Formulating Good Research Questions

A good research question will guide and centre your research. It may consider the relationships between certain theories or ideas, or attempt to answer what is happening in a specific situation. Ideally, you should be interested in the topic you choose to investigate. If you are unfamiliar with the topic, you should also conduct preliminary research. A good literature review can summarize a given research area and lead to inspiration.

Next, consider some questions you have about your topic; in this post, we will use the example topic of childhood obesity. For example, you might consider one of these questions: What are the effects of childhood obesity? or What are the effects of childhood obesity in early elementary school children? Your research question cannot be too broad or too narrow; if it is either, you will have difficulty researching. The first question is not narrow enough; the research methodology would be too broad to be answered effectively. The second question, however, is a perfect research question. It has a very clear focus where the researcher can collect, analyze, and discuss data.

Your research question should pass the ‘so what?’ test. What is the benefit of this research? What are its implications? Who will it help and how? Passing this test will keep your research question relevant to the community at large. If you cannot make a definitive statement about your research, then you should consider revising your research question. Some other questions to consider: What other avenues are open to explore? Has this study been done before? If so, is there room for improvement? Would funding sources be interested?

Finally, the answer to your research question should be your thesis statement. It is also very likely that your research question will change and be refined as you research. A good research question will pave the road to an excellent research article.