Developing the right research questions is a critical first step in the research process. A research question is a question that a study or research project aims to answer. This question often addresses an issue or a problem, which, through analysis and interpretation of data, is answered in the study’s conclusion.
Types of Research QuestionsThere are three basic types of questions that research projects can address: Descriptive: When a study is designed primarily to describe what is going on or what exists. Public opinion polls that seek only to describe the proportion of people who hold various opinions are primarily descriptive in nature. Relational: When a study is designed to look at the relationships between two or more variables. Causal: When a study is designed to determine whether one or more variables (e.g., a program or treatment variable) causes or affects one or more outcome variables.
Steps to Developing a Good Research Question
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. These techniques can organize your thoughts so you can identify connections and relevant themes within a broad topic. Do preliminary research to learn about topical issues. Once you have picked a topic, you can start doing preliminary research. This initial stage of research accomplishes two goals. First, a preliminary review of related literature allows you to discover issues that are currently being discussed by scholars and fellow researchers. This way, you get up-to-date, relevant knowledge on your topic. Second, a preliminary review of related literature allows you to spot existing gaps or limitations in existing knowledge of your topic. With a certain amount of fine-tuning, you can later use these gaps as the focus of your research question.
2. Narrow down your topic and determine potential research questions:Once you have gathered enough knowledge on the topic you want to pursue, you can start focusing on a more specific area of study. One option is to focus on gaps in existing knowledge or recent literature.
3. Another way of identifying and constructing research questions:Problematization is one way of identifying and constructing research question. As a methodology for constructing research questions, problematization aims to challenge and scrutinize assumptions that support others’ and the researcher’s theoretical position. This means constructing research questions that challenge your views or knowledge of the area of study. 4. Evaluate the soundness of your research question: Your initial research and review of related literature will have produced some interesting questions that seem like they’re worth pursuing. However, not all interesting questions make for sound research questions. Keep in mind that a research question draws its answer or conclusion through an analysis of evidence. 5. Construct your research question properly: Research questions should be structured properly to ensure clarity. There are a number of frameworks that you can use for properly constructing a research question. Developing the right research question is a critical first step in the research process. The key points outlined below should help researchers in the pursuit:
- The development of a research question is an iterative process that involves continuously updating one’s knowledge on the topic and refining ideas at all stages.
- Remain updated on current trends, state-of-the-art research studies, and technological advances in the field of study you are pursuing.
- Make the research question as specific and concise as possible to ensure clarity. Avoid using words or terms that don’t add to the meaning of the research question.
- Aside from doing a literature review, seek the input of experts in the field, mentors, and colleagues. Such inputs can prove beneficial not only for the research question but also for creating the rest of the study.
- Finally, refrain from committing the two most common mistakes in framing research questions: posing a question as an anticipated contribution and framing a question as a method.