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  • Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples

Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples

Published on October 26, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 21, 2023.

A research question pinpoints exactly what you want to find out in your work. A good research question is essential to guide your research paper , dissertation , or thesis .

All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

Writing Strong Research Questions

Table of contents

How to write a research question, what makes a strong research question, using sub-questions to strengthen your main research question, research questions quiz, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research questions.

You can follow these steps to develop a strong research question:

  • Choose your topic
  • Do some preliminary reading about the current state of the field
  • Narrow your focus to a specific niche
  • Identify the research problem that you will address

The way you frame your question depends on what your research aims to achieve. The table below shows some examples of how you might formulate questions for different purposes.

Using your research problem to develop your research question

Note that while most research questions can be answered with various types of research , the way you frame your question should help determine your choices.

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Research questions anchor your whole project, so it’s important to spend some time refining them. The criteria below can help you evaluate the strength of your research question.

Focused and researchable

Feasible and specific, complex and arguable, relevant and original.

Chances are that your main research question likely can’t be answered all at once. That’s why sub-questions are important: they allow you to answer your main question in a step-by-step manner.

Good sub-questions should be:

  • Less complex than the main question
  • Focused only on 1 type of research
  • Presented in a logical order

Here are a few examples of descriptive and framing questions:

  • Descriptive: According to current government arguments, how should a European bank tax be implemented?
  • Descriptive: Which countries have a bank tax/levy on financial transactions?
  • Framing: How should a bank tax/levy on financial transactions look at a European level?

Keep in mind that sub-questions are by no means mandatory. They should only be asked if you need the findings to answer your main question. If your main question is simple enough to stand on its own, it’s okay to skip the sub-question part. As a rule of thumb, the more complex your subject, the more sub-questions you’ll need.

Try to limit yourself to 4 or 5 sub-questions, maximum. If you feel you need more than this, it may be indication that your main research question is not sufficiently specific. In this case, it’s is better to revisit your problem statement and try to tighten your main question up.

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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.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

As you cannot possibly read every source related to your topic, it’s important to evaluate sources to assess their relevance. Use preliminary evaluation to determine whether a source is worth examining in more depth.

This involves:

  • Reading abstracts , prefaces, introductions , and conclusions
  • Looking at the table of contents to determine the scope of the work
  • Consulting the index for key terms or the names of important scholars

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (“ x affects y because …”).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses . In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

Writing Strong Research Questions

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

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Creating a Good Research Question

  • Advice & Growth
  • Process in Practice

Successful translation of research begins with a strong question. How do you get started? How do good research questions evolve? And where do you find inspiration to generate good questions in the first place?  It’s helpful to understand existing frameworks, guidelines, and standards, as well as hear from researchers who utilize these strategies in their own work.

In the fall and winter of 2020, Naomi Fisher, MD, conducted 10 interviews with clinical and translational researchers at Harvard University and affiliated academic healthcare centers, with the purpose of capturing their experiences developing good research questions. The researchers featured in this project represent various specialties, drawn from every stage of their careers. Below you will find clips from their interviews and additional resources that highlight how to get started, as well as helpful frameworks and factors to consider. Additionally, visit the Advice & Growth section to hear candid advice and explore the Process in Practice section to hear how researchers have applied these recommendations to their published research.

  • Naomi Fisher, MD , is associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and clinical staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Fisher is founder and director of Hypertension Services and the Hypertension Specialty Clinic at the BWH, where she is a renowned endocrinologist. She serves as a faculty director for communication-related Boundary-Crossing Skills for Research Careers webinar sessions and the Writing and Communication Center .
  • Christopher Gibbons, MD , is associate professor of neurology at HMS, and clinical staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Joslin Diabetes Center. Gibbons’ research focus is on peripheral and autonomic neuropathies.
  • Clare Tempany-Afdhal, MD , is professor of radiology at HMS and the Ferenc Jolesz Chair of Research, Radiology at BWH. Her major areas of research are MR imaging of the pelvis and image- guided therapy.
  • David Sykes, MD, PhD , is assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), he is also principal investigator at the Sykes Lab at MGH. His special interest area is rare hematologic conditions.
  • Elliot Israel, MD , is professor of medicine at HMS, director of the Respiratory Therapy Department, the director of clinical research in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medical Division and associate physician at BWH. Israel’s research interests include therapeutic interventions to alter asthmatic airway hyperactivity and the role of arachidonic acid metabolites in airway narrowing.
  • Jonathan Williams, MD, MMSc , is assistant professor of medicine at HMS, and associate physician at BWH. He focuses on endocrinology, specifically unravelling the intricate relationship between genetics and environment with respect to susceptibility to cardiometabolic disease.
  • Junichi Tokuda, PhD , is associate professor of radiology at HMS, and is a research scientist at the Department of Radiology, BWH. Tokuda is particularly interested in technologies to support image-guided “closed-loop” interventions. He also serves as a principal investigator leading several projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and industry.
  • Osama Rahma, MD , is assistant professor of medicine at HMS and clinical staff member in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). Rhama is currently a principal investigator at the Center for Immuno-Oncology and Gastroenterology Cancer Center at DFCI. His research focus is on drug development of combinational immune therapeutics.
  • Sharmila Dorbala, MD, MPH , is professor of radiology at HMS and clinical staff at BWH in cardiovascular medicine and radiology. She is also the president of the American Society of Nuclear Medicine. Dorbala’s specialty is using nuclear medicine for cardiovascular discoveries.
  • Subha Ramani, PhD, MBBS, MMed , is associate professor of medicine at HMS, as well as associate physician in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care at BWH. Ramani’s scholarly interests focus on innovative approaches to teaching, learning and assessment of clinical trainees, faculty development in teaching, and qualitative research methods in medical education.
  • Ursula Kaiser, MD , is professor at HMS and chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension, and senior physician at BWH. Kaiser’s research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone regulates the expression of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone genes.

Insights on Creating a Good Research Question

Junichi Tokuda, PhD

Play Junichi Tokuda video

Ursula Kaiser, MD

Play Ursula Kaiser video

Start Successfully: Build the Foundation of a Good Research Question

Jonathan Williams, MD, MMSc

Start Successfully Resources

Ideation in Device Development: Finding Clinical Need Josh Tolkoff, MS A lecture explaining the critical importance of identifying a compelling clinical need before embarking on a research project. Play Ideation in Device Development video .

Radical Innovation Jeff Karp, PhD This ThinkResearch podcast episode focuses on one researcher’s approach using radical simplicity to break down big problems and questions. Play Radical Innovation .

Using Healthcare Data: How can Researchers Come up with Interesting Questions? Anupam Jena, MD, PhD Another ThinkResearch podcast episode addresses how to discover good research questions by using a backward design approach which involves analyzing big data and allowing the research question to unfold from findings. Play Using Healthcare Data .

Important Factors: Consider Feasibility and Novelty

Sharmila Dorbala, MD, MPH

Refining Your Research Question 

Play video of Clare Tempany-Afdhal

Elliot Israel, MD

Play Elliott Israel video

Frameworks and Structure: Evaluate Research Questions Using Tools and Techniques

Frameworks and Structure Resources

Designing Clinical Research Hulley et al. A comprehensive and practical guide to clinical research, including the FINER framework for evaluating research questions. Learn more about the book .

Translational Medicine Library Guide Queens University Library An introduction to popular frameworks for research questions, including FINER and PICO. Review translational medicine guide .

Asking a Good T3/T4 Question  Niteesh K. Choudhry, MD, PhD This video explains the PICO framework in practice as participants in a workshop propose research questions that compare interventions. Play Asking a Good T3/T4 Question video

Introduction to Designing & Conducting Mixed Methods Research An online course that provides a deeper dive into mixed methods’ research questions and methodologies. Learn more about the course

Network and Support: Find the Collaborators and Stakeholders to Help Evaluate Research Questions

Chris Gibbons, MD,

Network & Support Resource

Bench-to-bedside, Bedside-to-bench Christopher Gibbons, MD In this lecture, Gibbons shares his experience of bringing research from bench to bedside, and from bedside to bench. His talk highlights the formation and evolution of research questions based on clinical need. Play Bench-to-bedside. 

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How to write a research question

Last updated

7 February 2023

Reviewed by

Miroslav Damyanov

In this article, we take an in-depth look at what a research question is, the different types of research questions, and how to write one (with examples). Read on to get started with your thesis, dissertation, or research paper .

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  • What is a research question?

A research question articulates exactly what you want to learn from your research. It stems directly from your research objectives, and you will arrive at an answer through data analysis and interpretation.

However, it is not that simple to write a research question—even when you know the question you intend to answer with your study. The main characteristics of a good research question are:

Feasible. You need to have the resources and abilities to examine the question, collect the data, and give answers.

Interesting. Create research questions that offer fascinating insights into your industry.

Novel. Research questions have to offer something new within your field of study.

Ethical. The research question topic should be approved by the relevant authorities and review boards.

Relevant. Your research question should lead to visible changes in society or your industry.

Usually, you write one single research question to guide your entire research paper. The answer becomes the thesis statement—the central position of your argument. A dissertation or thesis, on the other hand, may require multiple problem statements and research questions. However, they should be connected and focused on a specific problem.

  • Importance of the research question

A research question acts as a guide for your entire study. It serves two vital purposes:

to determine the specific issue your research paper addresses

to identify clear objectives

Therefore, it helps split your research into small steps that you need to complete to provide answers.

Your research question will also provide boundaries for your study, which help set limits and ensure cohesion.

Finally, it acts as a frame of reference for assessing your work. Bear in mind that research questions can evolve, shift, and change during the early stages of your study or project.

  • Types of research questions

The type of research you are conducting will dictate the type of research question to use. Primarily, research questions are grouped into three distinct categories of study:

qualitative

quantitative

mixed-method

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

Quantitative research questions

The number-one rule of quantitative research questions is that they are precise. They mainly include:

independent and dependent variables

the exact population being studied

the research design to be used

Therefore, you must frame and finalize quantitative research questions before starting the study.

Equally, a quantitative research question creates a link between itself and the research design. These questions cannot be answered with simple 'yes' or' no' responses, so they begin with words like 'does', 'do', 'are', and 'is'.

Quantitative research questions can be divided into three categories:

Relationship research questions usually leverage words such as 'trends' and 'association' because they include independent and dependent variables. They seek to define or explore trends and interactions between multiple variables.

Comparative research questions tend to analyze the differences between different groups to find an outcome variable. For instance, you may decide to compare two distinct groups where a specific variable is present in one and absent in the other.

Descriptive research questions usually start with the word 'what' and aim to measure how a population will respond to one or more variables.

Qualitative research questions

Like quantitative research questions, these questions are linked to the research design. However, qualitative research questions may deal with a specific or broad study area. This makes them more flexible, very adaptable, and usually non-directional.

Use qualitative research questions when your primary aim is to explain, discover, or explore.

There are seven types of qualitative research questions:

Explanatory research questions investigate particular topic areas that aren't well known.

Contextual research questions describe the workings of what is already in existence.

Evaluative research questions examine the effectiveness of specific paradigms or methods.

Ideological research questions aim to advance existing ideologies.

Descriptive research questions describe an event.

Generative research questions help develop actions and theories by providing new ideas.

Emancipatory research questions increase social action engagement, usually to benefit disadvantaged people.

Mixed-methods studies

With mixed-methods studies, you combine qualitative and quantitative research elements to get answers to your research question. This approach is ideal when you need a more complete picture. through a blend of the two approaches.

Mixed-methods research is excellent in multidisciplinary settings, societal analysis, and complex situations. Consider the following research question examples, which would be ideal candidates for a mixed-methods approach

How can non-voter and voter beliefs about democracy (qualitative) help explain Town X election turnout patterns (quantitative)?

How does students’ perception of their study environment (quantitative) relate to their test score differences (qualitative)?

  • Developing a strong research question—a step-by-step guide

Research questions help break up your study into simple steps so you can quickly achieve your objectives and find answers. However, how do you develop a good research question? Here is our step-by-step guide:

1. Choose a topic

The first step is to select a broad research topic for your study. Pick something within your expertise and field that interests you. After all, the research itself will stem from the initial research question.

2. Conduct preliminary research

Once you have a broad topic, dig deeper into the problem by researching past studies in the field and gathering requirements from stakeholders if you work in a business setting.

Through this process, you will discover articles that mention areas not explored in that field or products that didn’t resonate with people’s expectations in a particular industry. For instance, you could explore specific topics that earlier research failed to study or products that failed to meet user needs.

3. Keep your audience in mind

Is your audience interested in the particular field you want to study? Are the research questions in your mind appealing and interesting to the audience? Defining your audience will help you refine your research question and ensure you pick a question that is relatable to your audience.

4. Generate a list of potential questions

Ask yourself numerous open-ended questions on the topic to create a potential list of research questions. You could start with broader questions and narrow them down to more specific ones. Don’t forget that you can challenge existing assumptions or use personal experiences to redefine research issues.

5. Review the questions

Evaluate your list of potential questions to determine which seems most effective. Ensure you consider the finer details of every question and possible outcomes. Doing this helps you determine if the questions meet the requirements of a research question.

6. Construct and evaluate your research question

Consider these two frameworks when constructing a good research question: PICOT and PEO. 

PICOT stands for:

P: Problem or population

I: Indicator or intervention to be studied

C: Comparison groups

O: Outcome of interest

T: Time frame

PEO stands for:

P: Population being studied

E: Exposure to any preexisting conditions

To evaluate your research question once you’ve constructed it, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it clear?

Your study should produce precise data and observations. For qualitative studies, the observations need to be delineable across categories. Quantitative studies must have measurable and empirical data.

Is it specific and focused?

An excellent research question must be specific enough to ensure your testing yields objective results. General or open-ended research questions are often ambiguous and subject to different kinds of interpretation.

Is it sufficiently complex?

Your research needs to yield substantial and consequential results to warrant the study. Merely supporting or reinforcing an existing paper is not good enough.

  • Examples of good research questions

A robust research question actively contributes to a specific body of knowledge; it is a question that hasn’t been answered before within your research field.

Here are some examples of good and bad research questions :

Good: How effective are A and B policies at reducing the rates of Z?

Bad: Is A or B a better policy?

The first is more focused and researchable because it isn't based on value judgment. The second fails to give clear criteria for answering the question.

Good: What is the effect of daily Twitter use on the attention span of college students?

Bad: What is the effect of social media use on people's minds?

The first includes specific and well-defined concepts, which the second lacks.

Ensure all terms within your research question have precise meanings. Avoid vague or general language that makes the topic too broad.

  • The bottom line

The success of any research starts with formulating the right questions that ensure you collect the most insightful data. A good research question will showcase the objectives of your systematic investigation and emphasize specific contexts.

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Research Question 101 📖

Everything you need to know to write a high-quality research question

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | October 2023

If you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably asking yourself, “ What is a research question? ”. Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll explain what a research question is , how it’s differen t from a research aim, and how to craft a high-quality research question that sets you up for success.

Research Question 101

What is a research question.

  • Research questions vs research aims
  • The 4 types of research questions
  • How to write a research question
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Examples of research questions

As the name suggests, the research question is the core question (or set of questions) that your study will (attempt to) answer .

In many ways, a research question is akin to a target in archery . Without a clear target, you won’t know where to concentrate your efforts and focus. Essentially, your research question acts as the guiding light throughout your project and informs every choice you make along the way.

Let’s look at some examples:

What impact does social media usage have on the mental health of teenagers in New York?
How does the introduction of a minimum wage affect employment levels in small businesses in outer London?
How does the portrayal of women in 19th-century American literature reflect the societal attitudes of the time?
What are the long-term effects of intermittent fasting on heart health in adults?

As you can see in these examples, research questions are clear, specific questions that can be feasibly answered within a study. These are important attributes and we’ll discuss each of them in more detail a little later . If you’d like to see more examples of research questions, you can find our RQ mega-list here .

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Research Questions vs Research Aims

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “ How is a research question different from a research aim? ”. Within any given study, the research aim and research question (or questions) are tightly intertwined , but they are separate things . Let’s unpack that a little.

A research aim is typically broader in nature and outlines what you hope to achieve with your research. It doesn’t ask a specific question but rather gives a summary of what you intend to explore.

The research question, on the other hand, is much more focused . It’s the specific query you’re setting out to answer. It narrows down the research aim into a detailed, researchable question that will guide your study’s methods and analysis.

Let’s look at an example:

Research Aim: To explore the effects of climate change on marine life in Southern Africa.
Research Question: How does ocean acidification caused by climate change affect the reproduction rates of coral reefs?

As you can see, the research aim gives you a general focus , while the research question details exactly what you want to find out.

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how to develop a strong research question

Types of research questions

Now that we’ve defined what a research question is, let’s look at the different types of research questions that you might come across. Broadly speaking, there are (at least) four different types of research questions – descriptive , comparative , relational , and explanatory . 

Descriptive questions ask what is happening. In other words, they seek to describe a phenomena or situation . An example of a descriptive research question could be something like “What types of exercise do high-performing UK executives engage in?”. This would likely be a bit too basic to form an interesting study, but as you can see, the research question is just focused on the what – in other words, it just describes the situation.

Comparative research questions , on the other hand, look to understand the way in which two or more things differ , or how they’re similar. An example of a comparative research question might be something like “How do exercise preferences vary between middle-aged men across three American cities?”. As you can see, this question seeks to compare the differences (or similarities) in behaviour between different groups.

Next up, we’ve got exploratory research questions , which ask why or how is something happening. While the other types of questions we looked at focused on the what, exploratory research questions are interested in the why and how . As an example, an exploratory research question might ask something like “Why have bee populations declined in Germany over the last 5 years?”. As you can, this question is aimed squarely at the why, rather than the what.

Last but not least, we have relational research questions . As the name suggests, these types of research questions seek to explore the relationships between variables . Here, an example could be something like “What is the relationship between X and Y” or “Does A have an impact on B”. As you can see, these types of research questions are interested in understanding how constructs or variables are connected , and perhaps, whether one thing causes another.

Of course, depending on how fine-grained you want to get, you can argue that there are many more types of research questions , but these four categories give you a broad idea of the different flavours that exist out there. It’s also worth pointing out that a research question doesn’t need to fit perfectly into one category – in many cases, a research question might overlap into more than just one category and that’s okay.

The key takeaway here is that research questions can take many different forms , and it’s useful to understand the nature of your research question so that you can align your research methodology accordingly.

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How To Write A Research Question

As we alluded earlier, a well-crafted research question needs to possess very specific attributes, including focus , clarity and feasibility . But that’s not all – a rock-solid research question also needs to be rooted and aligned . Let’s look at each of these.

A strong research question typically has a single focus. So, don’t try to cram multiple questions into one research question; rather split them up into separate questions (or even subquestions), each with their own specific focus. As a rule of thumb, narrow beats broad when it comes to research questions.

Clear and specific

A good research question is clear and specific, not vague and broad. State clearly exactly what you want to find out so that any reader can quickly understand what you’re looking to achieve with your study. Along the same vein, try to avoid using bulky language and jargon – aim for clarity.

Unfortunately, even a super tantalising and thought-provoking research question has little value if you cannot feasibly answer it. So, think about the methodological implications of your research question while you’re crafting it. Most importantly, make sure that you know exactly what data you’ll need (primary or secondary) and how you’ll analyse that data.

A good research question (and a research topic, more broadly) should be rooted in a clear research gap and research problem . Without a well-defined research gap, you risk wasting your effort pursuing a question that’s already been adequately answered (and agreed upon) by the research community. A well-argued research gap lays at the heart of a valuable study, so make sure you have your gap clearly articulated and that your research question directly links to it.

As we mentioned earlier, your research aim and research question are (or at least, should be) tightly linked. So, make sure that your research question (or set of questions) aligns with your research aim . If not, you’ll need to revise one of the two to achieve this.

FAQ: Research Questions

Research question faqs, how many research questions should i have, what should i avoid when writing a research question, can a research question be a statement.

Typically, a research question is phrased as a question, not a statement. A question clearly indicates what you’re setting out to discover.

Can a research question be too broad or too narrow?

Yes. A question that’s too broad makes your research unfocused, while a question that’s too narrow limits the scope of your study.

Here’s an example of a research question that’s too broad:

“Why is mental health important?”

Conversely, here’s an example of a research question that’s likely too narrow:

“What is the impact of sleep deprivation on the exam scores of 19-year-old males in London studying maths at The Open University?”

Can I change my research question during the research process?

How do i know if my research question is good.

A good research question is focused, specific, practical, rooted in a research gap, and aligned with the research aim. If your question meets these criteria, it’s likely a strong question.

Is a research question similar to a hypothesis?

Not quite. A hypothesis is a testable statement that predicts an outcome, while a research question is a query that you’re trying to answer through your study. Naturally, there can be linkages between a study’s research questions and hypothesis, but they serve different functions.

How are research questions and research objectives related?

The research question is a focused and specific query that your study aims to answer. It’s the central issue you’re investigating. The research objective, on the other hand, outlines the steps you’ll take to answer your research question. Research objectives are often more action-oriented and can be broken down into smaller tasks that guide your research process. In a sense, they’re something of a roadmap that helps you answer your research question.

Need some inspiration?

If you’d like to see more examples of research questions, check out our research question mega list here .  Alternatively, if you’d like 1-on-1 help developing a high-quality research question, consider our private coaching service .

how to develop a strong research question

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Strong research questions

Part 2: Chapter 4

Questions to consider

A. What role does questioning play in advancing knowledge?

B. How can well-formulated questions support the development of a thesis ?

C. What are the qualities of a strong research question?

People look for information to answer implied or explicit questions every day. A research question prompts the questioner to do more than find an answer. Consider the differences between the standard  and research questions below.

Standard Question: When and where is that movie showing on Friday? Research Question: How do “sleeper” films end up having outstanding attendance figures? Standard Question: How many children in the U.S. have allergies? Research Question: How does his or her country of birth affect a child’s chances of developing asthma? Standard Question: What year was metformin approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration? Research Question: Why are nanomedicines, such as doxorubicin, worth developing? Standard Question: Can citizens register to vote at the public library? Research Question: How do public libraries in the United States support democracy? Standard Question: What is the Whorfian Hypothesis? Research Question: Why are linguists interested in the Whorfian hypothesis?

Language in Action

A. Explore “motivation” in a series of standard questions.

B. Extend the questions about “motivation” to those of a research nature.

C. What factors can be added to develop compelling and meaningful research on “motivation”?

The influences of research questions Producing a research question prompts writers to

• define the scope of their interest; • evaluate the feasibility of the inquiry; • determine what sources will be of value; and • establish potential conclusions.

For academic purposes, research questions can be developed for both large and small assignments. A smaller assignment may be research for a class discussion or a blog post; larger assignments may involve conducting research and then delivering it in a lab report, poster, term paper, or article. For large projects, the research question (or questions) will define or at least heavily influence

• the topic, in that research questions effectively narrow the subject; • any hypotheses under consideration; • which information sources are relevant; and • resulting claims or conclusions.

how to develop a strong research question

Influence on thesis Within an essay, poster, or term paper, the thesis is the researcher’s response to the research question(s). Developing research questions is effectively specifying that thesis. While perhaps many research questions emerge from the original topic, the primary question addresses those the thesis will answer. For example, a topic that starts out as “desert symbiosis” could eventually lead to “How does the diversity of bacteria in the gut of the Sonoran Desert termite contribute to the termite’s survival?” In turn, the researcher’s thesis will answer that particular research question instead of the numerous other questions that could have come from the desert symbiosis topic. Developing research questions is part of the process establishing clear parameters.

Influence on hypothesis A study that predicts how variables are related will have at least one hypothesis . The research questions will contain the variables that later appear in the hypothesis(es). Despite the strength of their influence on the overall project, research questions do not always appear in the final products (papers or articles) of the research.

Influence on resources The research questions help divide all information sources into two groups: those that are relevant and those that are not.

Influence on research methods Research questions are vital in determining appropriate field research. For instance, when the research question relates to describing the preferences of a group, survey methods may work well. In contrast, research questions that examine a laboratory practice will guide the development of a research method.

Influence on claims or conclusions The research questions reflect whether the investigation is intended to describe a group or situation, to explain or predict outcomes, or to demonstrate cause-and-effect relationship(s) among variables. Those intentions and how comprehensive the inquiry is will determine what claims or conclusions can be made. [1]

Exercise #1

The question frames below provide a context through which to explore possible topics.  Some are more appropriate for initial rather than in-depth exploration. Choose a few that work in your field; modify and complete them to suit your topic. [2]

  • What does ___ mean? (definition)
  • What are the various features of ___? (description)
  • What are the component parts of ___? (simple analysis)
  • How is ___ made or done? (process analysis)
  • How should ___ be made or done? (directional analysis)
  • What is the essential function of ___? (functional analysis)
  • What are the causes of ___? (causal analysis)
  • What are the consequences of ___? (causal analysis)
  • What are the types of ___? (classification)
  • How is ___ like or unlike ___? (comparison)
  • What is the present status of ___? (comparison)
  • What is the significance of ___? (interpretation)
  • What are the facts about ___? (reportage)
  • How did ___ happen? (narration)
  • What kind of person is ___? (characterization/profile)
  • What is the value of ___? (evaluation)
  • What are the essential major points or features of ___? (summary)
  • What case can be made for or against ___? (persuasion)
  • What is the relationship between_____ and the outcome of ____? (explorative)

Review and Reinforce

Research questions typically appear in standard question format and express a relationship between two or more variables; for example, how is A related to B? Research questions also imply possibilities for empirical testing; metaphysical questions are not measurable, and a variable that cannot be clearly defined cannot be tested.

Exercise #2

Identify the variables in these questions.

How does motivation affect participation in graduate level classes?

How does social isolation affect the academic performance of international graduate students?

What common demotivating factors influence the academic performance of international graduate students and how can they be mitigated?

Media Attributions

  • indonesiacovid © USAID_IMAGES is licensed under a CC BY-NC (Attribution NonCommercial) license
  • Adapted from Teaching & Learning, (2018). Choosing & using sources: a guide to academic research. The Ohio State University. https://ohiostate.pressbooks.pub/choosingsources/ ↵
  • Adapted from Frederiksen, L., & Phelps, S. F. (2017). Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students. Open Textbook Library ↵

a unique, new concept, generally presented with persuasive evidence

a prediction established for testing or exploration

in research writing, supportive information deployed as evidence or extension

Sourcing, summarizing, and synthesizing:  Skills for effective research writing  Copyright © 2023 by Wendy L. McBride is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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how to develop a strong research question

The Ultimate Guide to Qualitative Research - Part 1: The Basics

how to develop a strong research question

  • Introduction and overview
  • What is qualitative research?
  • What is qualitative data?
  • Examples of qualitative data
  • Qualitative vs. quantitative research
  • Mixed methods
  • Qualitative research preparation
  • Theoretical perspective
  • Theoretical framework
  • Literature reviews
  • Introduction

Why are research questions so important?

Research question examples, types of qualitative research questions, writing a good research question, guiding your research through research questions.

  • Conceptual framework
  • Conceptual vs. theoretical framework
  • Data collection
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Focus groups
  • Observational research
  • Case studies
  • Ethnographical research
  • Ethical considerations
  • Confidentiality and privacy
  • Power dynamics
  • Reflexivity

Research questions

The research question plays a critical role in the research process, as it guides the study design, data collection , analysis , and interpretation of the findings.

A research paper relies on a research question to inform readers of the research topic and the research problem being addressed. Without such a question, your audience may have trouble understanding the rationale for your research project.

how to develop a strong research question

People can take for granted the research question as an essential part of a research project. However, explicitly detailing why researchers need a research question can help lend clarity to the research project. Here are some of the key roles that the research question plays in the research process:

Defines the scope and focus of the study

The research question helps to define the scope and focus of the study. It identifies the specific topic or issue that the researcher wants to investigate, and it sets the boundaries for the study. A research question can also help you determine if your study primarily contributes to theory or is more applied in nature. Clinical research and public health research, for example, may be more concerned with research questions that contribute to practice, while a research question focused on cognitive linguistics are aimed at developing theory.

Provides a rationale for the study

The research question provides a rationale for the study by identifying a gap or problem in existing literature or practice that the researcher wants to address. It articulates the purpose and significance of the study, and it explains why the study is important and worth conducting.

Guides the study design

The research question guides the study design by helping the researcher select appropriate research methods , sampling strategies, and data collection tools. It also helps to determine the types of data that need to be collected and the best ways to analyze and interpret the data because the principal aim of the study is to provide an answer to that research question.

how to develop a strong research question

Shapes the data analysis and interpretation

The research question shapes the data analysis and interpretation by guiding the selection of appropriate analytical methods and by focusing the interpretation of the findings. It helps to identify which patterns and themes in the data are more relevant and worth digging into, and it guides the development of conclusions and recommendations based on the findings.

Generates new knowledge

The research question is the starting point for generating new knowledge. By answering the research question, the researcher contributes to the body of knowledge in the field and helps to advance the understanding of the topic or issue under investigation.

Overall, the research question is a critical component of the research process, as it guides the study from start to finish and provides a foundation for generating new knowledge.

Supports the thesis statement

The thesis statement or main assertion in any research paper stems from the answers to the research question. As a result, you can think of a focused research question as a preview of what the study aims to present as a new contribution to existing knowledge.

Here area few examples of focused research questions that can help set the stage for explaining different types of research questions in qualitative research . These questions touch upon various fields and subjects, showcasing the versatility and depth of research.

  • What factors contribute to the job satisfaction of remote workers in the technology industry?
  • How do teachers perceive the implementation of technology in the classroom, and what challenges do they face?
  • What coping strategies do refugees use to deal with the challenges of resettlement in a new country?
  • How does gentrification impact the sense of community and identity among long-term residents in urban neighborhoods?
  • In what ways do social media platforms influence body image and self-esteem among adolescents?
  • How do family dynamics and communication patterns affect the management of type 2 diabetes in adult patients?
  • What is the role of mentorship in the professional development and career success of early-career academics?
  • How do patients with chronic illnesses experience and navigate the healthcare system, and what barriers do they encounter?
  • What are the motivations and experiences of volunteers in disaster relief efforts, and how do these experiences impact their future involvement in humanitarian work?
  • How do cultural beliefs and values shape the consumer preferences and purchasing behavior of young adults in a globalized market?
  • How do individuals whose genetic factors predict a high risk for developing a specific medical condition perceive, cope with, and make lifestyle choices based on this information?

These example research questions highlight the different kinds of inquiries common to qualitative research. They also demonstrate how qualitative research can address a wide range of topics, from understanding the experiences of specific populations to examining the impact of broader social and cultural phenomena.

Also, notice that these types of research questions tend to be geared towards inductive analyses that describe a concept in depth or develop new theory. As such, qualitative research questions tend to ask "what," "why," or "how" types of questions. This contrasts with quantitative research questions that typically aim to verify an existing theory. and tend to ask "when," "how much," and "why" types of questions to nail down causal mechanisms and generalizable findings.

Whatever your research inquiry, turn to ATLAS.ti

Powerful tools to help turn your research question into meaningful analysis, starting with a free trial.

As you can see above, the research questions you ask play a critical role in shaping the direction and depth of your study. These questions are designed to explore, understand, and interpret social phenomena, rather than testing a hypothesis or quantifying data like in quantitative research. In this section, we will discuss the various types of research questions typically found in qualitative research, making it easier for you to craft appropriate questions for your study.

Descriptive questions

Descriptive research questions aim to provide a detailed account of the phenomenon being studied. These questions usually begin with "what" or "how" and seek to understand the nature, characteristics, or functions of a subject. For example, "What are the experiences of first-generation college students?" or "How do small business owners adapt to economic downturns?"

Comparative questions

Comparative questions seek to examine the similarities and differences between two or more groups, cases, or phenomena. These questions often include the words "compare," "contrast," or "differences." For example, "How do parenting practices differ between single-parent and two-parent families?" or "What are the similarities and differences in leadership styles among successful female entrepreneurs?"

how to develop a strong research question

Exploratory questions

Exploratory research questions are open-ended and intended to investigate new or understudied areas. These questions aim to identify patterns, relationships, or themes that may warrant further investigation. For example, "How do teenagers use social media to construct their identities?" or "What factors influence the adoption of renewable energy technologies in rural communities?"

Explanatory questions

Explanatory research questions delve deeper into the reasons or explanations behind a particular phenomenon or behavior. They often start with "why" or "how" and aim to uncover underlying motivations, beliefs, or processes. For example, "Why do some employees resist organizational change?" or "How do cultural factors influence decision-making in international business negotiations?"

Evaluative questions

Evaluative questions assess the effectiveness, impact, or outcomes of a particular intervention, program, or policy. They seek to understand the value or significance of an initiative by examining its successes, challenges, or unintended consequences. For example, "How effective is the school's anti-bullying program in reducing incidents of bullying?" or "What are the long-term impacts of a community-based health promotion campaign on residents' well-being?"

Interpretive questions

Interpretive questions focus on understanding how individuals or groups make sense of their experiences, actions, or social contexts. These questions often involve the analysis of language, symbols, or narratives to uncover the meanings and perspectives that shape human behavior. For example, "How do cancer survivors make sense of their illness journey?" or "What meanings do members of a religious community attach to their rituals and practices?"

There are mainly two overarching ways to think about how to devise a research question. Many studies are built on existing research, but others can be founded on personal experiences or pilot research.

Using the literature review

Within scholarly research, the research question is often built from your literature review . An analysis of the relevant literature reporting previous studies should allow you to identify contextual, theoretical, or methodological gaps that can be addressed in future research.

how to develop a strong research question

A compelling research question built on a robust literature review ultimately illustrates to your audience what is novel about your study's objectives.

Conducting pilot research

Researchers may conduct preliminary research or pilot research when they are interested in a particular topic but don't yet have a basis for forming a research question on that topic. A pilot study is a small-scale, preliminary study that is conducted in order to test the feasibility of a research design, methods, and procedures. It can help identify unresolved puzzles that merit further investigation, and pilot studies can draw attention to potential issues or problems that may arise in the full study.

One potential benefit of conducting a pilot study in qualitative research is that it can help the researcher to refine their research question. By collecting and analyzing a small amount of data, the researcher can get a better sense of the phenomenon under investigation and can develop a more focused and refined research question for the full study. The pilot study can also help the researcher to identify key themes, concepts, or variables that should be included in the research question.

In addition to helping to refine the research question, a pilot study can also help the researcher to develop a more effective data collection and analysis plan. The researcher can test different methods for collecting and analyzing data, and can make adjustments based on the results of the pilot study. This can help to ensure that the full study is conducted in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

Overall, conducting a pilot study in qualitative research can be a valuable tool for refining the research question and developing a more effective research design, methods, and procedures. It can help to ensure that the full study is conducted in a rigorous and effective manner, and can increase the likelihood of generating meaningful and useful findings.

When you write a research question for your qualitative study, consider which type of question best aligns with your research objectives and the nature of the phenomenon you are investigating. Remember, qualitative research questions should be open-ended, allowing for a range of perspectives and insights to emerge. As you progress in your research, these questions may evolve or be refined based on the data you collect, helping to guide your analysis and deepen your understanding of the topic.

how to develop a strong research question

Use ATLAS.ti for every step of your research project

From the research question to the key insights, ATLAS.ti is there for you. See how with a free trial.

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How to Write a Good Research Question (w/ Examples)

how to develop a strong research question

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.

stacks of books in black and white; 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. 

how to develop a strong research question

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.  

reverse triangle chart, how to write a research question

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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  • Writing Tips

5 Steps to Creating Better Research Questions

5 Steps to Creating Better Research Questions

  • 5-minute read
  • 14th December 2021

Research questions are central to scientific inquiry . Well-formulated research questions identify the specific issues your study will address and help you plan your investigation.

In this post, we’ll show you how to formulate strong research questions in five steps:

  • Start with a broad topic that you’re interested in.
  • Familiarize yourself with current work in your chosen area.
  • Identify the specific issue you want to focus on.
  • Develop a suitably complex question.
  • Refine your question by examining each word.

Read on to learn more about each of these points.

1. Choose a Subject That You Are Genuinely Curious About

You’ll spend a lot of time researching your chosen topic. That’s why you should choose a topic that interests you and that you’d like to learn about. Also, you should choose a topic that’s exciting and relevant to your audience, especially if you hope to have your work published .

Instead of choosing a completely new area of study, choose a topic that you already know a little bit about. If you’ve read even just a few articles about something, that’s better than tackling something completely new.

Your topic should be broad but not too broad. For example, if you choose “mental health,” you need to narrow it down right away so that step 2 is doable. A more realistic broad topic would be “mental health in teenagers.” You won’t have to complete as much research, but you’ll still have plenty of room to find a niche topic within the larger area. 

2. Carry Out Preliminary Research

The next step is to research your chosen topic. By looking at recent journal articles and review papers , you can find out what other researchers are exploring and what questions arise from existing studies.

The aim here is to identify possible subtopics and/or find gaps in current research. So, as you read, jot down questions you’d like to answer and areas you’d like to explore further.

3. Focus on a Precise Issue Within the Broader Topic

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the current state of research on your chosen topic, you can focus on a niche area.

In our example above, “mental health in teenagers,” this could mean focusing on a specific group (e.g., 7th–9 th -grade students). We could look at a single area of mental health (e.g., anxiety) or a specific time or place.

Maybe in your initial reading, you discovered a gap in existing research that could form the basis of your research question, or you may be interested in exploring the relationship between different variables (e.g., gender and anxiety level).

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Another idea is to consider how current events might affect the broader topic. For example, you might choose to study the impact of the pandemic on the mental wellbeing of 11–16-year-old children.

4. Create an Interesting, Researchable Question

The next step is to turn your idea into a well-balanced question. The best research questions will tick all the boxes below:

●  Original: This simply means that your question shouldn’t have already been answered. It doesn’t mean you must have an idea that nobody has come up with yet, but your approach should bring new insight. This could mean that you focus on a specific age group or geographic area.

●  Focused: Your question should identify a single problem that you want your research to address.

●  Complex: If someone could answer your question by searching the Internet for five minutes, it’s not complex enough. Research questions should ask “how” and “why” rather than “is” or “does.” In other words, they shouldn’t be easily answered with “yes” or “no.” Rather, answering the question means bringing together ideas and data from different sources.

●  Achievable: Even if your question is complex enough to turn into a research paper, you still need to keep in mind constraints like word count, time frame, availability of resources, and your ability to complete the necessary research.

●  Debatable: When answering your research question, keep in mind that you don’t want to reach a definitive conclusion. A strong question leaves room for further discussion.

5. Make Every Word Count

The final step is to formulate the precise wording of your question. You may need to follow a defined format (e.g., PICO or PEO ), or you can phrase the question in your own way.

In either case, your research question must clearly state what the paper is about. It should be as concise as possible but not open to misinterpretation. This includes defining ambiguous terms (e.g., “young people”) and detailing how you’ll evaluate any relevant variables.

Hopefully, you can now formulate effective research questions. Don’t forget to have your paper proofread by an expert when you’re done. At Proofed, we’ll check your writing for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation and give you feedback on clarity and conciseness. You can even try our proofreading service for free .

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How to Develop a Good Research Question? — Types & Examples

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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?

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: Types and Examples 

research quetsion

The first step in any research project is framing the research question. It can be considered the core of any systematic investigation as the research outcomes are tied to asking the right questions. Thus, this primary interrogation point sets the pace for your research as it helps collect relevant and insightful information that ultimately influences your work.   

Typically, the research question guides the stages of inquiry, analysis, and reporting. Depending on the use of quantifiable or quantitative data, research questions are broadly categorized into quantitative or qualitative research questions. Both types of research questions can be used independently or together, considering the overall focus and objectives of your research.  

What is a research question?

A research question is a clear, focused, concise, and arguable question on which your research and writing are centered. 1 It states various aspects of the study, including the population and variables to be studied and the problem the study addresses. These questions also set the boundaries of the study, ensuring cohesion. 

Designing the research question is a dynamic process where the researcher can change or refine the research question as they review related literature and develop a framework for the study. Depending on the scale of your research, the study can include single or multiple research questions. 

A good research question has the following features: 

  • It is relevant to the chosen field of study. 
  • The question posed is arguable and open for debate, requiring synthesizing and analysis of ideas. 
  • It is focused and concisely framed. 
  • A feasible solution is possible within the given practical constraint and timeframe. 

A poorly formulated research question poses several risks. 1   

  • Researchers can adopt an erroneous design. 
  • It can create confusion and hinder the thought process, including developing a clear protocol.  
  • It can jeopardize publication efforts.  
  • It causes difficulty in determining the relevance of the study findings.  
  • It causes difficulty in whether the study fulfils the inclusion criteria for systematic review and meta-analysis. This creates challenges in determining whether additional studies or data collection is needed to answer the question.  
  • Readers may fail to understand the objective of the study. This reduces the likelihood of the study being cited by others. 

Now that you know “What is a research question?”, let’s look at the different types of research questions. 

Types of research questions

Depending on the type of research to be done, research questions can be classified broadly into quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods studies. Knowing the type of research helps determine the best type of research question that reflects the direction and epistemological underpinnings of your research. 

The structure and wording of quantitative 2 and qualitative research 3 questions differ significantly. The quantitative study looks at causal relationships, whereas the qualitative study aims at exploring a phenomenon. 

  • Quantitative research questions:  
  • Seeks to investigate social, familial, or educational experiences or processes in a particular context and/or location.  
  • Answers ‘how,’ ‘what,’ or ‘why’ questions. 
  • Investigates connections, relations, or comparisons between independent and dependent variables. 

Quantitative research questions can be further categorized into descriptive, comparative, and relationship, as explained in the Table below. 

  • Qualitative research questions  

Qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional, and more flexible. It concerns broad areas of research or more specific areas of study to discover, explain, or explore a phenomenon. These are further classified as follows: 

  • Mixed-methods studies  

Mixed-methods studies use both quantitative and qualitative research questions to answer your research question. Mixed methods provide a complete picture than standalone quantitative or qualitative research, as it integrates the benefits of both methods. Mixed methods research is often used in multidisciplinary settings and complex situational or societal research, especially in the behavioral, health, and social science fields. 

What makes a good research question

A good research question should be clear and focused to guide your research. It should synthesize multiple sources to present your unique argument, and should ideally be something that you are interested in. But avoid questions that can be answered in a few factual statements. The following are the main attributes of a good research question. 

  • Specific: The research question should not be a fishing expedition performed in the hopes that some new information will be found that will benefit the researcher. The central research question should work with your research problem to keep your work focused. If using multiple questions, they should all tie back to the central aim. 
  • Measurable: The research question must be answerable using quantitative and/or qualitative data or from scholarly sources to develop your research question. If such data is impossible to access, it is better to rethink your question. 
  • Attainable: Ensure you have enough time and resources to do all research required to answer your question. If it seems you will not be able to gain access to the data you need, consider narrowing down your question to be more specific. 
  • You have the expertise 
  • You have the equipment and resources 
  • Realistic: Developing your research question should be based on initial reading about your topic. It should focus on addressing a problem or gap in the existing knowledge in your field or discipline. 
  • Based on some sort of rational physics 
  • Can be done in a reasonable time frame 
  • Timely: The research question should contribute to an existing and current debate in your field or in society at large. It should produce knowledge that future researchers or practitioners can later build on. 
  • Novel 
  • Based on current technologies. 
  • Important to answer current problems or concerns. 
  • Lead to new directions. 
  • Important: Your question should have some aspect of originality. Incremental research is as important as exploring disruptive technologies. For example, you can focus on a specific location or explore a new angle. 
  • Meaningful whether the answer is “Yes” or “No.” Closed-ended, yes/no questions are too simple to work as good research questions. Such questions do not provide enough scope for robust investigation and discussion. A good research question requires original data, synthesis of multiple sources, and original interpretation and argumentation before providing an answer. 

Steps for developing a good research question

The importance of research questions cannot be understated. When drafting a research question, use the following frameworks to guide the components of your question to ease the process. 4  

  • Determine the requirements: Before constructing a good research question, set your research requirements. What is the purpose? Is it descriptive, comparative, or explorative research? Determining the research aim will help you choose the most appropriate topic and word your question appropriately. 
  • Select a broad research topic: Identify a broader subject area of interest that requires investigation. Techniques such as brainstorming or concept mapping can help identify relevant connections and themes within a broad research topic. For example, how to learn and help students learn. 
  • Perform preliminary investigation: Preliminary research is needed to obtain up-to-date and relevant knowledge on your topic. It also helps identify issues currently being discussed from which information gaps can be identified. 
  • Narrow your focus: Narrow the scope and focus of your research to a specific niche. This involves focusing on gaps in existing knowledge or recent literature or extending or complementing the findings of existing literature. Another approach involves constructing strong research questions that challenge your views or knowledge of the area of study (Example: Is learning consistent with the existing learning theory and research). 
  • Identify the research problem: Once the research question has been framed, one should evaluate it. This is to realize the importance of the research questions and if there is a need for more revising (Example: How do your beliefs on learning theory and research impact your instructional practices). 

How to write a research question

Those struggling to understand how to write a research question, these simple steps can help you simplify the process of writing a research question. 

Sample Research Questions

The following are some bad and good research question examples 

  • Example 1 
  • Example 2 

References:  

  • Thabane, L., Thomas, T., Ye, C., & Paul, J. (2009). Posing the research question: not so simple.  Canadian Journal of Anesthesia/Journal canadien d’anesthésie ,  56 (1), 71-79. 
  • Rutberg, S., & Bouikidis, C. D. (2018). Focusing on the fundamentals: A simplistic differentiation between qualitative and quantitative research.  Nephrology Nursing Journal ,  45 (2), 209-213. 
  • Kyngäs, H. (2020). Qualitative research and content analysis.  The application of content analysis in nursing science research , 3-11. 
  • Mattick, K., Johnston, J., & de la Croix, A. (2018). How to… write a good research question.  The clinical teacher ,  15 (2), 104-108. 
  • Fandino, W. (2019). Formulating a good research question: Pearls and pitfalls.  Indian Journal of Anaesthesia ,  63 (8), 611. 
  • Richardson, W. S., Wilson, M. C., Nishikawa, J., & Hayward, R. S. (1995). The well-built clinical question: a key to evidence-based decisions.  ACP journal club ,  123 (3), A12-A13 

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Research: From selecting a topic to writing the bibliography

  • Selecting a Topic
  • Developing a Research Question
  • What Type of Source Do I Need?
  • Selecting the Best Place to Search
  • Search Like a Pro
  • Evaluating Information

Research Questions Worth Asking

This video from the UMD, Global Campus gives a good introduction to research questions.

What is a research question?

Once you have selected a topic, you need to develop a research question. You may be used to working with a thesis statement, but a thesis statement is an answer. If you start your research with an answer, you might miss something important or your paper might be too one-sided. Starting with a question allows you to explore your topic while still having it clearly defined. 

A good research question is specific and focused.

Topic : Netflix

Research Question : How has the rise of streaming television changed the nature of advertising during television shows?

Topic : the environmental impact of fracking

Research Question : What are some of the most effective ways of protecting local ground water from the waste water produced by fracking?

Tip: Beware of research questions that are too broad or too narrow.

Too Broad:  Why is reality television so popular?

Too Narrow:  What are the economic and social consequences of the popularity of Jersey Shore on the lives of teenagers living in Omaha, Nebraska? 

Tip: be willing to tweak your research question as you go.

Research Question:  How has the rise of streaming television changed the nature of advertising during television shows?

Potential Research Finding:  Advertising during television hasn't changed much recently.

New Research Question:  Why has advertising on television been able to remain the same when how we watch television has changed so much?

Examples of Research Questions

The assignment is a 10-15 page paper relying primarily on scholarly resources.

  • How is malaria treated?
  • Will tablet computing replace the need for laptops?
  • How much has the popularity of Harry Potter improved the reading scores of second graders in Missouri?
  • At what point in time will the need for nurses in pedatric wards outpace the graduation rates from nursing schools?
  • In what ways have online communities changed the nature of support systems available for people with Attention Deficit Disorder?
  • How has mountaintop removal mining in western Kentucky impacted the migratory habits of the local bird population?
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Formulation of Research Question – Stepwise Approach

Simmi k. ratan.

Department of Pediatric Surgery, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India

1 Department of Community Medicine, North Delhi Municipal Corporation Medical College, New Delhi, India

2 Department of Pediatric Surgery, Batra Hospital and Research Centre, New Delhi, India

Formulation of research question (RQ) is an essentiality before starting any research. It aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation. It is, therefore, pertinent to formulate a good RQ. The present paper aims to discuss the process of formulation of RQ with stepwise approach. The characteristics of good RQ are expressed by acronym “FINERMAPS” expanded as feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, relevant, manageable, appropriate, potential value, publishability, and systematic. A RQ can address different formats depending on the aspect to be evaluated. Based on this, there can be different types of RQ such as based on the existence of the phenomenon, description and classification, composition, relationship, comparative, and causality. To develop a RQ, one needs to begin by identifying the subject of interest and then do preliminary research on that subject. The researcher then defines what still needs to be known in that particular subject and assesses the implied questions. After narrowing the focus and scope of the research subject, researcher frames a RQ and then evaluates it. Thus, conception to formulation of RQ is very systematic process and has to be performed meticulously as research guided by such question can have wider impact in the field of social and health research by leading to formulation of policies for the benefit of larger population.

I NTRODUCTION

A good research question (RQ) forms backbone of a good research, which in turn is vital in unraveling mysteries of nature and giving insight into a problem.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ] RQ identifies the problem to be studied and guides to the methodology. It leads to building up of an appropriate hypothesis (Hs). Hence, RQ aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation. A good RQ helps support a focused arguable thesis and construction of a logical argument. Hence, formulation of a good RQ is undoubtedly one of the first critical steps in the research process, especially in the field of social and health research, where the systematic generation of knowledge that can be used to promote, restore, maintain, and/or protect health of individuals and populations.[ 1 , 3 , 4 ] Basically, the research can be classified as action, applied, basic, clinical, empirical, administrative, theoretical, or qualitative or quantitative research, depending on its purpose.[ 2 ]

Research plays an important role in developing clinical practices and instituting new health policies. Hence, there is a need for a logical scientific approach as research has an important goal of generating new claims.[ 1 ]

C HARACTERISTICS OF G OOD R ESEARCH Q UESTION

“The most successful research topics are narrowly focused and carefully defined but are important parts of a broad-ranging, complex problem.”

A good RQ is an asset as it:

  • Details the problem statement
  • Further describes and refines the issue under study
  • Adds focus to the problem statement
  • Guides data collection and analysis
  • Sets context of research.

Hence, while writing RQ, it is important to see if it is relevant to the existing time frame and conditions. For example, the impact of “odd-even” vehicle formula in decreasing the level of air particulate pollution in various districts of Delhi.

A good research is represented by acronym FINERMAPS[ 5 ]

Interesting.

  • Appropriate
  • Potential value and publishability
  • Systematic.

Feasibility means that it is within the ability of the investigator to carry out. It should be backed by an appropriate number of subjects and methodology as well as time and funds to reach the conclusions. One needs to be realistic about the scope and scale of the project. One has to have access to the people, gadgets, documents, statistics, etc. One should be able to relate the concepts of the RQ to the observations, phenomena, indicators, or variables that one can access. One should be clear that the collection of data and the proceedings of project can be completed within the limited time and resources available to the investigator. Sometimes, a RQ appears feasible, but when fieldwork or study gets started, it proves otherwise. In this situation, it is important to write up the problems honestly and to reflect on what has been learned. One should try to discuss with more experienced colleagues or the supervisor so as to develop a contingency plan to anticipate possible problems while working on a RQ and find possible solutions in such situations.

This is essential that one has a real grounded interest in one's RQ and one can explore this and back it up with academic and intellectual debate. This interest will motivate one to keep going with RQ.

The question should not simply copy questions investigated by other workers but should have scope to be investigated. It may aim at confirming or refuting the already established findings, establish new facts, or find new aspects of the established facts. It should show imagination of the researcher. Above all, the question has to be simple and clear. The complexity of a question can frequently hide unclear thoughts and lead to a confused research process. A very elaborate RQ, or a question which is not differentiated into different parts, may hide concepts that are contradictory or not relevant. This needs to be clear and thought-through. Having one key question with several subcomponents will guide your research.

This is the foremost requirement of any RQ and is mandatory to get clearance from appropriate authorities before stating research on the question. Further, the RQ should be such that it minimizes the risk of harm to the participants in the research, protect the privacy and maintain their confidentiality, and provide the participants right to withdraw from research. It should also guide in avoiding deceptive practices in research.

The question should of academic and intellectual interest to people in the field you have chosen to study. The question preferably should arise from issues raised in the current situation, literature, or in practice. It should establish a clear purpose for the research in relation to the chosen field. For example, filling a gap in knowledge, analyzing academic assumptions or professional practice, monitoring a development in practice, comparing different approaches, or testing theories within a specific population are some of the relevant RQs.

Manageable (M): It has the similar essence as of feasibility but mainly means that the following research can be managed by the researcher.

Appropriate (A): RQ should be appropriate logically and scientifically for the community and institution.

Potential value and publishability (P): The study can make significant health impact in clinical and community practices. Therefore, research should aim for significant economic impact to reduce unnecessary or excessive costs. Furthermore, the proposed study should exist within a clinical, consumer, or policy-making context that is amenable to evidence-based change. Above all, a good RQ must address a topic that has clear implications for resolving important dilemmas in health and health-care decisions made by one or more stakeholder groups.

Systematic (S): Research is structured with specified steps to be taken in a specified sequence in accordance with the well-defined set of rules though it does not rule out creative thinking.

Example of RQ: Would the topical skin application of oil as a skin barrier reduces hypothermia in preterm infants? This question fulfills the criteria of a good RQ, that is, feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, and relevant.

Types of research question

A RQ can address different formats depending on the aspect to be evaluated.[ 6 ] For example:

  • Existence: This is designed to uphold the existence of a particular phenomenon or to rule out rival explanation, for example, can neonates perceive pain?
  • Description and classification: This type of question encompasses statement of uniqueness, for example, what are characteristics and types of neuropathic bladders?
  • Composition: It calls for breakdown of whole into components, for example, what are stages of reflux nephropathy?
  • Relationship: Evaluate relation between variables, for example, association between tumor rupture and recurrence rates in Wilm's tumor
  • Descriptive—comparative: Expected that researcher will ensure that all is same between groups except issue in question, for example, Are germ cell tumors occurring in gonads more aggressive than those occurring in extragonadal sites?
  • Causality: Does deletion of p53 leads to worse outcome in patients with neuroblastoma?
  • Causality—comparative: Such questions frequently aim to see effect of two rival treatments, for example, does adding surgical resection improves survival rate outcome in children with neuroblastoma than with chemotherapy alone?
  • Causality–Comparative interactions: Does immunotherapy leads to better survival outcome in neuroblastoma Stage IV S than with chemotherapy in the setting of adverse genetic profile than without it? (Does X cause more changes in Y than those caused by Z under certain condition and not under other conditions).

How to develop a research question

  • Begin by identifying a broader subject of interest that lends itself to investigate, for example, hormone levels among hypospadias
  • Do preliminary research on the general topic to find out what research has already been done and what literature already exists.[ 7 ] Therefore, one should begin with “information gaps” (What do you already know about the problem? For example, studies with results on testosterone levels among hypospadias
  • What do you still need to know? (e.g., levels of other reproductive hormones among hypospadias)
  • What are the implied questions: The need to know about a problem will lead to few implied questions. Each general question should lead to more specific questions (e.g., how hormone levels differ among isolated hypospadias with respect to that in normal population)
  • Narrow the scope and focus of research (e.g., assessment of reproductive hormone levels among isolated hypospadias and hypospadias those with associated anomalies)
  • Is RQ clear? With so much research available on any given topic, RQs must be as clear as possible in order to be effective in helping the writer direct his or her research
  • Is the RQ focused? RQs must be specific enough to be well covered in the space available
  • Is the RQ complex? RQs 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
  • Is the RQ one that is of interest to the researcher and potentially useful to others? Is it a new issue or problem that needs to be solved or is it attempting to shed light on previously researched topic
  • Is the RQ researchable? Consider the available time frame and the required resources. Is the methodology to conduct the research feasible?
  • Is the RQ measurable and will the process produce data that can be supported or contradicted?
  • Is the RQ too broad or too narrow?
  • Create Hs: After formulating RQ, think where research is likely to be progressing? What kind of argument is likely to be made/supported? What would it mean if the research disputed the planned argument? At this step, one can well be on the way to have a focus for the research and construction of a thesis. Hs consists of more specific predictions about the nature and direction of the relationship between two variables. It is a predictive statement about the outcome of the research, dictate the method, and design of the research[ 1 ]
  • Understand implications of your research: This is important for application: whether one achieves to fill gap in knowledge and how the results of the research have practical implications, for example, to develop health policies or improve educational policies.[ 1 , 8 ]

Brainstorm/Concept map for formulating research question

  • First, identify what types of studies have been done in the past?
  • Is there a unique area that is yet to be investigated or is there a particular question that may be worth replicating?
  • Begin to narrow the topic by asking open-ended “how” and “why” questions
  • Evaluate the question
  • Develop a Hypothesis (Hs)
  • Write down the RQ.

Writing down the research question

  • State the question in your own words
  • Write down the RQ as completely as possible.

For example, Evaluation of reproductive hormonal profile in children presenting with isolated hypospadias)

  • Divide your question into concepts. Narrow to two or three concepts (reproductive hormonal profile, isolated hypospadias, compare with normal/not isolated hypospadias–implied)
  • Specify the population to be studied (children with isolated hypospadias)
  • Refer to the exposure or intervention to be investigated, if any
  • Reflect the outcome of interest (hormonal profile).

Another example of a research question

Would the topical skin application of oil as a skin barrier reduces hypothermia in preterm infants? Apart from fulfilling the criteria of a good RQ, that is, feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, and relevant, it also details about the intervention done (topical skin application of oil), rationale of intervention (as a skin barrier), population to be studied (preterm infants), and outcome (reduces hypothermia).

Other important points to be heeded to while framing research question

  • Make reference to a population when a relationship is expected among a certain type of subjects
  • RQs and Hs should be made as specific as possible
  • Avoid words or terms that do not add to the meaning of RQs and Hs
  • Stick to what will be studied, not implications
  • Name the variables in the order in which they occur/will be measured
  • Avoid the words significant/”prove”
  • Avoid using two different terms to refer to the same variable.

Some of the other problems and their possible solutions have been discussed in Table 1 .

Potential problems and solutions while making research question

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G OING B EYOND F ORMULATION OF R ESEARCH Q UESTION–THE P ATH A HEAD

Once RQ is formulated, a Hs can be developed. Hs means transformation of a RQ into an operational analog.[ 1 ] It means a statement as to what prediction one makes about the phenomenon to be examined.[ 4 ] More often, for case–control trial, null Hs is generated which is later accepted or refuted.

A strong Hs should have following characteristics:

  • Give insight into a RQ
  • Are testable and measurable by the proposed experiments
  • Have logical basis
  • Follows the most likely outcome, not the exceptional outcome.

E XAMPLES OF R ESEARCH Q UESTION AND H YPOTHESIS

Research question-1.

  • Does reduced gap between the two segments of the esophagus in patients of esophageal atresia reduces the mortality and morbidity of such patients?

Hypothesis-1

  • Reduced gap between the two segments of the esophagus in patients of esophageal atresia reduces the mortality and morbidity of such patients
  • In pediatric patients with esophageal atresia, gap of <2 cm between two segments of the esophagus and proper mobilization of proximal pouch reduces the morbidity and mortality among such patients.

Research question-2

  • Does application of mitomycin C improves the outcome in patient of corrosive esophageal strictures?

Hypothesis-2

In patients aged 2–9 years with corrosive esophageal strictures, 34 applications of mitomycin C in dosage of 0.4 mg/ml for 5 min over a period of 6 months improve the outcome in terms of symptomatic and radiological relief. Some other examples of good and bad RQs have been shown in Table 2 .

Examples of few bad (left-hand side column) and few good (right-hand side) research questions

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R ESEARCH Q UESTION AND S TUDY D ESIGN

RQ determines study design, for example, the question aimed to find the incidence of a disease in population will lead to conducting a survey; to find risk factors for a disease will need case–control study or a cohort study. RQ may also culminate into clinical trial.[ 9 , 10 ] For example, effect of administration of folic acid tablet in the perinatal period in decreasing incidence of neural tube defect. Accordingly, Hs is framed.

Appropriate statistical calculations are instituted to generate sample size. The subject inclusion, exclusion criteria and time frame of research are carefully defined. The detailed subject information sheet and pro forma are carefully defined. Moreover, research is set off few examples of research methodology guided by RQ:

  • Incidence of anorectal malformations among adolescent females (hospital-based survey)
  • Risk factors for the development of spontaneous pneumoperitoneum in pediatric patients (case–control design and cohort study)
  • Effect of technique of extramucosal ureteric reimplantation without the creation of submucosal tunnel for the preservation of upper tract in bladder exstrophy (clinical trial).

The results of the research are then be available for wider applications for health and social life

C ONCLUSION

A good RQ needs thorough literature search and deep insight into the specific area/problem to be investigated. A RQ has to be focused yet simple. Research guided by such question can have wider impact in the field of social and health research by leading to formulation of policies for the benefit of larger population.

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Research Questions – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Questions

Research Questions

Definition:

Research questions are the specific questions that guide a research study or inquiry. These questions help to define the scope of the research and provide a clear focus for the study. Research questions are usually developed at the beginning of a research project and are designed to address a particular research problem or objective.

Types of Research Questions

Types of Research Questions are as follows:

Descriptive Research Questions

These aim to describe a particular phenomenon, group, or situation. For example:

  • What are the characteristics of the target population?
  • What is the prevalence of a particular disease in a specific region?

Exploratory Research Questions

These aim to explore a new area of research or generate new ideas or hypotheses. For example:

  • What are the potential causes of a particular phenomenon?
  • What are the possible outcomes of a specific intervention?

Explanatory Research Questions

These aim to understand the relationship between two or more variables or to explain why a particular phenomenon occurs. For example:

  • What is the effect of a specific drug on the symptoms of a particular disease?
  • What are the factors that contribute to employee turnover in a particular industry?

Predictive Research Questions

These aim to predict a future outcome or trend based on existing data or trends. For example :

  • What will be the future demand for a particular product or service?
  • What will be the future prevalence of a particular disease?

Evaluative Research Questions

These aim to evaluate the effectiveness of a particular intervention or program. For example:

  • What is the impact of a specific educational program on student learning outcomes?
  • What is the effectiveness of a particular policy or program in achieving its intended goals?

How to Choose Research Questions

Choosing research questions is an essential part of the research process and involves careful consideration of the research problem, objectives, and design. Here are some steps to consider when choosing research questions:

  • Identify the research problem: Start by identifying the problem or issue that you want to study. This could be a gap in the literature, a social or economic issue, or a practical problem that needs to be addressed.
  • Conduct a literature review: Conducting a literature review can help you identify existing research in your area of interest and can help you formulate research questions that address gaps or limitations in the existing literature.
  • Define the research objectives : Clearly define the objectives of your research. What do you want to achieve with your study? What specific questions do you want to answer?
  • Consider the research design : Consider the research design that you plan to use. This will help you determine the appropriate types of research questions to ask. For example, if you plan to use a qualitative approach, you may want to focus on exploratory or descriptive research questions.
  • Ensure that the research questions are clear and answerable: Your research questions should be clear and specific, and should be answerable with the data that you plan to collect. Avoid asking questions that are too broad or vague.
  • Get feedback : Get feedback from your supervisor, colleagues, or peers to ensure that your research questions are relevant, feasible, and meaningful.

How to Write Research Questions

Guide for Writing Research Questions:

  • Start with a clear statement of the research problem: Begin by stating the problem or issue that your research aims to address. This will help you to formulate focused research questions.
  • Use clear language : Write your research questions in clear and concise language that is easy to understand. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to your readers.
  • Be specific: Your research questions should be specific and focused. Avoid broad questions that are difficult to answer. For example, instead of asking “What is the impact of climate change on the environment?” ask “What are the effects of rising sea levels on coastal ecosystems?”
  • Use appropriate question types: Choose the appropriate question types based on the research design and objectives. For example, if you are conducting a qualitative study, you may want to use open-ended questions that allow participants to provide detailed responses.
  • Consider the feasibility of your questions : Ensure that your research questions are feasible and can be answered with the resources available. Consider the data sources and methods of data collection when writing your questions.
  • Seek feedback: Get feedback from your supervisor, colleagues, or peers to ensure that your research questions are relevant, appropriate, and meaningful.

Examples of Research Questions

Some Examples of Research Questions with Research Titles:

Research Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

  • Research Question : What is the relationship between social media use and mental health, and how does this impact individuals’ well-being?

Research Title: Factors Influencing Academic Success in High School

  • Research Question: What are the primary factors that influence academic success in high school, and how do they contribute to student achievement?

Research Title: The Effects of Exercise on Physical and Mental Health

  • Research Question: What is the relationship between exercise and physical and mental health, and how can exercise be used as a tool to improve overall well-being?

Research Title: Understanding the Factors that Influence Consumer Purchasing Decisions

  • Research Question : What are the key factors that influence consumer purchasing decisions, and how do these factors vary across different demographics and products?

Research Title: The Impact of Technology on Communication

  • Research Question : How has technology impacted communication patterns, and what are the effects of these changes on interpersonal relationships and society as a whole?

Research Title: Investigating the Relationship between Parenting Styles and Child Development

  • Research Question: What is the relationship between different parenting styles and child development outcomes, and how do these outcomes vary across different ages and developmental stages?

Research Title: The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Treating Anxiety Disorders

  • Research Question: How effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy in treating anxiety disorders, and what factors contribute to its success or failure in different patients?

Research Title: The Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity

  • Research Question : How is climate change affecting global biodiversity, and what can be done to mitigate the negative effects on natural ecosystems?

Research Title: Exploring the Relationship between Cultural Diversity and Workplace Productivity

  • Research Question : How does cultural diversity impact workplace productivity, and what strategies can be employed to maximize the benefits of a diverse workforce?

Research Title: The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

  • Research Question: How can artificial intelligence be leveraged to improve healthcare outcomes, and what are the potential risks and ethical concerns associated with its use?

Applications of Research Questions

Here are some of the key applications of research questions:

  • Defining the scope of the study : Research questions help researchers to narrow down the scope of their study and identify the specific issues they want to investigate.
  • Developing hypotheses: Research questions often lead to the development of hypotheses, which are testable predictions about the relationship between variables. Hypotheses provide a clear and focused direction for the study.
  • Designing the study : Research questions guide the design of the study, including the selection of participants, the collection of data, and the analysis of results.
  • Collecting data : Research questions inform the selection of appropriate methods for collecting data, such as surveys, interviews, or experiments.
  • Analyzing data : Research questions guide the analysis of data, including the selection of appropriate statistical tests and the interpretation of results.
  • Communicating results : Research questions help researchers to communicate the results of their study in a clear and concise manner. The research questions provide a framework for discussing the findings and drawing conclusions.

Characteristics of Research Questions

Characteristics of Research Questions are as follows:

  • Clear and Specific : A good research question should be clear and specific. It should clearly state what the research is trying to investigate and what kind of data is required.
  • Relevant : The research question should be relevant to the study and should address a current issue or problem in the field of research.
  • Testable : The research question should be testable through empirical evidence. It should be possible to collect data to answer the research question.
  • Concise : The research question should be concise and focused. It should not be too broad or too narrow.
  • Feasible : The research question should be feasible to answer within the constraints of the research design, time frame, and available resources.
  • Original : The research question should be original and should contribute to the existing knowledge in the field of research.
  • Significant : The research question should have significance and importance to the field of research. It should have the potential to provide new insights and knowledge to the field.
  • Ethical : The research question should be ethical and should not cause harm to any individuals or groups involved in the study.

Purpose of Research Questions

Research questions are the foundation of any research study as they guide the research process and provide a clear direction to the researcher. The purpose of research questions is to identify the scope and boundaries of the study, and to establish the goals and objectives of the research.

The main purpose of research questions is to help the researcher to focus on the specific area or problem that needs to be investigated. They enable the researcher to develop a research design, select the appropriate methods and tools for data collection and analysis, and to organize the results in a meaningful way.

Research questions also help to establish the relevance and significance of the study. They define the research problem, and determine the research methodology that will be used to address the problem. Research questions also help to determine the type of data that will be collected, and how it will be analyzed and interpreted.

Finally, research questions provide a framework for evaluating the results of the research. They help to establish the validity and reliability of the data, and provide a basis for drawing conclusions and making recommendations based on the findings of the study.

Advantages of Research Questions

There are several advantages of research questions in the research process, including:

  • Focus : Research questions help to focus the research by providing a clear direction for the study. They define the specific area of investigation and provide a framework for the research design.
  • Clarity : Research questions help to clarify the purpose and objectives of the study, which can make it easier for the researcher to communicate the research aims to others.
  • Relevance : Research questions help to ensure that the study is relevant and meaningful. By asking relevant and important questions, the researcher can ensure that the study will contribute to the existing body of knowledge and address important issues.
  • Consistency : Research questions help to ensure consistency in the research process by providing a framework for the development of the research design, data collection, and analysis.
  • Measurability : Research questions help to ensure that the study is measurable by defining the specific variables and outcomes that will be measured.
  • Replication : Research questions help to ensure that the study can be replicated by providing a clear and detailed description of the research aims, methods, and outcomes. This makes it easier for other researchers to replicate the study and verify the results.

Limitations of Research Questions

Limitations of Research Questions are as follows:

  • Subjectivity : Research questions are often subjective and can be influenced by personal biases and perspectives of the researcher. This can lead to a limited understanding of the research problem and may affect the validity and reliability of the study.
  • Inadequate scope : Research questions that are too narrow in scope may limit the breadth of the study, while questions that are too broad may make it difficult to focus on specific research objectives.
  • Unanswerable questions : Some research questions may not be answerable due to the lack of available data or limitations in research methods. In such cases, the research question may need to be rephrased or modified to make it more answerable.
  • Lack of clarity : Research questions that are poorly worded or ambiguous can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. This can result in incomplete or inaccurate data, which may compromise the validity of the study.
  • Difficulty in measuring variables : Some research questions may involve variables that are difficult to measure or quantify, making it challenging to draw meaningful conclusions from the data.
  • Lack of generalizability: Research questions that are too specific or limited in scope may not be generalizable to other contexts or populations. This can limit the applicability of the study’s findings and restrict its broader implications.

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LBST 2301 (SOCY): Critical Thinking & Communication - Karen Cushing

  • How to Develop a Research Question
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Popular vs. Scholarly Resources
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Citing Your Sources

Developing a Research Question

Developing Strong Research Questions

A good research question is essential to guide your research paper, project or thesis. It pinpoints exactly what you want to find out and gives your work a clear focus and purpose. All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

In a research paper or essay, you will usually write a single research question to guide your reading and thinking. The answer that you develop is your thesis statement — the central assertion or position that your paper will argue for.

In a bigger research project, such as a thesis or dissertation, you might have multiple research questions, but they should all be clearly connected and focused around a central research problem.

From: Scribbr

How to Write a Research Question

How to write a research question.

The process of developing your research question follows several steps:

  • Choose a broad topic
  • Do some preliminary reading to find out about topical debates and issues
  • Narrow down a specific niche that you want to focus on
  • Identify a practical or theoretical research problem that you will address

When you have a clearly-defined problem, you need to formulate one or more questions. Think about exactly what you want to know and how it will contribute to resolving the problem.

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Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students

How To Develop A Research Question: Formulate Your Success

How-To-Develop-A-Research-Question-Formulate-Your-Success

Developing strong writing doesn’t happen overnight. The same could be said about creating a good research question. As a student, there will likely be a point where you’ll have to write a research paper. Research papers tend to be extensive in length and require a lot of, well, you guessed it, research! Knowing how to develop a research question is the first step to writing a successful research paper.

Developing a research question takes time in itself, as well as multiple additional considerations. Before we jump into how to create your perfect research question, let’s define what a research question is and what makes one strong.

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What is a research question.

As the name implies, a research question is the question you ask that you will then answer through research.

Most research papers tend to be lengthy, so it helps to come up with a research question that can open the door to a lot of information. At the same time, you don’t want to be too open with your question because then it becomes harder to write a concise and focused paper.

With this in mind, a good research question should have these attributes:

  • Clear: The question shouldn’t require additional explanation because it is easily understandable. Your audience may range from people who are very familiar with the topic to those who may know nothing at all. You’ll want the question to be understood by all those who read your paper.
  • Focused: The question should be narrow enough such that the research paper gives you enough space to fully answer the question. If you ask something too general, you’ll have trouble fitting the data and response into a constrained paper.
  • Researchable: You should be able to conduct interviews, surveys or leverage past data and information to answer the question.
  • Feasible: You are able to answer it in a given timeframe and with the resources you have available.
  • Concise: You can pose the question as one that is short and to the point.
  • Complex: There is enough information and data to be able to write an entire paper on the subject to answer the question.
  • Arguable: As the writer, you should be able to take a stance on the topic and argue why it’s right.
  • Relevant: It should relate to the subject you’re studying or the major you’re pursuing.

Why Does Your Research Question Matter In The Research Process?

Think about it like this — a research question is the foundation and basis of all the work you put in to write a research paper. It helps to narrow and focus your findings to answer something specific, rather than going off topic and writing all about irrelevant information.

Types Of Research Questions

Depending on your subject matter or area of interest, one type of research question may better suit your needs. If your prompt is open-ended and you get to choose your own research question, you can select from these common types of research questions:

  • Descriptive: These research questions answer when, where, why or how something happened. They will require data and statistics around an event or phenomenon.
  • Comparative: A comparative question studies the differences between one thing and another.
  • Correlational: This type of question asks how one thing is related to another.
  • Exploratory: An exploratory question is used to better understand a topic.
  • Evaluation: Also known as program evaluation, this is a question that aims to answer what something is and why it’s done that way.
  • Action: This type of question evaluates what happened and how an action may be improved.

6 Steps To Develop A Research Question

Based on your subject matter and the research paper prompt, you may have a clear idea on what type of research question to ask.

No matter what type of research you will conduct, formulating your research question can consist of these steps:

1. Choose Your Topic

Start by choosing your topic. Maybe you’ve been guided as to what you will research. But, if not, you’ll want to pick something that you are actually interested in learning about. To be able to narrow in on a specific question, you’ll want to start broad and then conduct preliminary research.

2. Do Some Early Research

Early research will help you to check if the research question is feasible. You can start by looking online at the topic and see what others are researching with regard to that subject matter.

3. Consider Your Audience

When creating your question, you’ll want to think about your audience. Since it’s likely to be academic, you need to frame your question formally.

4. Ask Questions

As you learn more about your topic through early research, you can ask yourself questions like how and why things are the way they are.

5. Evaluate Your Question

Only after you’ve started posing questions can you evaluate their merit. You can check to see that your question upholds the characteristics of a good research question (i.e. concise, clear, feasible, etc.)

6. Start Researching

Once you have your question ready to go, think about the best ways to answer it. Begin researching the type of information that exists or create your own experiment or survey to collect data, if possible.

Sample Research Questions

Here are some examples of broad research questions, compared to their better, more focused alternatives.

  • Broad: “How has climate change affected animals?”
  • Focused: “What effect does rising sea levels have on the food chain of marine animals?”
  • Broad: “Does social media negatively affect people?”
  • Focused: “How has Instagram affected teenage girl’s emotional states?”
  • Broad: “Do men and women have different results from working out?”
  • Focused: “Do men lose weight faster than women when working out daily?”

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General Research Paper Writing Tips

Once you feel comfortable with your research question, you can begin writing your academic research paper.

Keep in mind these useful writing tips :

  • Conduct strong research by leveraging research skills
  • Organize your thoughts with an outline
  • Note all your sources
  • Write a first draft
  • Reread and edit your first draft
  • Ask a friend or colleague to proofread your paper before submitting

Your Research Question Is the Foundation

When you create a concise, focused, and arguable research question, you are setting yourself up to be able to write a strong research paper.

In most academic settings, you will be required to write a research paper. This is especially true when it comes to earning your secondary degrees in college. Developing a research question is one of the most important steps in the entire writing process.

Remember to take your time, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback!

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Develop Your Topic

What are you interested in? Start by brainstorming topics of interest.  Once you’ve landed on a few, do some critical background research.  What questions does your reading raise?

Once you’ve done a little digging, write down everything you know about your potential topic.  Then, write down the questions you thought of while reading.  Can you answer these questions easily, using only the background research you’ve done?

If so, then do some more digging, and write probing questions, beginning with “Why…? What if…?  How…?”  The goal is to have detailed answers, not a simple yes or no.

Sample Topic and Probing Questions

Undergraduate class: POL 370--Political Violence

Topic of interest: terrorism

Background information: “ Terrorism is  the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians).”

My questions upon reading the background information:

  • What motivates someone to engage in terrorist activity? 
  • How can we find out what motivates people to engage in terrorist activity?

Develop Your Research Question

It’s time to move beyond background research into the literature.  Start by first identifying the key scholars within your topic area, and read what they have to say.  What questions do they have?  How do they go about answering them?

Go back to your original questions and add to them or refine them based on the latest research you’ve done.  Write down some persuasive claims that you’d like to make about your topic.  Keep in mind that a good research question will have more than one possible answer.  Be careful not to ask the exact same questions or statements as the scholars you’ve read; you want to take an original stance on the topic.

Bad Sample Question:   What motivates terrorists to engage in terrorist activity?  (too broad)

Good Sample Question:   Why did the Northern Irish who joined the IRA during the Troubles choose to employ terrorist tactics in their fight for independence?  (narrow enough, places the topic in context)

Useful Links

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  • Generate Topic Ideas (opens in a new window)
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Associate Professor

  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING/MECHANICAL ENGINEERING-GEN
  • Faculty-Full Time
  • Opening at: Mar 29 2024 at 10:05 CDT

Job Summary:

The Department of Mechanical Engineering seeks to fill a faculty position in nonlinear dynamics and vibrations, with applications in aerospace, manufacturing, energy and infrastructure. The department is particularly interested in candidates who use a combination of theory, computational modeling, data-driven approaches and experimentation to understand and exploit nonlinear dynamics phenomena. The UW-Madison College of Engineering strives to foster a respectful, diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. 

Responsibilities:

The position will conduct teaching and develop undergraduate and graduate courses; mentor graduate students and supervise their research; develop and direct a strong extramurally funded research program; participate in departmental and university faculty governance and contribute to professional and public service

Institutional Statement on Diversity:

Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals. The University of Wisconsin-Madison fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background - people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world. For more information on diversity and inclusion on campus, please visit: Diversity and Inclusion

Preferred PhD in Mechanical Engineering or closely related field.

Qualifications:

PhD in Mechanical Engineering or a closely related field, with demonstrated excellence in research and teaching.

Full Time: 100%

Appointment Type, Duration:

Ongoing/Renewable

Anticipated Begin Date:

AUGUST 19, 2024

Negotiable ACADEMIC (9 months)

Additional Information:

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is one of the fastest-growing departments at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in terms of student enrollment and faculty hiring. The Department offers and fosters a transdisciplinary research and educational environment and provides the infrastructure to address grand technological challenges. Current research areas include advanced materials design and manufacturing; energy, sustainability, and environment; engineering healthcare and biomechanics; intelligent systems and communication; engineering mechanics; control, robotics, and autonomous systems; advanced sensing, analysis, and characterization; and computer-aided engineering. New research directions will continue to be launched and nurtured within the Department.

How to Apply:

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Want to stop needle phobia in adults? Make shots less painful for kids

Tom Dreisbach

Tom Dreisbach

Margaret Cirino, photographed for NPR, 6 June 2022, in Washington DC. Photo by Farrah Skeiky for NPR.

Margaret Cirino

Rebecca Ramirez, photographed for NPR, 6 June 2022, in Washington DC. Photo by Farrah Skeiky for NPR.

Rebecca Ramirez

Close-up of a nurse in medical gloves giving an injection to a young patient.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in four adults has a fear of needles, which many say started when they were kids. For some people, the fear of needles is strong enough that they avoid getting important treatments, vaccines or tests. That can pose a serious problem for public health.

Researchers have helped develop a five step plan to help prevent what they call "needless pain" for kids getting injections or their blood drawn. Guest host Tom Dreisbach talks with Dr. Stefan Friedrichsdorf of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals , who works with a team to implement the plan at his own hospital.

Friedrichsdorf told Short Wave that some of the most important research to eliminate pain comes from Canadian researchers. Learn more about their work here .

This episode was inspired by the reporting of our colleague April Dembosky, a journalist at member station KQED and KFF Health News. Read her digital story here .

Got another question for a doctor? Email us at [email protected] .

Listen to Short Wave on Spotify , Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts .

Listen to every episode of Short Wave sponsor-free and support our work at NPR by signing up for Short Wave+ at plus.npr.org/shortwave .

This episode was produced by Margaret Cirino. It was edited by our showrunner Rebecca Ramirez, who also checked the facts. Kwesi Lee was the audio engineer.

  • needle phobia
  • children's heatlh

IMAGES

  1. How to Develop a Strong Research Question

    how to develop a strong research question

  2. How to Develop a Strong Research Question

    how to develop a strong research question

  3. How to Develop a Strong Research Question

    how to develop a strong research question

  4. How to Develop a STRONG Research Question

    how to develop a strong research question

  5. How to Write a Good Research Question (w/ Examples)

    how to develop a strong research question

  6. How to Write a Research Question in 2024: Types, Steps, and Examples

    how to develop a strong research question

VIDEO

  1. Cultivating Collaboration: Strategies for Building Strong Research Teams

  2. How to Create a Research Question #research #literature #researchmethods

  3. Crafting strong Research Problem Statement

  4. Formulating Research Question

  5. How to Develop a STRONG Research Question Scribbr 🎓

  6. Hekman Research 101: Developing Your Research Question

COMMENTS

  1. Writing Strong Research Questions

    How to write a research question. You can follow these steps to develop a strong research question: Choose your topic; Do some preliminary reading about the current state of the field; Narrow your focus to a specific niche; Identify the research problem that you will address; The way you frame your question depends on what your research aims to ...

  2. How to Develop a STRONG Research Question

    A good research question is essential to guide your research paper, project, or thesis. It pinpoints exactly what you want to find out and gives your work a ...

  3. The Writing Center

    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 ...

  4. Creating a Good Research Question

    Junichi Tokuda, PhD, focuses on how to start successfully, and divulges the unique approach he has as a basic scientist when developing a good research question. Ursula Kaiser, MD, encourages drawing on an already established interest in your subject matter to showcase clinical background and expertise.

  5. A Step-By-Step Guide on Writing a Good Research Question

    Here is our step-by-step guide: 1. Choose a topic. The first step is to select a broad research topic for your study. Pick something within your expertise and field that interests you. After all, the research itself will stem from the initial research question. 2.

  6. How to craft a strong research question (with research question

    Specificity: A strong research question should be specific about the main focus of your study, enabling you to gather precise data and draw accurate conclusions. It clearly defines the variables, participants, and context involved, leaving no room for ambiguity. Clarity: A good research question is clear and easily understood, so articulate the ...

  7. Research Question 101

    As the name suggests, the research question is the core question (or set of questions) that your study will (attempt to) answer. In many ways, a research question is akin to a target in archery. Without a clear target, you won't know where to concentrate your efforts and focus. Essentially, your research question acts as the guiding light ...

  8. Strong research questions

    In contrast, research questions that examine a laboratory practice will guide the development of a research method. Influence on claims or conclusions The research questions reflect whether the investigation is intended to describe a group or situation, to explain or predict outcomes, or to demonstrate cause-and-effect relationship(s) among ...

  9. How to Write a Strong Research Question

    Shapes the data analysis and interpretation. The research question shapes the data analysis and interpretation by guiding the selection of appropriate analytical methods and by focusing the interpretation of the findings. It helps to identify which patterns and themes in the data are more relevant and worth digging into, and it guides the development of conclusions and recommendations based on ...

  10. How to Write a Good Research Question (w/ Examples)

    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.

  11. 5 Steps to Creating Better Research Questions

    In this post, we'll show you how to formulate strong research questions in five steps: Start with a broad topic that you're interested in. Familiarize yourself with current work in your chosen area. Identify the specific issue you want to focus on. Develop a suitably complex question. Refine your question by examining each word. Read on to ...

  12. How to Write a Research Question in 2024: Types, Steps, and Examples

    1. Start with a broad topic. A broad topic provides writers with plenty of avenues to explore in their search for a viable research question. Techniques to help you develop a topic into subtopics and potential research questions include brainstorming and concept mapping.

  13. How to Develop a Good Research 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.

  14. How to Write a Research Question: Types and Examples

    Choose a broad topic, such as "learner support" or "social media influence" for your study. Select topics of interest to make research more enjoyable and stay motivated. Preliminary research. The goal is to refine and focus your research question. The following strategies can help: Skim various scholarly articles.

  15. Developing a Research Question

    Once you have selected a topic, you need to develop a research question. You may be used to working with a thesis statement, but a thesis statement is an answer. If you start your research with an answer, you might miss something important or your paper might be too one-sided. Starting with a question allows you to explore your topic while ...

  16. PDF Formulating a Research Question

    Formulating a Research Question. Every research project starts with a question. Your question will allow you to select, evaluate and interpret your sources systematically. The question you start with isn't set in stone, but will almost certainly be revisited and revised as you read. Every discipline allows for certain kinds of questions to be ...

  17. Formulation of Research Question

    Abstract. Formulation of research question (RQ) is an essentiality before starting any research. It aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation. It is, therefore, pertinent to formulate a good RQ. The present paper aims to discuss the process of formulation of RQ with stepwise ...

  18. Research Questions

    Definition: Research questions are the specific questions that guide a research study or inquiry. These questions help to define the scope of the research and provide a clear focus for the study. Research questions are usually developed at the beginning of a research project and are designed to address a particular research problem or objective.

  19. How to Develop a Research Question

    Developing Strong Research Questions. A good research question is essential to guide your research paper, project or thesis. It pinpoints exactly what you want to find out and gives your work a clear focus and purpose. All research questions should be: Focused on a single problem or issue;

  20. How To Develop A Research Question: Formulate Your Success

    When creating your question, you'll want to think about your audience. Since it's likely to be academic, you need to frame your question formally. 4. Ask Questions. As you learn more about your topic through early research, you can ask yourself questions like how and why things are the way they are. 5.

  21. PDF Narrowing a Topic and Developing a Research Question

    Narrowing a Topic and Developing a Research Question Reference Sources Reference sources are a great place to begin your research. They provide: • a way to identify potential research ... You may not know right away what your research question is. Gather information on the broader topic to explore new possibilities and to help narrow your topic.

  22. PDF What Makes a Good Research Question?

    In essence, the research question that guides the sciences and social sciences should do the following three things:2. 1) Post a problem. 2) Shape the problem into a testable hypothesis. 3) Report the results of the tested hypothesis. There are two types of data that can help shape research questions in the sciences and social sciences ...

  23. Develop Your Topic and Research Question

    Develop Your Research Question. ... Keep in mind that a good research question will have more than one possible answer. Be careful not to ask the exact same questions or statements as the scholars you've read; you want to take an original stance on the topic. ... Writing Strong Research Questions (opens in a new window) Generate Topic Ideas ...

  24. Responding to the Routine 'Research Process' Interview Question

    To encapsulate this journey, I propose a five-step framework: Generate Research Questions, Create a Research Plan, Collect Data, Analyze Data, and Share Insights. Each step, rich with its intricate subcomponents, will be unfurled in the pages ahead. ... Strong research questions, built from understanding the context, yield targeted user ...

  25. Associate Professor

    The position will conduct teaching and develop undergraduate and graduate courses; mentor graduate students and supervise their research; develop and direct a strong extramurally funded research program; participate in departmental and university faculty governance and contribute to professional and public service

  26. Vaccines can be scary for kids. This doctor can help

    According to the CDC, about one in four adults has a fear of needles. Many of those people say the phobia started when they were kids. For some people, the fear of needles is strong enough that ...