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Library DIY: Research Questions

Research Questions

While it might seem like an extra step, a research question is essential to developing a clear, focused research paper.

What is a research question? A research question is a debatable, concise question that is used to focus your research.

Why would I want a research question? A research question is a helpful tool that ensures that you have something to focus your research on. For example, a research paper about social media could take many directions and could possibly go on forever! A research paper that asks the question: “What effect does Instagram and Snapchat have on the self-esteem of high school students?” will be much more concise, will be easier to research because you know what you’re looking for, and easier to write because you won’t need to weed through sources that do not fit the parameters of your paper!

How do I create a research question? The best research questions will be interesting to you—after all, you’re the one doing the research and writing the paper!

Here are some steps to creating a research question:

  1. Choose a topic that is interesting to you
  2. Do some research! Start by looking at what’s available on your topic. Does anything stand out? It will help you see what’s already been written about, what research is available and how easy or hard it will be to find sources.
  3. Who is your audience? Most of the papers you write will be academic, but you never know! Be sure to check your assignment or speak to your instructor, if you’re not sure!
  4. Evaluate your question. Is your question too narrow, and it’s hard to find sources? How about too broad with way too many sources to look at? Double check that a simple yes or no doesn’t answer your question!

Adapted from "How to Write a Research Question." The Writing Center at George Mason University. N.p., 9 Oct. 2009. Web. 11 July 2014.

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