What is a research question?
A research question is the question around which you center your research. It should be:
- clear: it provides enough specifics that one’s audience can easily understand its purpose without needing additional explanation.
- focused: it is narrow enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the space the writing task allows.
- complex: it is not answerable with a simple “yes” or “no,” but rather requires synthesis and analysis of ideas and sources prior to composition of an answer.
- arguable: its potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts.
Steps to developing a research question.
- Make sure you are clear on the parameters of your paper. How long is your paper? How much time do you have to devote to your project? What types of sources will you be using? What type of evidence will you need to provide?
- Choose a topic you are truly curious about exploring in depth.
- Do some preliminary research on your topic. What has already been done? What are scholars in your area discussing? Are there any current issues? What questions do you have after exploring your general topic?
- Ask open-ended questions about your general topic using "how" and "why" statements.
- Evaluate your question. Is it clear? Is it focused? Will it require research and analysis in order to answer?
- Begin your research. What sources will you consult? What keywords will contribute to an effective search strategy?
- Refine your question as you continue your research.
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