Writing a dissertation will only be easy if the research question is clear and focused. The research question is placed as the focal point of the research process. For that reason, developing research questions is thus considered a critical step before commencing research. For the purpose of guiding research and having good research questions, here are a few tips that will help when thinking about a writing your dissertation.
Important guidelines when developing research questions
Every researcher wants to have an ideal research question that serves its purpose. However, not every researcher knows exactly what makes a good research question. It is, therefore, necessary to have a hint on how a research question should look like prior to developing research questions. After developing research questions, you might think you have created a good question only to be disappointed later. The following guidelines will guide on evaluating a research question:
- The research question should be interesting to the researcher as well as other people that might be interested in the research. After developing research questions, ask yourself, is the research question interesting enough? Is it a new problem that requires a solution? Is it trying to shed more light on a topic that has not been researched extensively?
- The research question should also be researchable. Of course, the whole point of developing research questions is conducting research. That means a research question that is not researchable is totally useless. You should consider resources and the time frame to ensure that your research question conforms to the available resources and time frame. Ask yourself if the methodology is feasible.
- Another key aspect to consider is the results and data collected after research due to your research question. For instance will the data produced be contradictory? Or will it be supported by other researchers? The results of the research should be useful and hopefully solve a problem or call for future research in the area.
- Lastly, consider the broadness or narrowness of the research question. Too narrow will means that the research will not be worthwhile as the question will be answered simply. For instance, yes and No questions should be avoided at all costs. Broad questions, on the other hand, may make the research unrealistic for typical Additionally, the research methodology may be very difficult. An example of a narrow research question is: What is the teenage pregnancy rate in Chicago? An example of a broad question is: What are the effects of teenage pregnancy in the US?
With the above guidelines, the process of developing research questions is reduced to three simple steps:
Step 1. Think of a broader topic or an issue that has been of interest to people. Issues that one can look at can be found on the media or even trending topics that have brought significant concern in the society. Where to look for the ideal topic depends on the subject of the research. For instance, research on social issues will be different from scientific research. An example of broad topics includes issues like abortion, childhood obesity, teenage pregnancy, divorce, or even corruption. Make sure the topic necessitates for research.
Step 2: the second step involves carrying out preliminary research on the general topic that you are interested in. find out any research that has been done on the topic and the existing literature that exists. Be keen on identifying loopholes or areas that would need more research. While doing your preliminary research ask yourself questions like how much research has been done on the topic? What types of studies were conducted by previous researchers? Are there some areas that have not yet been explored? Which questions need to restudied?
A very key aspect of this step is gathering a reference list. Research sources are considerably a great place to start your research as they not only give insight on the topics but also give you a chance to find authors whose works might interest you in the course of research. The reference list also provides insight into the key issues that affect your topic.
Step 3: In this step, begin narrowing down by asking yourself how and why questions. This step entails a change from a general topic to choosing your ideal research question. Exploring questions will not only entail the how and why but also pay close attention to ‘So what.’ Consider questions like does the topic matter to you? Does it matter to others? Is it interesting? You will probably narrow down to two or three questions which you will evaluate with the guidelines. Furthermore, identify a topic that you will find most interesting. Have in mind if the question is not interesting to you then it will; not be interesting to other people. Nonetheless, an interesting research question will make the research process interesting.
Examples of research questions
When developing research questions, it is worthwhile to have a look at examples of research questions to get a clear picture of how your question will look like. As already mentioned clarity and maintaining focus is core when developing research questions. However, simplicity is also vital to keep the topic interesting.
Unclear question- Why is taking drugs harmful?
Clear question: what are the harmful effects of marijuana on a teenager?
Unfocused: how is global warming affecting the environment?
Focused: how is ice melting affecting the natural habitat of algae in Antarctica?
Developing research questions is evidently the most important part of the research process. The research process may be boring or an exciting experiencing and its all dependant on how good the research question will look like. In some way, the process of developing research questions might also appear difficult or even daunting. However, armed with the guidelines provided above one will have enough insight on what research questions should entail. All said and done following the three steps is guaranteed to be very simple. With all this knowledge, developing a research question is simplified, and hopefully, the research process will be an exciting experience for researchers.