Question
Good research questions are relevant, focused, and meaningful. It can be difficult to come up with a good research question, but there are a few steps you can follow to make it a bit easier.
1. Start with an interesting and relevant topic
Choose a research topic that is interesting but also relevant and aligned with your own country’s culture or your university’s capabilities. Popular academic topics include healthcare and medical-related research. However, if you are attending an engineering school or humanities program, you should obviously choose a research question that pertains to your specific study and major.
Below is an embedded graph of the most popular research fields of study based on publication output according to region. As you can see, healthcare and the basic sciences receive the most funding and earn the highest number of publications.
2. Do preliminary research
You can begin doing preliminary research once you have chosen a research topic. Two objectives should be accomplished during this first phase of research. First, you should undertake a preliminary review of related literature to discover issues that scholars and peers are currently discussing. With this method, you show that you are informed about the latest developments in the field.
Secondly, identify knowledge gaps or limitations in your topic by conducting a preliminary literature review . It is possible to later use these gaps to focus your research question after a certain amount of fine-tuning.
3. Narrow your research to determine specific research questions
You can focus on a more specific area of study once you have a good handle on the topic you want to explore. Focusing on recent literature or knowledge gaps is one good option.
By identifying study limitations in the literature and overlooked areas of study, an author can carve out a good research question. The same is true for choosing research questions that extend or complement existing literature.
4. Evaluate your research question
Make sure you evaluate the research question by asking the following questions:
Is my research question clear?
The resulting data and observations that your study produces should be clear. For quantitative studies, data must be empirical and measurable. For qualitative, the observations should be clearly delineable across categories.
Is my research question focused and specific?
A strong research question should be specific enough that your methodology or testing procedure produces an objective result, not one left to subjective interpretation. Open-ended research questions or those relating to general topics can create ambiguous connections between the results and the aims of the study.
Is my research question sufficiently complex?
The result of your research should be consequential and substantial (and fall sufficiently within the context of your field) to warrant an academic study. Simply reinforcing or supporting a scientific consensus is superfluous and will likely not be well received by most journal editors.
Editing Your Research Question
Your research question should be fully formulated well before you begin drafting your research paper. However, you can receive English paper editing and proofreading services at any point in the drafting process. Language editors with expertise in your academic field can assist you with the content and language in your Introduction section or other manuscript sections. And if you need further assistance or information regarding paper compositions, in the meantime, check out our academic resources , which provide dozens of articles and videos on a variety of academic writing and publication topics.
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- 10 Research Question Examples to Guide Your Research Project
10 Research Question Examples to Guide your Research Project
Published on October 30, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on October 19, 2023.
The research question is one of the most important parts of your research paper , thesis or dissertation . It’s important to spend some time assessing and refining your question before you get started.
The exact form of your question will depend on a few things, such as the length of your project, the type of research you’re conducting, the topic , and the research problem . However, all research questions should be focused, specific, and relevant to a timely social or scholarly issue.
Once you’ve read our guide on how to write a research question , you can use these examples to craft your own.
Note that the design of your research question can depend on what method you are pursuing. Here are a few options for qualitative, quantitative, and statistical research questions.
Other interesting articles
If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Sampling methods
- Simple random sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Cluster sampling
- Likert scales
- Null hypothesis
- Statistical power
- Probability distribution
- Effect size
- Poisson distribution
- Optimism bias
- Cognitive bias
- Implicit bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Anchoring bias
- Explicit bias
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McCombes, S. (2023, October 19). 10 Research Question Examples to Guide your Research Project. Scribbr. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-process/research-question-examples/
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How to Write a Research Question
What is a research question? A research question is the question around which you center your research. It should be:
- clear : it provides enough specifics that one’s audience can easily understand its purpose without needing additional explanation.
- focused : it is narrow enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the space the writing task allows.
- concise : it is expressed in the fewest possible words.
- complex : it is not answerable with a simple “yes” or “no,” but rather requires synthesis and analysis of ideas and sources prior to composition of an answer.
- arguable : its potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts.
You should ask a question about an issue that you are genuinely curious and/or passionate about.
The question you ask should be developed for the discipline you are studying. A question appropriate for Biology, for instance, is different from an appropriate one in Political Science or Sociology. If you are developing your question for a course other than first-year composition, you may want to discuss your ideas for a research question with your professor.
Why is a research question essential to the research process? Research questions help writers focus their research by providing a path through the research and writing process. The specificity of a well-developed research question helps writers avoid the “all-about” paper and work toward supporting a specific, arguable thesis.
Steps to developing a research question:
- Choose an interesting general topic. Most professional researchers focus on topics they are genuinely interested in studying. Writers should choose a broad topic about which they genuinely would like to know more. An example of a general topic might be “Slavery in the American South” or “Films of the 1930s.”
- Do some preliminary research on your general topic. Do a few quick searches in current periodicals and journals on your topic to see what’s already been done and to help you narrow your focus. What issues are scholars and researchers discussing, when it comes to your topic? What questions occur to you as you read these articles?
- Consider your audience. For most college papers, your audience will be academic, but always keep your audience in mind when narrowing your topic and developing your question. Would that particular audience be interested in the question you are developing?
- Start asking questions. Taking into consideration all of the above, start asking yourself open-ended “how” and “why” questions about your general topic. For example, “Why were slave narratives effective tools in working toward the abolishment of slavery?” or “How did the films of the 1930s reflect or respond to the conditions of the Great Depression?”
- Is your research question clear? With so much research available on any given topic, research questions must be as clear as possible in order to be effective in helping the writer direct his or her research.
- Is your research question focused? Research questions must be specific enough to be well covered in the space available.
- Is your research question complex? Research questions should not be answerable with a simple “yes” or “no” or by easily-found facts. They should, instead, require both research and analysis on the part of the writer. They often begin with “How” or “Why.”
- Begin your research . After you’ve come up with a question, think about the possible paths your research could take. What sources should you consult as you seek answers to your question? What research process will ensure that you find a variety of perspectives and responses to your question?
Sample Research Questions
Unclear: How should social networking sites address the harm they cause? Clear: What action should social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook take to protect users’ personal information and privacy? The unclear version of this question doesn’t specify which social networking sites or suggest what kind of harm the sites might be causing. It also assumes that this “harm” is proven and/or accepted. The clearer version specifies sites (MySpace and Facebook), the type of potential harm (privacy issues), and who may be experiencing that harm (users). A strong research question should never leave room for ambiguity or interpretation. Unfocused: What is the effect on the environment from global warming? Focused: What is the most significant effect of glacial melting on the lives of penguins in Antarctica?
The unfocused research question is so broad that it couldn’t be adequately answered in a book-length piece, let alone a standard college-level paper. The focused version narrows down to a specific effect of global warming (glacial melting), a specific place (Antarctica), and a specific animal that is affected (penguins). It also requires the writer to take a stance on which effect has the greatest impact on the affected animal. When in doubt, make a research question as narrow and focused as possible.
Too simple: How are doctors addressing diabetes in the U.S.? Appropriately Complex: What main environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors predict whether Americans will develop diabetes, and how can these commonalities be used to aid the medical community in prevention of the disease?
The simple version of this question can be looked up online and answered in a few factual sentences; it leaves no room for analysis. The more complex version is written in two parts; it is thought provoking and requires both significant investigation and evaluation from the writer. As a general rule of thumb, if a quick Google search can answer a research question, it’s likely not very effective.
Last updated 8/8/2018
How to Develop a Good Research Question? — Types & Examples
Cecilia is living through a tough situation in her research life. Figuring out where to begin, how to start her research study, and how to pose the right question for her research quest, is driving her insane. Well, questions, if not asked correctly, have a tendency to spiral us!
Image Source: https://phdcomics.com/
Questions lead everyone to answers. Research is a quest to find answers. Not the vague questions that Cecilia means to answer, but definitely more focused questions that define your research. Therefore, asking appropriate question becomes an important matter of discussion.
A well begun research process requires a strong research question. It directs the research investigation and provides a clear goal to focus on. Understanding the characteristics of comprising a good research question will generate new ideas and help you discover new methods in research.
In this article, we are aiming to help researchers understand what is a research question and how to write one with examples.
Table of Contents
What Is a Research Question?
A good research question defines your study and helps you seek an answer to your research. Moreover, a clear research question guides the research paper or thesis to define exactly what you want to find out, giving your work its objective. Learning to write a research question is the beginning to any thesis, dissertation , or research paper. Furthermore, the question addresses issues or problems which is answered through analysis and interpretation of data.
Why Is a Research Question Important?
A strong research question guides the design of a study. Moreover, it helps determine the type of research and identify specific objectives. Research questions state the specific issue you are addressing and focus on outcomes of the research for individuals to learn. Therefore, it helps break up the study into easy steps to complete the objectives and answer the initial question.
Types of Research Questions
Research questions can be categorized into different types, depending on the type of research you want to undergo. Furthermore, knowing the type of research will help a researcher determine the best type of research question to use.
1. Qualitative Research Question
Qualitative questions concern broad areas or more specific areas of research. However, unlike quantitative questions, qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional and more flexible. Qualitative research question focus on discovering, explaining, elucidating, and exploring.
i. Exploratory Questions
This form of question looks to understand something without influencing the results. The objective of exploratory questions is to learn more about a topic without attributing bias or preconceived notions to it.
Research Question Example: Asking how a chemical is used or perceptions around a certain topic.
ii. Predictive Questions
Predictive research questions are defined as survey questions that automatically predict the best possible response options based on text of the question. Moreover, these questions seek to understand the intent or future outcome surrounding a topic.
Research Question Example: Asking why a consumer behaves in a certain way or chooses a certain option over other.
iii. Interpretive Questions
This type of research question allows the study of people in the natural setting. The questions help understand how a group makes sense of shared experiences with regards to various phenomena. These studies gather feedback on a group’s behavior without affecting the outcome.
Research Question Example: How do you feel about AI assisting publishing process in your research?
2. Quantitative Research Question
Quantitative questions prove or disprove a researcher’s hypothesis through descriptions, comparisons, and relationships. These questions are beneficial when choosing a research topic or when posing follow-up questions that garner more information.
i. Descriptive Questions
It is the most basic type of quantitative research question and it seeks to explain when, where, why, or how something occurred. Moreover, they use data and statistics to describe an event or phenomenon.
Research Question Example: How many generations of genes influence a future generation?
ii. Comparative Questions
Sometimes it’s beneficial to compare one occurrence with another. Therefore, comparative questions are helpful when studying groups with dependent variables.
Example: Do men and women have comparable metabolisms?
iii. Relationship-Based Questions
This type of research question answers influence of one variable on another. Therefore, experimental studies use this type of research questions are majorly.
Example: How is drought condition affect a region’s probability for wildfires.
How to Write a Good Research Question?
1. Select a Topic
The first step towards writing a good research question is to choose a broad topic of research. You could choose a research topic that interests you, because the complete research will progress further from the research question. Therefore, make sure to choose a topic that you are passionate about, to make your research study more enjoyable.
2. Conduct Preliminary Research
After finalizing the topic, read and know about what research studies are conducted in the field so far. Furthermore, this will help you find articles that talk about the topics that are yet to be explored. You could explore the topics that the earlier research has not studied.
3. Consider Your Audience
The most important aspect of writing a good research question is to find out if there is audience interested to know the answer to the question you are proposing. Moreover, determining your audience will assist you in refining your research question, and focus on aspects that relate to defined groups.
4. Generate Potential Questions
The best way to generate potential questions is to ask open ended questions. Questioning broader topics will allow you to narrow down to specific questions. Identifying the gaps in literature could also give you topics to write the research question. Moreover, you could also challenge the existing assumptions or use personal experiences to redefine issues in research.
5. Review Your Questions
Once you have listed few of your questions, evaluate them to find out if they are effective research questions. Moreover while reviewing, go through the finer details of the question and its probable outcome, and find out if the question meets the research question criteria.
6. Construct Your Research Question
There are two frameworks to construct your research question. The first one being PICOT framework , which stands for:
- Population or problem
- Intervention or indicator being studied
- Comparison group
- Outcome of interest
- Time frame of the study.
The second framework is PEO , which stands for:
- Population being studied
- Exposure to preexisting conditions
- Outcome of interest.
Research Question Examples
- How might the discovery of a genetic basis for alcoholism impact triage processes in medical facilities?
- How do ecological systems respond to chronic anthropological disturbance?
- What are demographic consequences of ecological interactions?
- What roles do fungi play in wildfire recovery?
- How do feedbacks reinforce patterns of genetic divergence on the landscape?
- What educational strategies help encourage safe driving in young adults?
- What makes a grocery store easy for shoppers to navigate?
- What genetic factors predict if someone will develop hypothyroidism?
- Does contemporary evolution along the gradients of global change alter ecosystems function?
How did you write your first research question ? What were the steps you followed to create a strong research question? Do write to us or comment below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Research questions guide the focus and direction of a research study. Here are common types of research questions: 1. Qualitative research question: Qualitative questions concern broad areas or more specific areas of research. However, unlike quantitative questions, qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional and more flexible. Different types of qualitative research questions are: i. Exploratory questions ii. Predictive questions iii. Interpretive questions 2. Quantitative Research Question: Quantitative questions prove or disprove a researcher’s hypothesis through descriptions, comparisons, and relationships. These questions are beneficial when choosing a research topic or when posing follow-up questions that garner more information. Different types of quantitative research questions are: i. Descriptive questions ii. Comparative questions iii. Relationship-based questions
Qualitative research questions aim to explore the richness and depth of participants' experiences and perspectives. They should guide your research and allow for in-depth exploration of the phenomenon under investigation. After identifying the research topic and the purpose of your research: • Begin with Broad Inquiry: Start with a general research question that captures the main focus of your study. This question should be open-ended and allow for exploration. • Break Down the Main Question: Identify specific aspects or dimensions related to the main research question that you want to investigate. • Formulate Sub-questions: Create sub-questions that delve deeper into each specific aspect or dimension identified in the previous step. • Ensure Open-endedness: Make sure your research questions are open-ended and allow for varied responses and perspectives. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Encourage participants to share their experiences, opinions, and perceptions in their own words. • Refine and Review: Review your research questions to ensure they align with your research purpose, topic, and objectives. Seek feedback from your research advisor or peers to refine and improve your research questions.
Developing research questions requires careful consideration of the research topic, objectives, and the type of study you intend to conduct. Here are the steps to help you develop effective research questions: 1. Select a Topic 2. Conduct Preliminary Research 3. Consider Your Audience 4. Generate Potential Questions 5. Review Your Questions 6. Construct Your Research Question Based on PICOT or PEO Framework
There are two frameworks to construct your research question. The first one being PICOT framework, which stands for: • Population or problem • Intervention or indicator being studied • Comparison group • Outcome of interest • Time frame of the study The second framework is PEO, which stands for: • Population being studied • Exposure to preexisting conditions • Outcome of interest
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How To Write a Research Question
Academic writing and research require a distinct focus and direction. A well-designed research question gives purpose and clarity to your research. In addition, it helps your readers understand the issue you are trying to address and explore.
Every time you want to know more about a subject, you will pose a question. The same idea is used in research as well. You must pose a question in order to effectively address a research problem. That's why the research question is an integral part of the research process. Additionally, it offers the author writing and reading guidelines, be it qualitative research or quantitative research.
In your research paper , you must single out just one issue or problem. The specific issue or claim you wish to address should be included in your thesis statement in order to clarify your main argument.
A good research question must have the following characteristics.
- Should include only one problem in the research question
- Should be able to find the answer using primary data and secondary data sources
- Should be possible to resolve within the given time and other constraints
- Detailed and in-depth results should be achievable
- Should be relevant and realistic.
- It should relate to your chosen area of research
While a larger project, like a thesis, might have several research questions to address, each one should be directed at your main area of study. Of course, you can use different research designs and research methods (qualitative research or quantitative research) to address various research questions. However, they must all be pertinent to the study's objectives.
What is a Research Question?
A research question is an inquiry that the research attempts to answer. It is the heart of the systematic investigation. Research questions are the most important step in any research project. In essence, it initiates the research project and establishes the pace for the specific research A research question is:
- Clear : It provides enough detail that the audience understands its purpose without any additional explanation.
- Focused : It is so specific that it can be addressed within the time constraints of the writing task.
- Succinct: It is written in the shortest possible words.
- Complex : It is not possible to answer it with a "yes" or "no", but requires analysis and synthesis of ideas before somebody can create a solution.
- Argumental : Its potential answers are open for debate rather than accepted facts.
A good research question usually focuses on the research and determines the research design, methodology, and hypothesis. It guides all phases of inquiry, data collection, analysis, and reporting. You should gather valuable information by asking the right questions.
Why are Research Questions so important?
Regardless of whether it is a qualitative research or quantitative research project, research questions provide writers and their audience with a way to navigate the writing and research process. Writers can avoid "all-about" papers by asking straightforward and specific research questions that help them focus on their research and support a specific thesis.
Types of Research Questions
There are two types of research: Qualitative research and Quantitative research . There must be research questions for every type of research. Your research question will be based on the type of research you want to conduct and the type of data collection.
The first step in designing research involves identifying a gap and creating a focused research question.
Below is a list of common research questions that can be used in a dissertation. Keep in mind that these are merely illustrations of typical research questions used in dissertation projects. The real research questions themselves might be more difficult.
Example Research Questions
The following are a few examples of research questions and research problems to help you understand how research questions can be created for a particular research problem.
Steps to Write Research Questions
You can focus on the issue or research gaps you're attempting to solve by using the research questions as a direction.
If you're unsure how to go about writing a good research question, these are the steps to follow in the process:
- Select an interesting topic Always choose a topic that interests you. Because if your curiosity isn’t aroused by a subject, you’ll have a hard time conducting research around it. Alos, it’s better that you pick something that’s neither too narrow or too broad.
- Do preliminary research on the topic Search for relevant literature to gauge what problems have already been tackled by scholars. You can do that conveniently through repositories like Scispace , where you’ll find millions of papers in one place. Once you do find the papers you’re looking for, try our reading assistant, SciSpace Copilot to get simple explanations for the paper . You’ll be able to quickly understand the abstract, find the key takeaways, and the main arguments presented in the paper. This will give you a more contextual understanding of your subject and you’ll have an easier time identifying knowledge gaps in your discipline.
Also: ChatPDF vs. SciSpace Copilot: Unveiling the best tool for your research
- Consider your audience It is essential to understand your audience to develop focused research questions for essays or dissertations. When narrowing down your topic, you can identify aspects that might interest your audience.
- Ask questions Asking questions will give you a deeper understanding of the topic. Evaluate your question through the What, Why, When, How, and other open-ended questions assessment.
- Assess your question Once you have created a research question, assess its effectiveness to determine if it is useful for the purpose. Refine and revise the dissertation research question multiple times.
Additionally, use this list of questions as a guide when formulating your research question.
Are you able to answer a specific research question? After identifying a gap in research, it would be helpful to formulate the research question. And this will allow the research to solve a part of the problem. Is your research question clear and centered on the main topic? It is important that your research question should be specific and related to your central goal. Are you tackling a difficult research question? It is not possible to answer the research question with a simple yes or no. The problem requires in-depth analysis. It is often started with "How" and "Why."
Start your research Once you have completed your dissertation research questions, it is time to review the literature on similar topics to discover different perspectives.
Strong Research Question Samples
Uncertain: How should social networking sites work on the hatred that flows through their platform?
Certain: What should social media sites like Twitter or Facebook do to address the harm they are causing?
This unclear question does not specify the social networking sites that are being used or what harm they might be causing. In addition, this question assumes that the "harm" has been proven and/or accepted. This version is more specific and identifies the sites (Twitter, Facebook), the type and extent of harm (privacy concerns), and who might be suffering from that harm (users). Effective research questions should not be ambiguous or interpreted.
Unfocused: What are the effects of global warming on the environment?
Focused: What are the most important effects of glacial melting in Antarctica on penguins' lives?
This broad research question cannot be addressed in a book, let alone a college-level paper. Focused research targets a specific effect of global heating (glacial melting), an area (Antarctica), or a specific animal (penguins). The writer must also decide which effect will have the greatest impact on the animals affected. If in doubt, narrow down your research question to the most specific possible.
Too Simple: What are the U.S. doctors doing to treat diabetes?
Appropriately complex: Which factors, if any, are most likely to predict a person's risk of developing diabetes?
This simple version can be found online. It is easy to answer with a few facts. The second, more complicated version of this question is divided into two parts. It is thought-provoking and requires extensive investigation as well as evaluation by the author. So, ensure that a quick Google search should not answer your research question.
How to write a strong Research Question?
The foundation of all research is the research question. You should therefore spend as much time as necessary to refine your research question based on various data.
You can conduct your research more efficiently and analyze your results better if you have great research questions for your dissertation, research paper , or essay .
The following criteria can help you evaluate the strength and importance of your research question and can be used to determine the strength of your research question:
- It should only cover one issue.
- A subjective judgment should not be included in the question.
- It can be answered with data analysis and research.
- Specific and Practical
- It should not contain a plan of action, policy, or solution.
- It should be clearly defined
- Within research limits
- Complex and Arguable
- It shouldn't be difficult to answer.
- To find the truth, you need in-depth knowledge
- Allows for discussion and deliberation
- Original and Relevant
- It should be in your area of study
- Its results should be measurable
- It should be original
Conclusion - How to write Research Questions?
Research questions provide a clear guideline for research. One research question may be part of a larger project, such as a dissertation. However, each question should only focus on one topic.
Research questions must be answerable, practical, specific, and applicable to your field. The research type that you use to base your research questions on will determine the research topic. You can start by selecting an interesting topic and doing preliminary research. Then, you can begin asking questions, evaluating your questions, and start your research.
Now it's easier than ever to streamline your research workflow with SciSpace ResearchGPT . Its integrated, comprehensive end-to-end platform for research allows scholars to easily discover, read, write and publish their research and fosters collaboration.
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Developing research questions
It is likely that at some point during your degree you will be required to create your own research question. The research question states the specific issue or problem that your assignment will focus on. It also outlines the task that you will need to complete.
There is no universal set of criteria for a good research question. Different disciplines have different priorities and requirements. A good research question for a history paper will differ from a good research question for a biology paper. In general, however, a good research question should be:
- Clear and focused. In other words, the question should clearly state what the writer needs to do.
- Not too broad and not too narrow. The question should have an appropriate scope. If the question is too broad it will not be possible to answer it thoroughly within the word limit. If it is too narrow you will not have enough to write about and you will struggle to develop a strong argument (see the activity below for examples).
- Not too easy to answer. For example, the question should require more than a simple yes or no answer.
- Not too difficult to answer. You must be able to answer the question thoroughly within the given timeframe and word limit.
- Researchable. You must have access to a suitable amount of quality research materials, such as academic books and refereed journal articles.
- Analytical rather than descriptive. In other words, your research question should allow you to produce an analysis of an issue or problem rather than a simple description of it (more on this below).
Activity: Is the question too broad or too narrow?
Imagine that you have been asked to write a 2000 word essay about nuclear power in Australia. Which of these three options is the best in terms of its scope? Drag and drop to match each question with the most accurate description of its scope.
How to create a research question
1. determine the requirements.
Before you can construct a good research question you will need to determine the requirements of your assignment.
What is the purpose of this assignment? Is it to test a proposition? Is it to evaluate a set of data? Is it to state and defend an argument? Check the assignment instructions and discuss the purpose with your tutor or lecturer.
Determining the purpose will help you to choose the most appropriate topic and word your question in the most useful way.
2. Choose a topic
Have you been given a list of topics to choose from or can you choose your own? Check the assignment instructions and if you are still in doubt discuss the requirements with your tutor or lecturer.
The best approach is to choose a topic that you are interested in. If you are interested in your topic you are more likely to invest more time, effort, and creativity into your research and writing. The greater your interest, the more likely it is that you will produce an assignment that is interesting to read.
3. Conduct preliminary research
Before you write your question it is advisable to read a small number of relevant academic sources. Limit your reading to recently published material and perhaps one or two influential works on the topic. The goal here is to familiarise yourself with the key debates in academic writing on the topic.
Reading in order to develop a research question is different from reading in order to answer it. Focus on the main ideas and arguments (these are usually found in the introduction and the conclusion). You don’t need to read every word or take down extensive notes at this stage, as you will probably come back to the text at a later date.
4. Narrow down your topic
Having conducted some preliminary research you should now be in a position to narrow down your topic.
In most cases you will need to narrow down your focus to a specific issue or debate within the broader topic. This is because it is much more effective to cover a single issue or dimension of a topic in depth than to skim the surface of several.
There are several ways that you might go about narrowing down your topic:
- Think about the subtopics, specific issues, and key debates that exist within the broader topic.
- Think about the value of focusing on a particular period of time, a particular geographical location, a particular organisation, or a particular group of people.
- Think about what you want to say in your assignment. What are the key points and arguments that you want to get across? Which subtopic, timeframe or other limitation would allow you to make these points in the most effective way?
Activity: Narrowing down your topic
- Create three columns on a piece of paper, in a word document, or in a spreadsheet.
- Select a broad topic for an upcoming assignment or choose a topic that you are interested in.
- In the first column write down the items contained in the first column below. Add any other items that may be relevant to your topic.
- In the second column write down potential sub-topics and other limitations. If you get stuck use the examples in the second column below to guide you.
- In the third column write the potential value of what you have written in the second column. What would that sub-topic or other limitation allow you to argue or demonstrate?
- Circle or highlight the items in column two that have the strongest potential value.
If you get stuck use the example below to guide you.
5. Write your question
Now that you have narrowed down your topic you can turn your attention to the wording of your research question.
As mentioned previously, the research question must outline a clear task that you will need to complete.
Remember that you will need to keep the purpose of your assignment in mind when thinking about the wording of your question and that the purpose will differ from discipline to discipline (see 1: Determine the Requirements).
In general, however, a good research question requires you to analyse an issue or problem. How and why questions are therefore more useful than what or describe questions. Other useful words that you might use are critique, argue, examine and evaluate . For definitions of these terms see Instruction Words .
Activity: Which is the best worded question?
Imagine that you have been asked to write an essay about earthquakes. The broad topic that you have chosen is the social impact of earthquakes. You have narrowed down your topic and decided to focus on the issue of homelessness caused by the Haitian earthquake of 2010. You are particularly interested in why there were high levels of homelessness several years after the earthquake. Which of these three options is the best research question? Drag and drop to match each question with the most accurate description of its effectiveness as a research question.
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Research Question Examples – Get Inspiration for Your Research Paper
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When writing a thesis, dissertation, or any other type of research paper , the research question represents one of the core elements. The research question is typically adjusted and refined throughout the entire research process , as it is difficult to compress the studied issues or focus points into one defining question.
In this article, we provide information on how to create an optimal research question with research question examples.
- 1 In a Nutshell: Research question examples
- 2 Definition: Research question examples
- 3 Types of research question examples
- 4 Research question examples
In a Nutshell: Research question examples
- The goal of a research paper is to answer the research question.
- This article provides research question examples that are based on quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods approaches.
- The FINER criteria model is a useful tool to check whether a research question is of good quality.
- This article provides a variety of research question examples that should be avoided and their respective corrected versions.
Definition: Research question examples
Research questions are fundamental in a research study, as they depict the topics and issues that are discussed and analyzed and help define a systematic research process . In other words, the aim of a study is to answer the respective research question.
Other imperative research components such as the methodology and hypotheses can be determined through the research question. Research questions can be categorized into 3 different types:
- Qualitative research questions
- Quantitative research questions
- Mixed-methods research questions
Types of research question examples
Depending on your research design, the research question is determined by the methods you use. The following table shows research question examples for the different types of research:
The FINER criteria
The FINER criteria model consists of 5 components, which can be checked off to determine whether a research question is of high quality:
It is important to make sure that the research question is feasible. This means that the issues in question need to be realistic to investigate. To ensure feasibility, it should be considered whether the researcher is able to collect data for the research and if the researcher possesses the right skills and resources to do so.
When constructing a research question, it is essential that it does not only interest the researcher, but also the society or community that may be confronted by a research topic.
When conducting research, you should aim for an investigation that can contribute to already existing findings and studies.
Ethical considerations should be respected in order to construct good research questions. This means that they should be approved by relevant review boards and authorities.
It is essential to consider whether your research is relevant to your study field and the general public.
Research question examples
The following table shows bad research question examples and improved versions with respective explanations:
How does sugar impact your body?
This question is too broad for research.
How does a daily dose of 35 g of sugar impact the energy levels of 25-35-year-old women?
This question is more specified and can be researched with a mixed-methods approach.
Why is there a housing crisis in Denmark?
Starting a research question with “why” often indicates that it is not specific enough. There are too many ways to answer it.
How do internationalization policies at Danish universities impact the vacancy and affordability of housing in Denmark?
This question is more narrowed to a particular issue, which indicates a much clearer direction of research.
Are the unemployment policies better in the US or in Australia?
This question is too subjective, as an assumption is made with no clear supportive research.
How do the US and Australia compare in unemployment benefits among the lower class with mental health problems?
This question is more objective and does not make any assumptions of possible outcomes. It is also specified to a focus group, which makes the topic more researchable.
How can more people be urged to participate in the regional elections?
Broad normative questions are generally not relevant to use in research.
What strategies may help to motivate the 18-30-year-old population to participate in the regional elections?
This question indicates that there are possible solutions as the question is more specified.
Did drug abuse increase in Germany in the past 5 years?
Questions that can be answered with yes or no should be avoided.
How has the number of drug abuse cases been impacted by social, economic, and political aspects in Germany in the past 5 years?
This question has more depth and requires research to be answered.
What are some good research question examples?
- What are the experiences of caretakers interacting with autistic children at their work?
- What are the viewpoints of student workers at government facilities?
- What were the voting rates in the 2016 US presidential election compared to the one before?
- What is the demographic of Japan in 2023 compared to 2013?
What makes a good research question example?
Firstly, it is important to choose what type of research question: Qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods research questions. The FINER criteria model can help construct a good research question.
What is an example of a good and bad research question?
✘ How does sugar impact your body?
✓ How does a daily dose of 35 g of sugar impact the energy levels of 25-35-year-old women?
There are even more well-written and bad research question examples in this article.
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*Research and Writing: Integrated Skills & Strategies*
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Components of a Thesis Statement
Conversing with someone else about your research and writing process can be incredibly helpful. Contact staff at McKillop Library or the Writing Center using the links below.
- Meet with a Writing Consultant
After you have chosen a topic and done some brainstorming, it is time to develop your research question. Although you will not include your research question in your paper, this is nonetheless a critical step because your thesis statement, one of the most important pieces of your research project, will answer your research question. Your research question will also help you determine what is important to include in your project and when you have finished it.
As you create your research question, remember issues that you identified in your brainstorming, concept mapping, and/or prewriting. What specific aspect of your topic appealed to you? What unique question do you want to seek answers to?
One of the most important things to keep in mind as you are creating your research question is that your question should be open-ended : the question should not be able to be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." You want to create a question that requires exploration and analysis: one that will require you to use a variety of credible sources to answer. See the chart below for examples of open and close-ended questions.
There are many types of research questions, so spend some time brainstorming how you want to approach your topic. You want your question to be innovative: something that will grab your readers' attention and make them think about your topic in a new way. For example, let's say you want to examine the practice of tattooing in the United States for your research project. Below are three types of research questions that provided examples for this research topic.
- Example: How does getting a tattoo impact American millennials as they enter the work force?
- Example: How does the perception of tattooed individuals in the twenty-first century compare to perceptions in the early-twentieth century?
- Example: How have social changes impacted the prevalence of tattoos in America?
The most important part of any writing assignment is the thesis statement. A thesis statement states the author’s purpose for writing or the point to be proven. The topic sentences of each succeeding body paragraph all connect the thesis statement.
- When the essay is designed to inform the reader , the thesis explains the author’s purpose for writing and serves as the controlling idea or topic throughout the essay.
- When the essay is designed to convince the reader , the thesis states the topic that will be explored and serves as the argument or central claim throughout the essay.
Thesis statements guide the content, organization, and evidence that together build an effective paper. A thesis does not exist in isolation and should be threaded through the entirety of a paper. The creation of a powerful and cohesive thesis requires multiple revisions. To begin, your thesis may address the topic broadly; but through revision, the thesis should ultimately convey a critical, specific, and arguable perspective on the topic. The examples below model possible revisions to a broad, ineffective thesis.
Ineffective thesis to be revised: Tattooing is very prevalent in the United States.
Effective thesis revisions:
Say why : Many people decide to become tattooed because it allows them a permanent form of physical expression that positively promotes self-awareness and ownership of experiences.
Say why the reader should care : As the prevalence to tattooing increases with the millennial generation, the trend will negatively impact the perception of young professionals in the American business world and the United States' success within a global market.
Say how : Body art acceptance in American society has grown significantly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, achieved through the unraveling of stigmatization and ostracizing of a once believed deviant behavior.
Make specific comparisons : While the practice of body modification once held many negative associations, the profession of tattooist has grown out of its underground beginnings to be considered a respectable position in the contemporary arts community.
Make an evaluation : The prevalence of tattooing as a key element of youth culture in the United States demonstrates the lack of maturity and personal responsibility amongst millennials.
Consider the consequences : As the generations X, Y, and millennials enter advanced ages of life, there will be a significant regret about their choices in body modification and a rapid increase in tattoo removal.
Apply previous or other knowledge : The acceptance of body modification, like many other social practices and beliefs that are recognized in contemporary society, was furthered by the driving social reforms and movements of the mid-20th century, including women's rights, the civil rights movements, and political protest.
Give it a try! Use the worksheet attached to experiment with different versions of your own thesis. Remember, you can always revisit the wording. We will re-examine the thesis at the end of the process through reverse outlining.
- Revising Thesis Statements Worksheet
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- Last Updated: Nov 6, 2023 2:44 PM
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