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Forming Research Questions

Resources and information on how to form clear, focused, and answerable questions for research

Questions require answers

Forming a research question is the first step in the research process. Questions come from a need for information or a curiosity about something used to

  • solve a problem,
  • fill a gap in knowledge,
  • verify or reexamine existing information on a topic, and/or
  • investigate conflicting or contradictory information on a topic.

A good research question 

A good question clarifys what information is needed, where it can be found, and when to stop the search (when the question is answered). 

A good research question is...                   

How will you know? Ask yourself these questions

Clear and focused

Are the main concepts clearly identified and stated?

Is it specific enough that the it can be researched thoroughly?

Searchable and answerable

Can the question be answered with the time and resources available?

Good research questions will have a certain level of complexity requires research and analysis; often include comparisons 

Worth asking                                                                              

Is it a problem or issue that needs to be solved? Will it provide a new perspective on a previously researched topic?

(If the answer is "No", then consider a different question).

Arguable   Potential answers to the research question can be open to further debate or discussion. A good research question cannot be easily answered with Yes or No

Steps in forming a research question

  1. Identify a topic
  2. Conduct background research 
  3. Narrow your topic into a question