A research question is a clear, specific, and answerable question that serves as the foundation for your assignment. The question guides your research and keeps your assignment focused.
If your question is too broad, there will be too much information on the topic. This may result in the final assignment being unfocused, irrelevant, or not containing enough analysis.
If your question is too narrow, you won’t find enough research or evidence to answer the question.
A good research question usually starts with 'How' or 'Why' because these types of questions are open ended and require more analysis.
The question should also be:
Your research question may change as you conduct your research. That's okay! Research is not a linear process and you can adapt your research question as you go.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what a research question is and why we use it in academic research, let's look at how we create a research question.
On this page we will look at three simple steps to creating a researchable question:
You often start research with a general topic that needs to be narrowed into a research question. Your instructor may assign the general topic or you may choose it on your own (review your Assignment Requirements).
General topic examples:
You need to narrow your general topic to make it researchable.
Here are some examples for ways to narrow your topic. Please note, you do not need to use all of these elements at once.
Let's narrow our general topic mental health and police officers using some suggestions from above.
First, let's narrow to a Relevant Issue, for example PTSD in police officers. This topic is still too broad though, so let's narrow further. Some suggestions:
Ready for Step 3: Create a Research Question!
It's time to take our narrow topic and reword it as a research question. Remember, a good research question usually starts with "How" or "Why", because these types of questions require more analysis.
Your question should be debatable, there should be more than one answer to the question, and it should not be answerable with a quick Google search. The goal of your paper is to use research as evidence to prove which argument is most correct.
Your research question might also change or evolve.
As you conduct research you'll sometimes find the first draft(s) of your research question is still too broad, or maybe has become too narrow. It's natural for your research question to change or evolve as you gather your sources. Remember, research is not a linear process.
Step 3: Here are some sample research questions based on the narrower topics we created in Step 2. You would choose one of the research questions for your academic paper.