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How to Write a Research Question

Published on: Jun 26, 2023
Updated on: Aug 15, 2023
Table of content
  • What is a research question?
  • 5 steps to developing a research question
  • Research questions types
  • What makes a strong research question
  • Good and bad examples
  • Summing up

How to Write a Research Question

Writing a research question is a crucial first step in any research paper. It serves as the foundation upon which your entire study is built, guiding your investigation and shaping the direction of your research.

A well-crafted template for a problem question helps you focus your efforts, define the scope of your study, and ultimately contribute to the existing body of knowledge in your field.

To write a research question, you should guide your exploration of a specific topic or issue. It helps you articulate the problem you want to address, the variables you want to examine, and the potential outcomes you hope to discover.

A strong research question should be clear, concise, and specific, allowing you to develop a coherent methodology and gather relevant data for your paper.

What is a research question?

A definition says this question is a concise inquiry that guides the direction of an academic paper. It is a fundamental element in the research process and serves as the starting point for investigation. It also identifies and explores a specific problem, issue, or phenomenon within a particular field.

A well-formulated research question format is clear, specific, and measurable. It should be designed to allow for systematic investigation and analysis. It should guide the researcher’s choice of methodology, data collection, and analysis techniques.

Problem questions typically come from gaps in existing knowledge of science or areas that require further exploration. They are formulated based on a review of relevant literature and an understanding of the research objectives.

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5 steps to developing a good research question

Let’s see the step-by-step tutorial on how to write a good research question.

Identify your research topic or area of interest

Begin by selecting a broader scientific topic or identifying an area of interest. It could be based on gaps in existing literature, emerging trends, or unresolved problems you want to address.

Conduct a preliminary literature review

Conduct a thorough review of existing literature related to your paper. This step will help you better understand the current state of knowledge, identify gaps or unanswered queries, and refine your academic focus.

Define the key variables and scope

Clearly define the main variables or concepts that you want to investigate. Determine the scope of your study, including the population, geographical area, time frame, or specific context you intend to examine. This step helps you narrow your research question and make it more specific.

Formulate a clear and focused research question

Based on your literature review and defined variables, formulate a clear, concise, and focused inquiry. Ensure your question is specific enough to guide your research and allow for meaningful analysis. Avoid vague or ambiguous language that can lead to confusion.

Evaluate the feasibility and relevance

Evaluate the feasibility of your scientific question in terms of available resources, time constraints, and practical limitations. Consider its relevance to the field of study and its potential impact on academic knowledge. Ensure that your research question aligns with the goals and objectives of your research project.

Developing a research question is an iterative process. It may involve revisiting and refining your input as you gain more insights and feedback from peers, mentors, or experts in your field. Ensure that a question you ask describes a significant issue, contributing to existing knowledge and effectively guiding your research paper.

Types of research questions

There are a few main types of research essay questions:

  1. Qualitative research questions are open-ended and seek to explore and understand phenomena in-depth. To develop a research question, you must gather rich and descriptive data, often through interviews, observations, or focus groups. These problem questions focus on a topic’s meaning, experiences, perspectives, and social contexts. Examples of qualitative research questions for an academic paper include:

    • How do individuals perceive the impact of social media on their self-esteem?
    • What are the experiences of first-time mothers during their transition to motherhood?
    • How do employees perceive the organizational culture in a multinational corporation?

  2. Quantitative research questions are more structured and aim to measure, quantify, and analyze data to establish patterns or cause-and-effect relationships. To formulate a research question, one involves numerical data and employs statistical methods for analysis. Quantitative research questions often seek to generalize findings to a larger population. Examples of quantitative research questions include:

    • What is the relationship between sleep duration and academic performance in college students?
    • Does a new teaching method improve students’ test scores in mathematics?
    • What is the effect of specific drug dosage on blood pressure levels in hypertensive patients?

  3. Mixed-methods academic queries combine qualitative and quantitative approaches. Mixed-methods research questions gather qualitative and quantitative data to understand a chosen topic comprehensively. They often involve collecting and analyzing data sequentially or concurrently. Examples of mixed-methods questions include:

    • How does a mindfulness intervention (qualitative) impact stress levels (quantitative) among healthcare professionals?
    • What are the barriers (qualitative) and utilization rates (quantitative) of mental health services among marginalized populations?

To make a research question, you must understand the distinctions between qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method types. This way, you can effectively employ suitable methodologies to address their primary objectives.

What makes a strong research question?

A strong scientific question example is crucial to a successful academic study. It sets the foundation for the entire research process and guides the direction of your paper.

Here’s the list of key characteristics to write a good research question:

  1. Clarity and focus: a strong research question is clear, concise, and specific. It should be formulated to leave no room for ambiguity or confusion. Vague or overly broad inquiries can make it challenging to conduct a thorough investigation and generate meaningful results. Clearly define the variables, concepts, and scope of your research question.
  2. Relevance and significance: a strong research question should address a relevant and significant issue within your field of study. To create a research question, ensure that your objectives align with the goals and objectives of your scientific project and have the potential to make a meaningful impact.
  3. Feasibility: consider the feasibility of your research question in terms of available resources, time constraints, and practical limitations. Ensure that your inquiry is feasible to investigate within the scope of your paper. Assess the availability of data, used methods, and necessary ethical considerations.
  4. Specific academic objective: a strong research question should clearly state the primary objective it aims to achieve. To come up with a research question, you must define what you intend to accomplish and how the problem question aligns with your objective.
  5. Testability and measurability: a strong research question should be testable and allow for empirical investigation. It should lend itself to data collection and analysis, enabling you to draw conclusions based on evidence.
  6. Originality and novelty: while building upon existing literature is important, a strong research question should demonstrate originality and novelty. It should contribute something new to the field or offer a fresh perspective on a well-studied topic.
  7. Ethical considerations: a strong research question should consider ethical implications and potential consequences. Ensure that your query adheres to ethical guidelines and safeguards the rights and well-being of participants or any involved stakeholders.

A strong research question sets the stage for effective research design, data collection, and analysis, ultimately leading to meaningful findings and contributions to your paper.

Examples of good and bad research questions

Find a few simple examples of research questions below:

Good ones:

    1. What factors influence consumers’ adoption of sustainable fashion practices in urban areas?

Explanation:This phrase is clear and specific and addresses a relevant and significant issue in the field of fashion. It focuses on adopting sustainable fashion practices in urban areas and explores the influencing factors.

    1. How does parental involvement in early childhood education impact children’s academic achievement in low-income communities?

Explanation: This is a great example of an effective research question. It is specific and measurable and addresses the impact of parental involvement on children’s academic achievement. It has social relevance and aims to contribute to understanding education disparities in low-income communities.

    1. What are healthcare professionals’ experiences in implementing telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Explanation: This research question is clear, specific, and timely. It seeks to explore healthcare professionals’ experiences in implementing telemedicine, providing insights into the challenges and successes encountered during the pandemic.

Let’s see the samples to avoid when you want to write research questions.

Bad ones:

    1. What is the meaning of life?

Explanation: This research question is vague, overly broad, and philosophical. It lacks specificity and does not align with the principles of empirical research.

    1. Are video games good or bad for children?

Explanation: This research question is binary and does not allow for nuanced exploration. It oversimplifies a complex topic and lacks clarity in defining the variables or criteria for determining “good” or “bad.”

    1. How many people in the world like chocolate?

Explanation: This research question lacks relevance, significance, and measurability. It focuses on a trivial topic without addressing meaningful research objectives or contributing to existing knowledge.

These examples are for illustrative purposes, and the strength of a research question can vary depending on the specific context, field of study, and research objectives. It is important to carefully evaluate the characteristics and purpose of a research question to ensure its effectiveness and suitability for your research project.

Summing up

Writing a research question is an iterative process. It may require several revisions and refinements as you gain a deeper understanding of your topic and the relevant literature. Seek peer, mentor, or expert feedback to ensure your research question is well-designed and aligns with established research principles.

By formulating a clear and focused research question, you lay the groundwork for a successful research project that can generate valuable insights and contribute to advancing knowledge in your study area.

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