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3.11: Research Questions

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    A research question is a question that your research project tries to answer. Research questions help you to

    • focus your research
    • determine how relevant your research is to your readers
    • communicate the purpose of your research clearly

    Once you have your topic, you can brainstorm related sub-topics that interest you. You can then refine those into specific questions that you can find research information on! Research questions should be clear, focused, relevant, and realistic in scope. It needs to be something that you can address within the limits of your assignment, time, and resources. A good research question will also inform your reader about what it is you will be informing them about. 


    Forming a research question starts with choosing a topic of interest. Then you identify gaps in the information that is available - specific sub-topics that you or your readers need more information about. Finally, you identify questions that would provide that information.

    Regular vs. Research Questions

    Most of us look for information to answer questions every day, and we often act on the answers to those questions. Are research questions any different from most of the questions for which we seek information? Yes.

    See how they’re different by looking over the examples of both kinds below and answering questions about them in the next activity.

    Examples: Regular vs. Research Questions

    Regular Question: What time is my movie showing at Lennox on Friday?

    Research Question: How do “sleeper” films end up having outstanding attendance figures?

    Regular Question: What can I do about my insomnia?

    Research Question: How do flights more than 16 hours long affect the reflexes of commercial jet pilots?

    Regular Question: How many children in the U.S. have allergies?

    Research Question: How does his or her country of birth affect a child’s chances of developing asthma?

    Regular Question: What year was metformin approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration?

    Research Question: Why are nanomedicines, such as doxorubicin, worth developing?

    Regular Question: Could citizens register to vote at branches of the Columbus Public Library in 2016?

    Research Question: How do public libraries in the United States support democracy?

    Regular Question: What is the Whorfian Hypothesis?

    Research Question: Why have linguists cared about the Whorfian hypothesis?

    Regular Question: Where is the Apple, Inc. home office?

    Research Question: Why are Apple’s marketing efforts so successful?

    Regular Question: What is Mers?

    Research Question: How could decision making about whether to declare a pandemic be improved?

    Regular Question: Does MLA style recommend the use of generic male pronouns intended to refer to both males and females?

    Research Question: How do age, gender, IQ, and socioeconomic status affect whether students interpret generic male pronouns as referring to both males and females?

    This page titled 3.11: Research Questions is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Cheryl Lowry (Ohio State University Libraries) .

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