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How to Write Research Questions

Dissertation Research Questions

Performing research and writing an essay, thesis, dissertation or research paper requires a direction and focus.

A good research question provides purpose to your research and clarifies the direction. It further helps your readers to understand what issue your research aims to explore and address, which gives you a clear focus.

If you are unsure about how to write research questions, here are the attributes of a good research question;

  • The research question should contain only a single problem
  • Primary and secondary data sources should serve the purpose of research
  • Should be researchable within the time limit and other constraints
  • Can attain in-depth and detailed results
  • Relevant and applicable
  • In line with your experience and/or field of study

Whenever you want to discover something new about a topic you will ask a question about it. Therefore, the research question is important in the context of the overall research process and provides the author with the reading and writing guidelines.

In a research paper or essay, you will need to create just a single research question that will highlight only one problem or issue. It will bring all the focus to develop the thesis statement which will provide purpose for your work and help you to establish the central position or claim for your arguments.

A bigger project such as a dissertation or thesis, on the other hand, can have multiple research questions, but every question should focus on your main research problem for a better understanding. Different types of research will need different types of research questions, but they should all be relevant to your field of study.

How to Write a Research Question

Follow these steps to develop your research question:

Once you have identified a research gap and clearly defined the problem you wish to address, you need to create one or more research questions for your research. Think precisely about how you can resolve the problem and how many research questions you should create.

Example Research Question (s)

Here is an example research problem and an example research question to help you understand how you can create a research question once a research problem has been identified.

Example Research ProblemExample Research Question (s)
A small scale company A in the UK are unable to allocate a marketing budget for next year due to their poor revenue collection in the running year.What practical steps the company can take to improve their revenue?
Many fresh graduates in the UK are working as freelancers despite having attain degrees well known academic institutes but what is causing these youngsters to engage in this type of work?What are the cause of fresh graduates engaging in freelance activities rather than going for full time employment? What are the advantages and disadvantages of gig economy for young people? How age, gender and academic qualification relate to people’s perception towards freelancing?

Types of Research Questions

There are two main types of research; quantitative and qualitative research. Both types of research require research questions. What research question you will answer is dependent on the type of research you wish to employ, which forms the basis of your research design.

The first part to design research is to find a gap and create a fully focused research question.

The following table shows the common research questions for the dissertation. However, it is important to note that these examples of dissertation research questions are straightforward, and the actual research questions may be more complicated than these examples.

Research question typeFormulation
Descriptive approachWhat will be the properties of A?
Comparative approachWhat are the similarities and differences between A and B?
Correlational approachHow can you correlate the variables A and B?
Exploratory approachFactors affecting the rate of C? Does A and B also influence C?
Explanatory approachWhat are the causes of C? How B impacts A? What is causing D?
Evaluation approachHow useful and influential is C? What role does B play? What are the advantages and disadvantages of A?
Action researchHow you can improve X with different interventions?

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Research Question is Essential for the Research Process

The research question provides you a path and keeps your focus on the real problem and research gap. These are steps you need to take if you are unsure about how to write a research question:

Choose an Interesting Topic

Choose a topic of research according to your interest. The selected topic should be neither too broad nor too narrow.

Do Some Preliminary Research on Your General Topic

Find articles, books, journals and theses relevant to your chosen topic. Understand what research problem each scholar addressed as part of their research project.

Consider Your Audience

It is necessary to know your audience to be able to develop focused research questions for your essay or dissertation. You can find aspects of your topic that could be interesting to your audience when narrowing your topic.

Start Asking Questions

What, why, when, how, and other open-ended questions will provide in-depth knowledge about the topic.

Evaluate your question

After designing a research question, evaluate it to check its effectiveness and how it can serve the purpose. If it is necessary, then revise and refine the dissertation research question.

  • Do you have a clear research question? 

Research question developed after finding research gap should be clear, enabling the research to solve part of the problem.

  • Do you have a focused research question?

It is necessary that the research question is specific and relate to the central aim of your research

  • Do you have a complex research question? 

The research question cannot be simply answered by yes or no but requires in-depth analysis. It often begins with “How” or “Why.”

Begin your research

After you have prepared dissertation research questions, you should research the existing literature on similar topics to find a variety of perspectives.

Also See: Formulation of Research Question

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How to Write A Strong Research Question?

A research question is the foundation of the entire research. Therefore, you should spend as much time as required to refine the research question.

If you have good research questions for the dissertation, research paper or essay; you can perform the research and analyse your results more effectively and accurately. You can evaluate the strength of the research question with the help of the following criteria. Your research questions should be;

Intensive and Researchable

  • It should cover a single issue
  • The question shouldn’t include a subjective judgment
  • It can be answerable with the data analysis or research=

Practical and Specific

  • It should not include a course of action, policy, or solution
  • It should be well-defined
  • Answerable within research limits

Complicated and Arguable

  • It should not be simple to answer
  • Need in-depth knowledge to find facts
  • Provides scope for debate and deliberation

Unique and Relevant

  • It should lie in your field of study
  • Its results should be contributable
  • It should be unique

Conclusion – How to Write Research Questions

A research question provides direction and focus to your thesis or dissertation paper. A bigger project such as a dissertation may have more than one research question, but every question should focus on one issue only.

All research questions should be focused, researchable, feasible to answer, specific to find results, complex, and relevant to your field of study. Dissertation research questions depend upon the research type.

Start creating a research question by choosing an interesting topic, do some preliminary research, consider your audience, start asking questions, evaluating your question, and begin your research.

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