How to develop strong research questions
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How to develop strong research questions

How to develop strong research questions

To lead your research paper, project, or thesis, you’ll need to frame practical research questions. It identifies precisely what you want to learn and provides your efforts with a clear direction and purpose. The following are the primary characteristics of a practical research question:

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  1. Concentrating on a specific subject or issue.
  2. Primary and secondary sources can be used to do research.
  3. Answerable within the timeline and realistic restrictions.
  4. Specific enough to warrant a complete response.
  5. Complex enough to need the development of an answer throughout a paper or thesis.
  6. Related to your field of research and broader society.

A specific research question will generally lead your reading and thinking in a research paper or essay. Your thesis statement — the key argument or perspective that your article will argue for — is the response you come up with.

You may have numerous research questions in a larger research project, such as a dissertation or thesis. Still, they should all be related and concentrated around a primary research topic.

There are many distinct research questions, each of which corresponds to a particular form of study.

Writing a research question.

The following are the stages in formulating your research question:

  1. Select a broader subject.
  2. Do some initial research to learn about current debates and concerns.
  3. Choose a niche that you wish to emphasize.
  4. Choose a research problem to solve, whether it is practical or theoretical.

You must ask one or more questions when you have a correctly specified problem. Consider what you want to know and how it will help you solve the problem.

The manner you structure the goal of your study determines your question. The table below illustrates several possible question formulations for varied purposes.

Aims of the research Research questions
Exploration and description What are some of X’s characteristics?

What has been X’s response to Y?

What has changed about X over time?

What are the essential aspects of X?

What is X’s perspective on Y?

Test and explanation What is the connection between X and Y?

What causes X to happen?

What effect does X have on Y?

What role does X play in Y?

What effect does X have on Y?

Evaluation and action What are all the benefits and drawbacks of X?

What is the efficacy of X?

What is the best way to do X?

What are the most successful X-improvement strategies?

What role does X play in Y?


Depending on the breadth of your investigation, you may come up with one or several research questions. You might also have one main research question and several supplementary or sub-questions, all relating to the same issue.

Example of a research problem Example of research questions
The teachers at school X are unable to identify talented students or provide appropriate guidance in the classroom. What practical ways instructors at school X might utilize to identify and nurture exceptional students properly?
Young people under 30 are increasingly turning to the “gig economy” rather than regular full-time work, but there is little data on their experiences with this form of work. What are the primary influences on young people’s decisions to participate in the gig economy? What are the benefits and drawbacks, according to workers? Is there a link between age and education level and how people see this type of work?


Although numerous research methods may be used to address most research questions, the way you construct your topic should influence your research design choices.

Characteristics of a strong research question

Writing questions isn’t challenging, but determining whether or not you have a strong research question may be tricky. It’s critical to develop your research questions because they serve as the foundation for the whole research. The factors listed below might assist you in determining the credibility of your research question.

The research question should be focused and researchable



Concentrates on a specific issue or topic. To keep your work focused, your key research question should stem from your research problem. If you have more than one question, they should all be related to the same primary goal.
Primary or secondary data can be used to answer the question. To create an argument, you must obtain an answer by gathering quantitative and qualitative data or reading academic literature on the subject. If you can’t get much information, you’ll have to rephrase your inquiry and ask something even more specific.
Doesn’t require a subjective value assessment. Subjective adjectives like good, awful, better, and worse should be avoided since they do not provide clear criteria for answering the issue. Instead, use phrases with more quantifiable definitions if your query is about assessing something.

x  Is it preferable to have X or Y as a policy?

ü  How effective are initiatives X and Y at lowering Z rates?


The research question should be feasible and specific.

Criteria Explanation
Answerable within realistic limits. Ensure that you have adequate time and resources to conduct the research necessary to respond to the question. Consider refining down the question to be more precise if you suspect you’ll have trouble getting enough data.
Uses well-defined, particular notions All the elements in the research question should be defined clearly. Avoid broad notions and ambiguous language, and be specific about what, who, where, and when your query pertains.

x  What impact does social media have on the minds of people?

ü  What effect does habitual Twitter use have on the attention span of children under the age of 16?

Does not demand a definitive answer, strategy, or plan of action. It is the goal of research to inform rather than to instruct. Therefore, even if your project addresses a real issue, rather than requesting a ready-made solution, it should try to deepen knowledge and provide options.

x  What should be done regarding low voter participation by the government?

ü  What are the most successful communication techniques for getting young people to vote?


The research question should be original and relevant

Criteria Explanation
Describes an issue in your profession or specialty. The research question should be based on preliminary reading on your topic and focus on solving a problem or filling an information gap.
Contributes to a current social or scholarly dispute The question should add to an ongoing argument — ideally a contemporary one in your profession or society in general. It should generate information that can be built upon by future scholars or practitioners.
It hasn’t been replied to yet You don’t have to ask anything revolutionary that no one else has thought of before, but the question should be unique in some way.


The research question should be arguable and complex

Criteria Explanation
It can’t be replied with a simple yes or no. Closed yes/no questions aren’t appropriate research questions since they don’t allow enough examination and discussion.

x  Is there a rise in poverty in the United Kingdom in the last 10 years?

ü  How have political and economic forces impacted homelessness trends in the United Kingdom during the last 10 years?

It cannot be answered using easily accessible data and statistics It’s probably not difficult enough to explain it with a Google search or by reading a short book or extended essay. A good research question involves original data, synthesis of many sources, analysis, and argument to produce a solution.
Allows for discussion and discourse The response to the research question should not just be a factual statement; you should be able to discuss and understand what you discovered. It is particularly true in an essay or research paper when the solution to your question is frequently expressed as an argumentative thesis statement.


Frequently Asked Questions

When do we need to ask research questions?

Formulating a solid research question is essential in guiding your research or study towards a goal.

What are the primary characteristics of a good research question?

A practical research question should be Focused, Researchable, Feasible, Specific, Complex, and Relevant.

How should many research questions be posed in a study?

Generally, a single research question should be posed during writing a research paper. However, in cases of a dissertation or thesis, you can have several research questions.

What is the answer to the research question?

The answer developed from the research question is the thesis statement of your paper.

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