Crafting clear and effective research questions is a crucial aspect of preparing PhD theses or undergraduate and Master’s dissertations. Research questions serve as the foundation for your study, guiding your investigation and framing your findings. In this blog post, we'll explore strategies for writing strong research questions, including the use of sub-questions and different types of research question formats.

How to Write a Strong Research Question

Here's how to develop a strong research question that is clear, focused, and relevant to your field of study.

1. Choose a Research Question Relevant to Your Field

Commence by selecting a research question that aligns with the interests and priorities of your academic field. Consider current debates, gaps in the existing literature, and emerging trends that warrant further exploration. Your research question should contribute new insights or perspectives to the field and address a meaningful issue or problem.

2. Conduct Preliminary Research

Before finalising your research question, conduct preliminary research to familiarise yourself with the existing literature and identify potential gaps or areas for investigation. Explore relevant journals, books, and academic databases to gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic and identify key concepts or variables to explore further.

3. Narrow Your Research to Determine Specific Questions

Once you have identified the key concepts or variables, narrow down your focus to determine specific research questions. Consider the scope of your study and the depth of analysis required to address your research objectives effectively. Avoid overly broad or vague questions and aim for clarity and precision in formulating your research inquiries.

4. Evaluate Your Research Question

Before finalising your research question, critically evaluate it to ensure it meets the criteria of a strong research question. Assess whether the question is clear, focused, and relevant to your field of study. Consider whether it aligns with the objectives of your research project and the feasibility of addressing it within your time and resource constraints. Seek feedback from peers, tutors, or academic advisors to refine and improve your research question further.

Using Sub-Questions

In addition to your main research question, you may also include sub-questions to further clarify your focus and guide your investigation. Sub-questions can help break down complex topics into manageable components and provide a more nuanced understanding of your research area. When crafting sub-questions, ensure they are directly related to your main research question and contribute to the overall coherence of your study.

Research Question Types

Research questions can be classified into qualitative and quantitative formats, depending on the nature of your study. Qualitative research questions explore subjective experiences, meanings, and interpretations, while quantitative questions investigate relationships between variables and seek to quantify phenomena.

  • Qualitative Research Question Example: "How do individuals experience and cope with chronic pain in their daily lives?"
  • Quantitative Research Question Example: "What is the relationship between social media usage and mental health outcomes among adolescents?"

Crafting Strong Research Questions

Crafting strong research questions is a fundamental step in the thesis or dissertation process, setting the direction for your study and guiding your research endeavours. A well-crafted research question not only clarifies the focus of your investigation but also lays the groundwork for meaningful scholarly contribution. It serves as a roadmap, guiding the trajectory of your research and ensuring that your study remains focused and purposeful.

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