When writing an academic paper on either broad or narrow topic, a good research question can help you start well. It’s all about stating a clear one that your research will answer. It plays an important role because it helps you focus the entire paper and enables you to make a strong statement on either simple or complex issue that you study. How to write a research question? Find a correct answer to write excellent papers every time.
Defining a research question
A good one should have all of these important characteristics:
It’s a question around which you center your entire paper, so pay attention to the issues that you’re passionate or curious about.
Why is it important to your research process?Research questions help students focus their writing by giving a visible path through the entire process and its different stages. Their specificity will help you avoid submitting general papers and work to supporting an arguable and unique thesis.
Steps to write your research question
How to write a research question? Take these helpful steps to succeed:
- Select an interesting and broad subject;
- Do your preliminary research on it;
- Think about your readers;
- Start asking relevant questions and evaluate them;
- Make your hypothesis.
1-2. Choosing and researching your general topic + research
Any academic paper should focus on the subject that interests writers in some way. Choose the one that you would want to learn more. Do your preliminary research on it. Use relevant and reliable journals, periodicals, or other sources of information to narrow your focus and consider the questions that your early evaluation raises.
3. Thinking about the readers
To come up with a great paper, keep your audience in mind when narrowing your subject and developing a research question. Ensure that your readers want to know more about it.
4. Asking questions and evaluating them
Ask yourself open-ended questions about a general subject that you choose, including why and how. After you get a few suitable ones for your paper, evaluate them to determine whether they’re effective or require more revisions.
- Is your research question clear enough? (There’s a lot of information available on any subject, which means that it must be as clear as possible to be effective and help writers direct their research.)
- Is it focused?
- Is it complex? (Your research question shouldn’t be answerable simply or by easily-found details because it must require your deep analysis and hard work.)
- Is it specific enough to be covered in your available space?
5. Making your hypothesis
After you determine a good idea, consider the path that an answer on it may take. Where your research may take you? What will it mean if it disputes your initial argument? At this paper writing stage, you’re on the right way to have a good focus for your project, making a strong hypothesis, and proving your argument.
Types of Research Questions
When you’re making a research, it’s important to formulate a research question. There are different types of questions that depend on the research type and what you’re going to find out in your work. The type of research question affects your research design.
Below, we want to share some research questions’ common types. Please be informed that for academic research, these questions may be more complex compared with our simple samples. The examples will help you to get an idea of how to formulate your research question.
- Descriptive. In this paper, you describe an object or a phenomenon, so the right question here is “What are the main characteristics of the object?”
- Comparative. This type of work compares the characteristics of two or more objects. The right question is “What are the similarities and differences between these things?”
- Correlational. This type of work shows the connection between two objects or phenomenons. The right question to ask is “What is the relationship between the researched objects?”
- Exploratory. In this type of research, you investigate how objects affect each other. As the question “What is the role of the first object or phenomenon in the second one?”
- Explanatory. In this work, you have to explain the connection with the question: “How does the first object affect the second, and what are the causes?”
- Evaluation. This research shows the evaluation of objects or phenomenons. The right question is “What are the main disadvantages and advantages of these objects? How are they effective?”
- Action. This research process shows the ways of improving the objects or phenomenons. The question is “How is it possible to improve the object?”
How to choose your specific research question
You also need to stay away from too broad topics because you’ll end up with a lot of information to study and unfocused papers. Narrow your topic down. Consider these simple hints:
- Make it more specific;
- Ensure that it’s no easy to answer;
- Avoid making it too ambitious.
Making your research question more specific and hard to answer
Look at every part and decide how you can make it specific enough. Search for something interesting for your research, argument developing, and thinking. Your research question shouldn’t be easily answerable.
How not to make it too ambitious
Although you want your research question to be interesting and unique, don’t try to make it too ambitious. You should be able to answer it in your paper limitations. Throughout this process, ensure that you can make a good conclusion for all arguments not to leave it unanswerable.
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What Makes a Strong Research Question?
Needless to say, it’s not easy to make research questions properly. But you have to spend a lot of time working on this issue because research questions are very important for the whole research process. Discover the criteria below to formulate strong and precise research questions.
Focused and Researchable
Here are the main requirements for these questions:
- Focused on a single problem. The questions must follow your problem to keep the whole paper well-focused. Please be informed that all your multiple questions must be related to the main goal of your research.
- Answerable with qualitative and/or quantitative data. You have to find an answer by reading various sources or data collecting. If you see it’s impossible to collect any data, rethink your research question and formulate it more concretely.
- Does not require subjective judgment. Please make sure you don’t use any subjective words like bad, good, worse, better because it doesn’t give clear criteria for an answer. If your research questions evaluate something, you should use measurable terms.
- Doesn’t ask why questions. These questions are too open to use as good questions for the research process. With why questions, you will not give a clear answer. That’s why we suggest asking how or what questions instead.
Specific and Feasible
Read the main criteria for this type of questions:
- Answerable without wasting a pile of time. If it seems to you it’s not easy to access any data to answer the question, try to narrow it down or rewrite to make it more concrete. Make sure you have enough sources and information to answer your research question.
- Have defined and specific concepts. Remember you should use in your question only terms with well-defined meanings. We suggest avoiding broad questions and vague language. Be specific on where, when, what, and who your questions addressed.
- Doesn’t require specific policy, solution, or action. Your research paper informs people but not instructs them. If you have focused your research on a practical question, try to improve understanding of this problem and suggest any possible decisions than ask for a completed solution.
Arguable and Complex
These are the main criteria for these questions:
- It cannot be answered using no or yes. Closed questions are too easy and they cannot provide enough data for discussion and research.
- It cannot be answered using easy facts. If your question can be answered using a Google search, it’s not complex enough.
- Provides data for future debates. Your answer shouldn’t be just a statement of the fact but it must provide some space for discussion.
Original and Relevant
Read and follow the main criteria:
- It contains a problem relevant to your topic. Needless to say, the research question must be focused on your topic.
- Produces knowledge for future debates. Researchers can build their own projects based on your research.
- Nobody answered this question yet. Your research question must be original and focused on a new angle or debate.
Choose a broad area of research that interests you by narrowing down your topic. For example, if you’re writing a biology paper, ask relevant questions. What kind of biology is it about? Your answers will help you narrow a research question, but there are other effective tops that can help you:
- Doing your initial research;
- Brainstorming interesting ideas;
- Avoiding overdone questions.
Why your preliminary research is important
At this point, you can use online research engines to get a general idea of your topic. Read relevant articles that discuss it. Jot down the things that catch your attention because they can help you brainstorm a narrow subject for your paper.
How to brainstorm interesting ideas
What fascinates or interests you about a given subject or why did you choose it at all? Draw a special diagram with your subject in its center. Branch the interesting ideas that you have in your mind off this center and keep doing the same thing until you find the best one. It will be a focus of your future research.
Why you should avoid overdone questions
Your research question should be as original as possible to impress professors who expect you to make only original arguments in your academic writing. When evaluating any topic that you want to discuss, you may find that many other documents and books answer it. That’s why you should choose a different one.