The first step in writing a thesis or dissertation or conducting an experiment to write a journal article is to develop an effective research question. While it may seem like an easy task on the surface, developing research questions requires time and effort. Developing effective research questions is integral if you want your research project to have a clear line of focus. Yet, many researchers struggle to put their ideas into sound questions.
This article will discuss why developing research questions is important, what effective research questions consist of, and how to develop one.
The Importance of Effective Research Questions
A research question guides your research and states what your work will focus on. In addition to outlining your task, it allows you to center your research. Thus, an effective research question will give your work a purpose and a clear focus. The boundaries and limitations provided by a specific research question allow you to narrow down the resources you will use and help you stay focused on information that’s directly related to your topic.
What Constitutes an Effective Research Question?
An effective research question differs among disciplines. A great political science research question, for example, will be very different from an insightful neuroscience research question. However, there are a few qualities every research question needs to be effective.
The best research questions have an appropriate scope; i.e., they’re neither too broad nor too narrow. If a research question is too broad, you’ll be inundated with information and won’t be able to meet the word limit. On the other hand, if your research question is too narrow, you won’t have enough information to develop a strong argument.
An effective research question needs to have a clear focus; i.e., the question should indicate what the researcher is examining and about to discuss.
Research questions must investigate answers. Thus, they must be analytical instead of descriptive. Instead of simply describing an issue, the research question must allow you to present an argument and thoroughly analyze the issue at hand. Additionally, the question must be open to debate instead of simply being answered with established facts.
Research-able and Relevant
You must ensure there’s enough source material to reference. Whether you opt for primary or secondary sources, you must have access to research that you can reference and build upon. The research question should also be relevant to your field of study.
How to Develop Research Questions
While there’s no one formula to develop the perfect research question, there are steps you can follow to develop insightful research questions while still being clear. The following are some steps you can take to create effective research questions.
Step 1: Choose a Topic
All research begins by first choosing a broad topic. Selecting a topic that you’re interested in is always recommended since this will encourage creativity and ensure that you put more time and effort into your work. Choosing a broad topic allows you to develop subtopics and use concept mapping to your advantage. By looking at the topic, you will be able to identify gaps in information and come up with potential research questions.
Step 2: Do Preliminary Research
Once you’ve selected a broad topic, you should look at different academic sources such as journals and periodicals to ensure you’re familiar with the topic and the debates and discussions within the field. At this point, you don’t have to do detailed research. It’s enough to look into relevant and influential works since this helps you identify gaps in knowledge and understand current issues in the field.
Step 3: Narrow Down Your Topic
An effective research question is not only concise but has an appropriate scope. Thus, it’s essential to narrow down your topic to a specific issue. Before narrowing down your topic, think about arguments within the field and subtopics in detail. When doing this, consider your audience and whether they would be interested in your research.
Whether you’re focusing on a particular sample, a specific location, or even narrowing your research down to a specific period, it’s essential to think about the information you want to explore and get across. This approach will allow you to frame your research question in a way that allows you to get your points across effectively.
Step 4: Start Asking Questions and Thinking About Gaps
Developing research questions can be accomplished through spotting gaps in knowledge, identifying limitations in other works, or by focusing on expanding upon others’ work.
When asking yourself questions about your topic, don’t think about yes and no questions. Your questions must be researchable and analytical. Thinking in terms of “how” and “why” is helpful. Since your research question is there to help you focus on the problem at hand, ensure that your question outlines a clear task. Avoid “what” and “describe” questions since these are more descriptive than analytical.
Step 5: Write and Evaluate Your Research Question
Once you’ve written your question, evaluate it to ensure it’s an effective research question. As previously mentioned, effective research questions are researchable, analytical, clear, and have an appropriate scope. When you conclude that your research question is feasible, relevant, and focused, you can go ahead and begin the research process.
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