How to Write a Research Question: Types and Examples
The first step in any research project is framing the research question. It can be considered the core of any systematic investigation as the research outcomes are tied to asking the right questions. Thus, this primary interrogation point sets the pace for your research as it helps collect relevant and insightful information that ultimately influences your work.
Typically, the research question guides the stages of inquiry, analysis, and reporting. Depending on the use of quantifiable or quantitative data, research questions are broadly categorized into quantitative or qualitative research questions. Both types of research questions can be used independently or together, considering the overall focus and objectives of your research.
What is a research question?
A research question is a clear, focused, concise, and arguable question on which your research and writing are centered. 1 It states various aspects of the study, including the population and variables to be studied and the problem the study addresses. These questions also set the boundaries of the study, ensuring cohesion.
Designing the research question is a dynamic process where the researcher can change or refine the research question as they review related literature and develop a framework for the study. Depending on the scale of your research, the study can include single or multiple research questions.
A good research question has the following features:
- It is relevant to the chosen field of study.
- The question posed is arguable and open for debate, requiring synthesizing and analysis of ideas.
- It is focused and concisely framed.
- A feasible solution is possible within the given practical constraint and timeframe.
A poorly formulated research question poses several risks. 1
- Researchers can adopt an erroneous design.
- It can create confusion and hinder the thought process, including developing a clear protocol.
- It can jeopardize publication efforts.
- It causes difficulty in determining the relevance of the study findings.
- It causes difficulty in whether the study fulfils the inclusion criteria for systematic review and meta-analysis. This creates challenges in determining whether additional studies or data collection is needed to answer the question.
- Readers may fail to understand the objective of the study. This reduces the likelihood of the study being cited by others.
Now that you know “What is a research question?”, let’s look at the different types of research questions.
Types of research questions
Depending on the type of research to be done, research questions can be classified broadly into quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods studies. Knowing the type of research helps determine the best type of research question that reflects the direction and epistemological underpinnings of your research.
The structure and wording of quantitative 2 and qualitative research 3 questions differ significantly. The quantitative study looks at causal relationships, whereas the qualitative study aims at exploring a phenomenon.
- Quantitative research questions:
- Seeks to investigate social, familial, or educational experiences or processes in a particular context and/or location.
- Answers ‘how,’ ‘what,’ or ‘why’ questions.
- Investigates connections, relations, or comparisons between independent and dependent variables.
Quantitative research questions can be further categorized into descriptive, comparative, and relationship, as explained in the Table below.
- Qualitative research questions
Qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional, and more flexible. It concerns broad areas of research or more specific areas of study to discover, explain, or explore a phenomenon. These are further classified as follows:
- Mixed-methods studies
Mixed-methods studies use both quantitative and qualitative research questions to answer your research question. Mixed methods provide a complete picture than standalone quantitative or qualitative research, as it integrates the benefits of both methods. Mixed methods research is often used in multidisciplinary settings and complex situational or societal research, especially in the behavioral, health, and social science fields.
What makes a good research question
A good research question should be clear and focused to guide your research. It should synthesize multiple sources to present your unique argument, and should ideally be something that you are interested in. But avoid questions that can be answered in a few factual statements. The following are the main attributes of a good research question.
- Specific: The research question should not be a fishing expedition performed in the hopes that some new information will be found that will benefit the researcher. The central research question should work with your research problem to keep your work focused. If using multiple questions, they should all tie back to the central aim.
- Measurable: The research question must be answerable using quantitative and/or qualitative data or from scholarly sources to develop your research question. If such data is impossible to access, it is better to rethink your question.
- Attainable: Ensure you have enough time and resources to do all research required to answer your question. If it seems you will not be able to gain access to the data you need, consider narrowing down your question to be more specific.
- You have the expertise
- You have the equipment and resources
- Realistic: Developing your research question should be based on initial reading about your topic. It should focus on addressing a problem or gap in the existing knowledge in your field or discipline.
- Based on some sort of rational physics
- Can be done in a reasonable time frame
- Timely: The research question should contribute to an existing and current debate in your field or in society at large. It should produce knowledge that future researchers or practitioners can later build on.
- Based on current technologies.
- Important to answer current problems or concerns.
- Lead to new directions.
- Important: Your question should have some aspect of originality. Incremental research is as important as exploring disruptive technologies. For example, you can focus on a specific location or explore a new angle.
- Meaningful whether the answer is “Yes” or “No.” Closed-ended, yes/no questions are too simple to work as good research questions. Such questions do not provide enough scope for robust investigation and discussion. A good research question requires original data, synthesis of multiple sources, and original interpretation and argumentation before providing an answer.
Steps for developing a good research question
The importance of research questions cannot be understated. When drafting a research question, use the following frameworks to guide the components of your question to ease the process. 4
- Determine the requirements: Before constructing a good research question, set your research requirements. What is the purpose? Is it descriptive, comparative, or explorative research? Determining the research aim will help you choose the most appropriate topic and word your question appropriately.
- Select a broad research topic: Identify a broader subject area of interest that requires investigation. Techniques such as brainstorming or concept mapping can help identify relevant connections and themes within a broad research topic. For example, how to learn and help students learn.
- Perform preliminary investigation: Preliminary research is needed to obtain up-to-date and relevant knowledge on your topic. It also helps identify issues currently being discussed from which information gaps can be identified.
- Narrow your focus: Narrow the scope and focus of your research to a specific niche. This involves focusing on gaps in existing knowledge or recent literature or extending or complementing the findings of existing literature. Another approach involves constructing strong research questions that challenge your views or knowledge of the area of study (Example: Is learning consistent with the existing learning theory and research).
- Identify the research problem: Once the research question has been framed, one should evaluate it. This is to realize the importance of the research questions and if there is a need for more revising (Example: How do your beliefs on learning theory and research impact your instructional practices).
How to write a research question
Those struggling to understand how to write a research question, these simple steps can help you simplify the process of writing a research question.
Sample Research Questions
The following are some bad and good research question examples
- Example 1
- Example 2
- Thabane, L., Thomas, T., Ye, C., & Paul, J. (2009). Posing the research question: not so simple. Canadian Journal of Anesthesia/Journal canadien d’anesthésie , 56 (1), 71-79.
- Rutberg, S., & Bouikidis, C. D. (2018). Focusing on the fundamentals: A simplistic differentiation between qualitative and quantitative research. Nephrology Nursing Journal , 45 (2), 209-213.
- Kyngäs, H. (2020). Qualitative research and content analysis. The application of content analysis in nursing science research , 3-11.
- Mattick, K., Johnston, J., & de la Croix, A. (2018). How to… write a good research question. The clinical teacher , 15 (2), 104-108.
- Fandino, W. (2019). Formulating a good research question: Pearls and pitfalls. Indian Journal of Anaesthesia , 63 (8), 611.
- Richardson, W. S., Wilson, M. C., Nishikawa, J., & Hayward, R. S. (1995). The well-built clinical question: a key to evidence-based decisions. ACP journal club , 123 (3), A12-A13
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Capstone and PICO Project Toolkit
- Starting a Project: Overview
- Developing a Research Question
- Selecting Databases
- Expanding a Search
- Refining/Narrowing a Search
- Saving Searches
- Critical Appraisal & Levels of Evidence
- Citing & Managing References
- Database Tutorials
- Types of Literature Reviews
- Finding Full Text
- Term Glossary
Defining the Question: Foreground & Background Questions
In order to most appropriately choose an information resource and craft a search strategy, it is necessary to consider what kind of question you are asking: a specific, narrow "foreground" question, or a broader background question that will help give context to your research?
A "foreground" question in health research is one that is relatively specific, and is usually best addressed by locating primary research evidence.
Using a structured question framework can help you clearly define the concepts or variables that make up the specific research question.
Across most frameworks, you’ll often be considering:
- a who (who was studied - a population or sample)
- a what (what was done or examined - an intervention, an exposure, a policy, a program, a phenomenon)
- a how ([how] did the [what] affect the [who] - an outcome, an effect).
PICO is the most common framework for developing a clinical research question, but multiple question frameworks exist.
PICO (Problem/Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome)
Appropriate for : clinical questions, often addressing the effect of an intervention/therapy/treatment
Example : For adolescents with type II diabetes (P) does the use of telehealth consultations (I) compared to in-person consultations (C) improve blood sugar control (O)?
Framing Different Types of Clinical Questions with PICO
Different types of clinical questions are suited to different syntaxes and phrasings, but all will clearly define the PICO elements. The definitions and frames below may be helpful for organizing your question:
Questions addressing how a clinical issue, illness, or disability is treated.
"In__________________(P), how does__________________(I) compared to_________________(C) affect______________(O)?"
Questions that address the causes or origin of disease, the factors which produce or predispose toward a certain disease or disorder.
"Are_________________(P), who have_________________(I) compared with those without_________________(C) at_________________risk for/of_________________(O) over_________________(T)?"
Questions addressing the act or process of identifying or determining the nature and cause of a disease or injury through evaluation.
In_________________(P) are/is_________________(I) compared with_________________(C) more accurate in diagnosing_________________(O)?
Questions addressing the prediction of the course of a disease.
In_________________(P), how does_________________(I) compared to_________________ (C) influence_________________(O)?
Questions addressing how one experiences a phenomenon or why we need to approach practice differently.
"How do_________________(P) with_________________(I) perceive_________________(O)?"
Adapted from: Melnyk, B. M., & Fineout-Overholt, E. (2011). Evidence-based practice in nursing & healthcare: A guide to best practice. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Beyond PICO: Other Types of Question Frameworks
PICO is a useful framework for clinical research questions, but may not be appropriate for all kinds of reviews. Also consider:
PEO (Population, Exposure, Outcome)
Appropriate for : describing association between particular exposures/risk factors and outcomes
Example : How do preparation programs (E) influence the development of teaching competence (O) among novice nurse educators (P)?
SPIDER (Sample, Phenomenon of Interest, Design, Evaluation, Research Type)
Appropriate for : questions of experience or perspectives (questions that may be addressed by qualitative or mixed methods research)
Example : What are the experiences and perspectives (E) of undergraduate nursing students (S) in clinical placements within prison healthcare settings (PI)?
SPICE (Setting, Perspective, Intervention/phenomenon of Interest, Comparison, Evaluation)
Appropriate for : evaluating the outcomes of a service, project, or intervention
Example : What are the impacts and best practices for workplace (S) transition support programs (I) for the retention (E) of newly-hired, new graduate nurses (P)?
PCC (Problem/population, Concept, Context)
Appropriate for : broader (scoping) questions
Example : How do nursing schools (Context) teach, measure, and maintain nursing students ' (P) technological literacy (Concept))throughout their educational programs?
To craft a strong and reasonable foreground research question, it is important to have a firm understanding of the concepts of interest. As such, it is often necessary to ask background questions, which ask for more general, foundational knowledge about a disorder, disease, patient population, policy issue, etc.
For example, consider the PICO question outlined above:
"For adolescents with type II diabetes does the use of telehealth consultations compared to in-person consultations improve blood sugar control ?
To best make sense of the literature that might address this PICO question, you would also need a deep understanding of background questions like:
- What are the unique barriers or challenges related to blood sugar management in adolescents with TII diabetes?
- What are the measures of effective blood sugar control?
- What kinds of interventions would fall under the umbrella of 'telehealth'?
- What are the qualitative differences in patient experience in telehealth versus in-person interactions with healthcare providers?
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Creating a Good Research Question
- Advice & Growth
- Process in Practice
Successful translation of research begins with a strong question. How do you get started? How do good research questions evolve? And where do you find inspiration to generate good questions in the first place? It’s helpful to understand existing frameworks, guidelines, and standards, as well as hear from researchers who utilize these strategies in their own work.
In the fall and winter of 2020, Naomi Fisher, MD, conducted 10 interviews with clinical and translational researchers at Harvard University and affiliated academic healthcare centers, with the purpose of capturing their experiences developing good research questions. The researchers featured in this project represent various specialties, drawn from every stage of their careers. Below you will find clips from their interviews and additional resources that highlight how to get started, as well as helpful frameworks and factors to consider. Additionally, visit the Advice & Growth section to hear candid advice and explore the Process in Practice section to hear how researchers have applied these recommendations to their published research.
- Naomi Fisher, MD , is associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and clinical staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Fisher is founder and director of Hypertension Services and the Hypertension Specialty Clinic at the BWH, where she is a renowned endocrinologist. She serves as a faculty director for communication-related Boundary-Crossing Skills for Research Careers webinar sessions and the Writing and Communication Center .
- Christopher Gibbons, MD , is associate professor of neurology at HMS, and clinical staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Joslin Diabetes Center. Gibbons’ research focus is on peripheral and autonomic neuropathies.
- Clare Tempany-Afdhal, MD , is professor of radiology at HMS and the Ferenc Jolesz Chair of Research, Radiology at BWH. Her major areas of research are MR imaging of the pelvis and image- guided therapy.
- David Sykes, MD, PhD , is assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), he is also principal investigator at the Sykes Lab at MGH. His special interest area is rare hematologic conditions.
- Elliot Israel, MD , is professor of medicine at HMS, director of the Respiratory Therapy Department, the director of clinical research in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medical Division and associate physician at BWH. Israel’s research interests include therapeutic interventions to alter asthmatic airway hyperactivity and the role of arachidonic acid metabolites in airway narrowing.
- Jonathan Williams, MD, MMSc , is assistant professor of medicine at HMS, and associate physician at BWH. He focuses on endocrinology, specifically unravelling the intricate relationship between genetics and environment with respect to susceptibility to cardiometabolic disease.
- Junichi Tokuda, PhD , is associate professor of radiology at HMS, and is a research scientist at the Department of Radiology, BWH. Tokuda is particularly interested in technologies to support image-guided “closed-loop” interventions. He also serves as a principal investigator leading several projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and industry.
- Osama Rahma, MD , is assistant professor of medicine at HMS and clinical staff member in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). Rhama is currently a principal investigator at the Center for Immuno-Oncology and Gastroenterology Cancer Center at DFCI. His research focus is on drug development of combinational immune therapeutics.
- Sharmila Dorbala, MD, MPH , is professor of radiology at HMS and clinical staff at BWH in cardiovascular medicine and radiology. She is also the president of the American Society of Nuclear Medicine. Dorbala’s specialty is using nuclear medicine for cardiovascular discoveries.
- Subha Ramani, PhD, MBBS, MMed , is associate professor of medicine at HMS, as well as associate physician in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care at BWH. Ramani’s scholarly interests focus on innovative approaches to teaching, learning and assessment of clinical trainees, faculty development in teaching, and qualitative research methods in medical education.
- Ursula Kaiser, MD , is professor at HMS and chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension, and senior physician at BWH. Kaiser’s research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone regulates the expression of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone genes.
Insights on Creating a Good Research Question
Play Junichi Tokuda video
Play Ursula Kaiser video
Start Successfully: Build the Foundation of a Good Research Question
Start Successfully Resources
Ideation in Device Development: Finding Clinical Need Josh Tolkoff, MS A lecture explaining the critical importance of identifying a compelling clinical need before embarking on a research project. Play Ideation in Device Development video .
Radical Innovation Jeff Karp, PhD This ThinkResearch podcast episode focuses on one researcher’s approach using radical simplicity to break down big problems and questions. Play Radical Innovation .
Using Healthcare Data: How can Researchers Come up with Interesting Questions? Anupam Jena, MD, PhD Another ThinkResearch podcast episode addresses how to discover good research questions by using a backward design approach which involves analyzing big data and allowing the research question to unfold from findings. Play Using Healthcare Data .
Important Factors: Consider Feasibility and Novelty
Refining Your Research Question
Play video of Clare Tempany-Afdhal
Play Elliott Israel video
Frameworks and Structure: Evaluate Research Questions Using Tools and Techniques
Frameworks and Structure Resources
Designing Clinical Research Hulley et al. A comprehensive and practical guide to clinical research, including the FINER framework for evaluating research questions. Learn more about the book .
Translational Medicine Library Guide Queens University Library An introduction to popular frameworks for research questions, including FINER and PICO. Review translational medicine guide .
Asking a Good T3/T4 Question Niteesh K. Choudhry, MD, PhD This video explains the PICO framework in practice as participants in a workshop propose research questions that compare interventions. Play Asking a Good T3/T4 Question video
Introduction to Designing & Conducting Mixed Methods Research An online course that provides a deeper dive into mixed methods’ research questions and methodologies. Learn more about the course
Network and Support: Find the Collaborators and Stakeholders to Help Evaluate Research Questions
Network & Support Resource
Bench-to-bedside, Bedside-to-bench Christopher Gibbons, MD In this lecture, Gibbons shares his experience of bringing research from bench to bedside, and from bedside to bench. His talk highlights the formation and evolution of research questions based on clinical need. Play Bench-to-bedside.
- Research Process
How to Write a Research Question
- 5 minute read
Table of Contents
Writing a good Research question is the key to a successful project, regardless of whether you are writing a thesis, paper or article. Knowing the question that you are trying to answer informs your work and focuses your direction.
There are many different types of research; some want to simply inform the reader by reviewing the existing scientific information regarding a particular subject matter. Others may desire to put forward a unique hypothesis or a new perspective on the existing knowledge and theories, while others may be summarizing new research altogether. By developing a good research question , you can begin to narrow the focus of your writing to achieve its intent.
A basic research project may rest on a foundation of the existing knowledge base and expand the understanding of it to develop a new theory, or possibly to call for future research needs. On the other hand, your focus may be in taking the existing knowledge base and using it to put forth a solution to a real-life problem. Is your research delving into an under-studied area, or are you looking at a well-developed subject matter with a new twist?
Writing a research question is the first step in organizing your work and presenting it effectively to your colleagues and prospective clients. If this step is overlooked, your work will lack the laser focus required for success.
What is a Research Question?
A research question provides a guide and a purpose to your work. A good research question focuses and highlights the issue that you want to address. It should be a question that inspires thought and debate, not something that seems to have an obvious answer. At the same time, it needs to be grounded in reality and have a framework that provides a logical, step-by-step solution. There needs to be a way forward to provide an achievable solution, so it has to be focused and concise, but complex enough to allow for the totality of your work.
It also has to be something that your colleagues will find relevant to the major issues facing your field of study. Your augment has to excite the reader and capture their attention, or they will quickly move on to the next title.
Depending on the complexity of your work, whether a thesis, paper or dissertation, a good research question may develop into a series of questions that lead to your conclusion. These steps are used to connect the dots for your reader, showing the way to your solutions. Taking the time to flush out your overall questions and the steps that will provide the framework for your writing. For a deeper discussion on developing a framework , take a look at this article.
Here are some questions you will want to ask when developing your research question to make sure it’s a good one.
- Is your question focused but without an obvious answer?
- Is the question practical and the answer achievable in terms of a step-by-step solution?
- Does your question relate to your field of study and inspire thoughtful debate?
- Is laser focused but still leaves room for debate and discussion?
- Is your question challenging?
- Is your question difficult to answer without a dive into the facts and information presented?
- Does your research question offer a unique take on the subject?
It’s best when doing your investigation into a potential research question to start with a broad subject that is of interest in your field and methodically drill down to a more narrow focus. Don’t expect to arrive at your question immediately, do your research. What are the current topics focused on in your discipline? Be sure to be current with the periodicals, publications and scholarly articles in your area of study before choosing a broad subject matter.
If your subject involves numerical data versus qualitative, non-numerical data, your approach is going to vary. Here is an article regarding Clinical Questions about these two approaches: Clinical Questions: PICO and PEO .
Once you have the subject in hand, break it up into narrow problems. At this point, write down as many potential issues as possible, brainstorm without filtering to develop a list of concerns regarding your chosen subject matter. Methodically explode all aspects of the issue before you begin to narrow it down using the questions listed above.
You can begin by describing the problem and looking at the current studies that pertain to it. From there, it becomes possible to explore weak spots in the various theories and augments to see where to focus your investigation.
Depending on the complexity of your project, you may have to construct a series of related questions to then arrive at your conclusion. Just be sure that any additional questions add to the process rather than distract.
A good research question is the basic foundation to an interesting, informative and successful paper.
Research Question Examples
For this example, the general field of study is the review of the relative benefit of exercise versus dietary restriction in reducing the overall fat percentage of total body mass . In this case the question may be as follows:
How does exercise compare to diet restriction for achieving loss of body fat?
Sub-questions may be as follows:
What types of exercise are most effective in changing body composition?
What type of diets are most effective in changing body composition? How are your conclusions original and relevant to the subject?
The following is an example of a research question that pertains to a comparison of mental health care assessment in the US vs Canada . There are many ways to focus the research question. For example:
How does the US and Canadian mental health care assessment for outcomes differ for patients within a short-term acute care facility?
How does the assessment in short-term facilities correlate to long-term outcomes in mental health in the US versus Canada?
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How to Write a Good Research Question (w/ Examples)
What is a Research Question?
A research question is the main question that your study sought or is seeking to answer. A clear research question guides your research paper or thesis and states exactly what you want to find out, giving your work a focus and objective. Learning how to write a hypothesis or research question is the start to composing any thesis, dissertation, or research paper. It is also one of the most important sections of a research proposal .
A good research question not only clarifies the writing in your study; it provides your readers with a clear focus and facilitates their understanding of your research topic, as well as outlining your study’s objectives. Before drafting the paper and receiving research paper editing (and usually before performing your study), you should write a concise statement of what this study intends to accomplish or reveal.
Research Question Writing Tips
Listed below are the important characteristics of a good research question:
A good research question should:
- Be clear and provide specific information so readers can easily understand the purpose.
- Be focused in its scope and narrow enough to be addressed in the space allowed by your paper
- Be relevant and concise and express your main ideas in as few words as possible, like a hypothesis.
- Be precise and complex enough that it does not simply answer a closed “yes or no” question, but requires an analysis of arguments and literature prior to its being considered acceptable.
- Be arguable or testable so that answers to the research question are open to scrutiny and specific questions and counterarguments.
Some of these characteristics might be difficult to understand in the form of a list. Let’s go into more detail about what a research question must do and look at some examples of research questions.
The research question should be specific and focused
Research questions that are too broad are not suitable to be addressed in a single study. One reason for this can be if there are many factors or variables to consider. In addition, a sample data set that is too large or an experimental timeline that is too long may suggest that the research question is not focused enough.
A specific research question means that the collective data and observations come together to either confirm or deny the chosen hypothesis in a clear manner. If a research question is too vague, then the data might end up creating an alternate research problem or hypothesis that you haven’t addressed in your Introduction section .
The research question should be based on the literature
An effective research question should be answerable and verifiable based on prior research because an effective scientific study must be placed in the context of a wider academic consensus. This means that conspiracy or fringe theories are not good research paper topics.
Instead, a good research question must extend, examine, and verify the context of your research field. It should fit naturally within the literature and be searchable by other research authors.
References to the literature can be in different citation styles and must be properly formatted according to the guidelines set forth by the publishing journal, university, or academic institution. This includes in-text citations as well as the Reference section .
The research question should be realistic in time, scope, and budget
There are two main constraints to the research process: timeframe and budget.
A proper research question will include study or experimental procedures that can be executed within a feasible time frame, typically by a graduate doctoral or master’s student or lab technician. Research that requires future technology, expensive resources, or follow-up procedures is problematic.
A researcher’s budget is also a major constraint to performing timely research. Research at many large universities or institutions is publicly funded and is thus accountable to funding restrictions.
The research question should be in-depth
Research papers, dissertations and theses , and academic journal articles are usually dozens if not hundreds of pages in length.
A good research question or thesis statement must be sufficiently complex to warrant such a length, as it must stand up to the scrutiny of peer review and be reproducible by other scientists and researchers.
Research Question Types
Qualitative and quantitative research are the two major types of research, and it is essential to develop research questions for each type of study.
Quantitative Research Questions
Quantitative research questions are specific. A typical research question involves the population to be studied, dependent and independent variables, and the research design.
In addition, quantitative research questions connect the research question and the research design. In addition, it is not possible to answer these questions definitively with a “yes” or “no” response. For example, scientific fields such as biology, physics, and chemistry often deal with “states,” in which different quantities, amounts, or velocities drastically alter the relevance of the research.
As a consequence, quantitative research questions do not contain qualitative, categorical, or ordinal qualifiers such as “is,” “are,” “does,” or “does not.”
Categories of quantitative research questions
Qualitative research questions.
In quantitative research, research questions have the potential to relate to broad research areas as well as more specific areas of study. Qualitative research questions are less directional, more flexible, and adaptable compared with their quantitative counterparts. Thus, studies based on these questions tend to focus on “discovering,” “explaining,” “elucidating,” and “exploring.”
Categories of qualitative research questions
Quantitative and qualitative research question examples.
Good and Bad Research Question Examples
Below are some good (and not-so-good) examples of research questions that researchers can use to guide them in crafting their own research questions.
Research Question Example 1
The first research question is too vague in both its independent and dependent variables. There is no specific information on what “exposure” means. Does this refer to comments, likes, engagement, or just how much time is spent on the social media platform?
Second, there is no useful information on what exactly “affected” means. Does the subject’s behavior change in some measurable way? Or does this term refer to another factor such as the user’s emotions?
Research Question Example 2
In this research question, the first example is too simple and not sufficiently complex, making it difficult to assess whether the study answered the question. The author could really only answer this question with a simple “yes” or “no.” Further, the presence of data would not help answer this question more deeply, which is a sure sign of a poorly constructed research topic.
The second research question is specific, complex, and empirically verifiable. One can measure program effectiveness based on metrics such as attendance or grades. Further, “bullying” is made into an empirical, quantitative measurement in the form of recorded disciplinary actions.
Steps for Writing a Research Question
Good research questions are relevant, focused, and meaningful. It can be difficult to come up with a good research question, but there are a few steps you can follow to make it a bit easier.
1. Start with an interesting and relevant topic
Choose a research topic that is interesting but also relevant and aligned with your own country’s culture or your university’s capabilities. Popular academic topics include healthcare and medical-related research. However, if you are attending an engineering school or humanities program, you should obviously choose a research question that pertains to your specific study and major.
Below is an embedded graph of the most popular research fields of study based on publication output according to region. As you can see, healthcare and the basic sciences receive the most funding and earn the highest number of publications.
2. Do preliminary research
You can begin doing preliminary research once you have chosen a research topic. Two objectives should be accomplished during this first phase of research. First, you should undertake a preliminary review of related literature to discover issues that scholars and peers are currently discussing. With this method, you show that you are informed about the latest developments in the field.
Secondly, identify knowledge gaps or limitations in your topic by conducting a preliminary literature review . It is possible to later use these gaps to focus your research question after a certain amount of fine-tuning.
3. Narrow your research to determine specific research questions
You can focus on a more specific area of study once you have a good handle on the topic you want to explore. Focusing on recent literature or knowledge gaps is one good option.
By identifying study limitations in the literature and overlooked areas of study, an author can carve out a good research question. The same is true for choosing research questions that extend or complement existing literature.
4. Evaluate your research question
Make sure you evaluate the research question by asking the following questions:
Is my research question clear?
The resulting data and observations that your study produces should be clear. For quantitative studies, data must be empirical and measurable. For qualitative, the observations should be clearly delineable across categories.
Is my research question focused and specific?
A strong research question should be specific enough that your methodology or testing procedure produces an objective result, not one left to subjective interpretation. Open-ended research questions or those relating to general topics can create ambiguous connections between the results and the aims of the study.
Is my research question sufficiently complex?
The result of your research should be consequential and substantial (and fall sufficiently within the context of your field) to warrant an academic study. Simply reinforcing or supporting a scientific consensus is superfluous and will likely not be well received by most journal editors.
Editing Your Research Question
Your research question should be fully formulated well before you begin drafting your research paper. However, you can receive English paper editing and proofreading services at any point in the drafting process. Language editors with expertise in your academic field can assist you with the content and language in your Introduction section or other manuscript sections. And if you need further assistance or information regarding paper compositions, in the meantime, check out our academic resources , which provide dozens of articles and videos on a variety of academic writing and publication topics.
Research Question Examples 🧑🏻🏫
25+ Practical Examples & Ideas To Help You Get Started
By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | October 2023
A well-crafted research question (or set of questions) sets the stage for a robust study and meaningful insights. But, if you’re new to research, it’s not always clear what exactly constitutes a good research question. In this post, we’ll provide you with clear examples of quality research questions across various disciplines, so that you can approach your research project with confidence!
Research Question Examples
- Psychology research questions
- Business research questions
- Education research questions
- Healthcare research questions
- Computer science research questions
Let’s start by looking at some examples of research questions that you might encounter within the discipline of psychology.
How does sleep quality affect academic performance in university students?
This question is specific to a population (university students) and looks at a direct relationship between sleep and academic performance, both of which are quantifiable and measurable variables.
What factors contribute to the onset of anxiety disorders in adolescents?
The question narrows down the age group and focuses on identifying multiple contributing factors. There are various ways in which it could be approached from a methodological standpoint, including both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Do mindfulness techniques improve emotional well-being?
This is a focused research question aiming to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific intervention.
How does early childhood trauma impact adult relationships?
This research question targets a clear cause-and-effect relationship over a long timescale, making it focused but comprehensive.
Is there a correlation between screen time and depression in teenagers?
This research question focuses on an in-demand current issue and a specific demographic, allowing for a focused investigation. The key variables are clearly stated within the question and can be measured and analysed (i.e., high feasibility).
Next, let’s look at some examples of well-articulated research questions within the business and management realm.
How do leadership styles impact employee retention?
This is an example of a strong research question because it directly looks at the effect of one variable (leadership styles) on another (employee retention), allowing from a strongly aligned methodological approach.
What role does corporate social responsibility play in consumer choice?
Current and precise, this research question can reveal how social concerns are influencing buying behaviour by way of a qualitative exploration.
Does remote work increase or decrease productivity in tech companies?
Focused on a particular industry and a hot topic, this research question could yield timely, actionable insights that would have high practical value in the real world.
How do economic downturns affect small businesses in the homebuilding industry?
Vital for policy-making, this highly specific research question aims to uncover the challenges faced by small businesses within a certain industry.
Which employee benefits have the greatest impact on job satisfaction?
By being straightforward and specific, answering this research question could provide tangible insights to employers.
Next, let’s look at some potential research questions within the education, training and development domain.
How does class size affect students’ academic performance in primary schools?
This example research question targets two clearly defined variables, which can be measured and analysed relatively easily.
Do online courses result in better retention of material than traditional courses?
Timely, specific and focused, answering this research question can help inform educational policy and personal choices about learning formats.
What impact do US public school lunches have on student health?
Targeting a specific, well-defined context, the research could lead to direct changes in public health policies.
To what degree does parental involvement improve academic outcomes in secondary education in the Midwest?
This research question focuses on a specific context (secondary education in the Midwest) and has clearly defined constructs.
What are the negative effects of standardised tests on student learning within Oklahoma primary schools?
This research question has a clear focus (negative outcomes) and is narrowed into a very specific context.
Need a helping hand?
Shifting to a different field, let’s look at some examples of research questions within the healthcare space.
What are the most effective treatments for chronic back pain amongst UK senior males?
Specific and solution-oriented, this research question focuses on clear variables and a well-defined context (senior males within the UK).
How do different healthcare policies affect patient satisfaction in public hospitals in South Africa?
This question is has clearly defined variables and is narrowly focused in terms of context.
Which factors contribute to obesity rates in urban areas within California?
This question is focused yet broad, aiming to reveal several contributing factors for targeted interventions.
Does telemedicine provide the same perceived quality of care as in-person visits for diabetes patients?
Ideal for a qualitative study, this research question explores a single construct (perceived quality of care) within a well-defined sample (diabetes patients).
Which lifestyle factors have the greatest affect on the risk of heart disease?
This research question aims to uncover modifiable factors, offering preventive health recommendations.
Examples: Computer Science
Last but certainly not least, let’s look at a few examples of research questions within the computer science world.
What are the perceived risks of cloud-based storage systems?
Highly relevant in our digital age, this research question would align well with a qualitative interview approach to better understand what users feel the key risks of cloud storage are.
Which factors affect the energy efficiency of data centres in Ohio?
With a clear focus, this research question lays a firm foundation for a quantitative study.
How do TikTok algorithms impact user behaviour amongst new graduates?
While this research question is more open-ended, it could form the basis for a qualitative investigation.
What are the perceived risk and benefits of open-source software software within the web design industry?
Practical and straightforward, the results could guide both developers and end-users in their choices.
Remember, these are just examples…
In this post, we’ve tried to provide a wide range of research question examples to help you get a feel for what research questions look like in practice. That said, it’s important to remember that these are just examples and don’t necessarily equate to good research topics . If you’re still trying to find a topic, check out our topic megalist for inspiration.
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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Think Like a Researcher: Instruction Resources: #6 Developing Successful Research Questions
- Guide Organization
- Overall Summary
- #1 Think Like a Researcher!
- #2 How to Read a Scholarly Article
- #3 Reading for Keywords (CREDO)
- #4 Using Google for Academic Research
- #4 Using Google for Academic Research (Alternate)
- #5 Integrating Sources
- Research Question Discussion
- #7 Avoiding Researcher Bias
- #8 Understanding the Information Cycle
- #9 Exploring Databases
- #10 Library Session
- #11 Post Library Session Activities
- Summary - Readings
- Summary - Research Journal Prompts
- Summary - Key Assignments
- Jigsaw Readings
- Permission Form
Course Learning Outcome: Develop ability to synthesize and express complex ideas; demonstrate information literacy and be able to work with evidence
Goal: Develop students’ ability to recognize and create successful research questions
Specifically, students will be able to
- identify the components of a successful research question.
- create a viable research question.
What Makes a Good Research Topic Handout
These handouts are intended to be used as a discussion generator that will help students develop a solid research topic or question. Many students start with topics that are poorly articulated, too broad, unarguable, or are socially insignificant. Each of these problems may result in a topic that is virtually un-researchable. Starting with a researchable topic is critical to writing an effective paper.
Research shows that students are much more invested in writing when they are able to choose their own topics. However, there is also research to support the notion that students are completely overwhelmed and frustrated when they are given complete freedom to write about whatever they choose. Providing some structure or topic themes that allow students to make bounded choices may be a way mitigate these competing realities.
These handouts can be modified or edited for your purposes. One can be used as a handout for students while the other can serve as a sample answer key. The document is best used as part of a process. For instance, perhaps starting with discussing the issues and potential research questions, moving on to problems and social significance but returning to proposals/solutions at a later date.
- Research Questions - Handout Key (2 pgs) This document is a condensed version of "What Makes a Good Research Topic". It serves as a key.
- Research Questions - Handout for Students (2 pgs) This document could be used with a class to discuss sample research questions (are they suitable?) and to have them start thinking about problems, social significance, and solutions for additional sample research questions.
- Research Question Discussion This tab includes materials for introduction students to research question criteria for a problem/solution essay.
These documents have similarities to those above. They represent original documents and conversations about research questions from previous TRAIL trainings.
- What Makes a Good Research Topic? - Original Handout (4 pgs)
- What Makes a Good Research Topic? Revised Jan. 2016 (4 pgs)
- What Makes a Good Research Topic? Revised Jan 2016 with comments
Topic Selection (NCSU Libraries)
Howard, Rebecca Moore, Tricia Serviss, and Tanya K. Rodrigues. " Writing from sources, writing from sentences ." Writing & Pedagogy 2.2 (2010): 177-192.
Assign after students have participated in the Developing Successful Research Topics/Questions Lesson OR have drafted a Research Proposal.
Think about your potential research question.
- What is the problem that underlies your question?
- Is the problem of social significance? Explain.
- Is your proposed solution to the problem feasible? Explain.
- Do you think there is evidence to support your solution?
Keys for Writers - Additional Resource
Keys for Writers (Raimes and Miller-Cochran) includes a section to guide students in the formation of an arguable claim (thesis). The authors advise students to avoid the following since they are not debatable.
- "a neutral statement, which gives no hint of the writer's position"
- "an announcement of the paper's broad subject"
- "a fact, which is not arguable"
- "a truism (statement that is obviously true)"
- "a personal or religious conviction that cannot be logically debated"
- "an opinion based only on your feelings"
- "a sweeping generalization" (Section 4C, pg. 52)
The book also provides examples and key points (pg. 53) for a good working thesis.
- << Previous: #5 Integrating Sources
- Next: Research Question Discussion >>
- Last Updated: Sep 29, 2023 2:51 PM
- URL: https://libguides.ucmerced.edu/think_like_a_researcher
How to Develop a Good Research Question? — Types & Examples
Cecilia is living through a tough situation in her research life. Figuring out where to begin, how to start her research study, and how to pose the right question for her research quest, is driving her insane. Well, questions, if not asked correctly, have a tendency to spiral us!
Image Source: https://phdcomics.com/
Questions lead everyone to answers. Research is a quest to find answers. Not the vague questions that Cecilia means to answer, but definitely more focused questions that define your research. Therefore, asking appropriate question becomes an important matter of discussion.
A well begun research process requires a strong research question. It directs the research investigation and provides a clear goal to focus on. Understanding the characteristics of comprising a good research question will generate new ideas and help you discover new methods in research.
In this article, we are aiming to help researchers understand what is a research question and how to write one with examples.
Table of Contents
What Is a Research Question?
A good research question defines your study and helps you seek an answer to your research. Moreover, a clear research question guides the research paper or thesis to define exactly what you want to find out, giving your work its objective. Learning to write a research question is the beginning to any thesis, dissertation , or research paper. Furthermore, the question addresses issues or problems which is answered through analysis and interpretation of data.
Why Is a Research Question Important?
A strong research question guides the design of a study. Moreover, it helps determine the type of research and identify specific objectives. Research questions state the specific issue you are addressing and focus on outcomes of the research for individuals to learn. Therefore, it helps break up the study into easy steps to complete the objectives and answer the initial question.
Types of Research Questions
Research questions can be categorized into different types, depending on the type of research you want to undergo. Furthermore, knowing the type of research will help a researcher determine the best type of research question to use.
1. Qualitative Research Question
Qualitative questions concern broad areas or more specific areas of research. However, unlike quantitative questions, qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional and more flexible. Qualitative research question focus on discovering, explaining, elucidating, and exploring.
i. Exploratory Questions
This form of question looks to understand something without influencing the results. The objective of exploratory questions is to learn more about a topic without attributing bias or preconceived notions to it.
Research Question Example: Asking how a chemical is used or perceptions around a certain topic.
ii. Predictive Questions
Predictive research questions are defined as survey questions that automatically predict the best possible response options based on text of the question. Moreover, these questions seek to understand the intent or future outcome surrounding a topic.
Research Question Example: Asking why a consumer behaves in a certain way or chooses a certain option over other.
iii. Interpretive Questions
This type of research question allows the study of people in the natural setting. The questions help understand how a group makes sense of shared experiences with regards to various phenomena. These studies gather feedback on a group’s behavior without affecting the outcome.
Research Question Example: How do you feel about AI assisting publishing process in your research?
2. Quantitative Research Question
Quantitative questions prove or disprove a researcher’s hypothesis through descriptions, comparisons, and relationships. These questions are beneficial when choosing a research topic or when posing follow-up questions that garner more information.
i. Descriptive Questions
It is the most basic type of quantitative research question and it seeks to explain when, where, why, or how something occurred. Moreover, they use data and statistics to describe an event or phenomenon.
Research Question Example: How many generations of genes influence a future generation?
ii. Comparative Questions
Sometimes it’s beneficial to compare one occurrence with another. Therefore, comparative questions are helpful when studying groups with dependent variables.
Example: Do men and women have comparable metabolisms?
iii. Relationship-Based Questions
This type of research question answers influence of one variable on another. Therefore, experimental studies use this type of research questions are majorly.
Example: How is drought condition affect a region’s probability for wildfires.
How to Write a Good Research Question?
1. Select a Topic
The first step towards writing a good research question is to choose a broad topic of research. You could choose a research topic that interests you, because the complete research will progress further from the research question. Therefore, make sure to choose a topic that you are passionate about, to make your research study more enjoyable.
2. Conduct Preliminary Research
After finalizing the topic, read and know about what research studies are conducted in the field so far. Furthermore, this will help you find articles that talk about the topics that are yet to be explored. You could explore the topics that the earlier research has not studied.
3. Consider Your Audience
The most important aspect of writing a good research question is to find out if there is audience interested to know the answer to the question you are proposing. Moreover, determining your audience will assist you in refining your research question, and focus on aspects that relate to defined groups.
4. Generate Potential Questions
The best way to generate potential questions is to ask open ended questions. Questioning broader topics will allow you to narrow down to specific questions. Identifying the gaps in literature could also give you topics to write the research question. Moreover, you could also challenge the existing assumptions or use personal experiences to redefine issues in research.
5. Review Your Questions
Once you have listed few of your questions, evaluate them to find out if they are effective research questions. Moreover while reviewing, go through the finer details of the question and its probable outcome, and find out if the question meets the research question criteria.
6. Construct Your Research Question
There are two frameworks to construct your research question. The first one being PICOT framework , which stands for:
- Population or problem
- Intervention or indicator being studied
- Comparison group
- Outcome of interest
- Time frame of the study.
The second framework is PEO , which stands for:
- Population being studied
- Exposure to preexisting conditions
- Outcome of interest.
Research Question Examples
- How might the discovery of a genetic basis for alcoholism impact triage processes in medical facilities?
- How do ecological systems respond to chronic anthropological disturbance?
- What are demographic consequences of ecological interactions?
- What roles do fungi play in wildfire recovery?
- How do feedbacks reinforce patterns of genetic divergence on the landscape?
- What educational strategies help encourage safe driving in young adults?
- What makes a grocery store easy for shoppers to navigate?
- What genetic factors predict if someone will develop hypothyroidism?
- Does contemporary evolution along the gradients of global change alter ecosystems function?
How did you write your first research question ? What were the steps you followed to create a strong research question? Do write to us or comment below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Research questions guide the focus and direction of a research study. Here are common types of research questions: 1. Qualitative research question: Qualitative questions concern broad areas or more specific areas of research. However, unlike quantitative questions, qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional and more flexible. Different types of qualitative research questions are: i. Exploratory questions ii. Predictive questions iii. Interpretive questions 2. Quantitative Research Question: Quantitative questions prove or disprove a researcher’s hypothesis through descriptions, comparisons, and relationships. These questions are beneficial when choosing a research topic or when posing follow-up questions that garner more information. Different types of quantitative research questions are: i. Descriptive questions ii. Comparative questions iii. Relationship-based questions
Qualitative research questions aim to explore the richness and depth of participants' experiences and perspectives. They should guide your research and allow for in-depth exploration of the phenomenon under investigation. After identifying the research topic and the purpose of your research: • Begin with Broad Inquiry: Start with a general research question that captures the main focus of your study. This question should be open-ended and allow for exploration. • Break Down the Main Question: Identify specific aspects or dimensions related to the main research question that you want to investigate. • Formulate Sub-questions: Create sub-questions that delve deeper into each specific aspect or dimension identified in the previous step. • Ensure Open-endedness: Make sure your research questions are open-ended and allow for varied responses and perspectives. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Encourage participants to share their experiences, opinions, and perceptions in their own words. • Refine and Review: Review your research questions to ensure they align with your research purpose, topic, and objectives. Seek feedback from your research advisor or peers to refine and improve your research questions.
Developing research questions requires careful consideration of the research topic, objectives, and the type of study you intend to conduct. Here are the steps to help you develop effective research questions: 1. Select a Topic 2. Conduct Preliminary Research 3. Consider Your Audience 4. Generate Potential Questions 5. Review Your Questions 6. Construct Your Research Question Based on PICOT or PEO Framework
There are two frameworks to construct your research question. The first one being PICOT framework, which stands for: • Population or problem • Intervention or indicator being studied • Comparison group • Outcome of interest • Time frame of the study The second framework is PEO, which stands for: • Population being studied • Exposure to preexisting conditions • Outcome of interest
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Home » Research Questions – Types, Examples and Writing Guide
Research Questions – Types, Examples and Writing Guide
Table of Contents
Research questions are the specific questions that guide a research study or inquiry. These questions help to define the scope of the research and provide a clear focus for the study. Research questions are usually developed at the beginning of a research project and are designed to address a particular research problem or objective.
Types of Research Questions
Types of Research Questions are as follows:
Descriptive Research Questions
These aim to describe a particular phenomenon, group, or situation. For example:
- What are the characteristics of the target population?
- What is the prevalence of a particular disease in a specific region?
Exploratory Research Questions
These aim to explore a new area of research or generate new ideas or hypotheses. For example:
- What are the potential causes of a particular phenomenon?
- What are the possible outcomes of a specific intervention?
Explanatory Research Questions
These aim to understand the relationship between two or more variables or to explain why a particular phenomenon occurs. For example:
- What is the effect of a specific drug on the symptoms of a particular disease?
- What are the factors that contribute to employee turnover in a particular industry?
Predictive Research Questions
These aim to predict a future outcome or trend based on existing data or trends. For example :
- What will be the future demand for a particular product or service?
- What will be the future prevalence of a particular disease?
Evaluative Research Questions
These aim to evaluate the effectiveness of a particular intervention or program. For example:
- What is the impact of a specific educational program on student learning outcomes?
- What is the effectiveness of a particular policy or program in achieving its intended goals?
How to Choose Research Questions
Choosing research questions is an essential part of the research process and involves careful consideration of the research problem, objectives, and design. Here are some steps to consider when choosing research questions:
- Identify the research problem: Start by identifying the problem or issue that you want to study. This could be a gap in the literature, a social or economic issue, or a practical problem that needs to be addressed.
- Conduct a literature review: Conducting a literature review can help you identify existing research in your area of interest and can help you formulate research questions that address gaps or limitations in the existing literature.
- Define the research objectives : Clearly define the objectives of your research. What do you want to achieve with your study? What specific questions do you want to answer?
- Consider the research design : Consider the research design that you plan to use. This will help you determine the appropriate types of research questions to ask. For example, if you plan to use a qualitative approach, you may want to focus on exploratory or descriptive research questions.
- Ensure that the research questions are clear and answerable: Your research questions should be clear and specific, and should be answerable with the data that you plan to collect. Avoid asking questions that are too broad or vague.
- Get feedback : Get feedback from your supervisor, colleagues, or peers to ensure that your research questions are relevant, feasible, and meaningful.
How to Write Research Questions
Guide for Writing Research Questions:
- Start with a clear statement of the research problem: Begin by stating the problem or issue that your research aims to address. This will help you to formulate focused research questions.
- Use clear language : Write your research questions in clear and concise language that is easy to understand. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to your readers.
- Be specific: Your research questions should be specific and focused. Avoid broad questions that are difficult to answer. For example, instead of asking “What is the impact of climate change on the environment?” ask “What are the effects of rising sea levels on coastal ecosystems?”
- Use appropriate question types: Choose the appropriate question types based on the research design and objectives. For example, if you are conducting a qualitative study, you may want to use open-ended questions that allow participants to provide detailed responses.
- Consider the feasibility of your questions : Ensure that your research questions are feasible and can be answered with the resources available. Consider the data sources and methods of data collection when writing your questions.
- Seek feedback: Get feedback from your supervisor, colleagues, or peers to ensure that your research questions are relevant, appropriate, and meaningful.
Examples of Research Questions
Some Examples of Research Questions with Research Titles:
Research Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health
- Research Question : What is the relationship between social media use and mental health, and how does this impact individuals’ well-being?
Research Title: Factors Influencing Academic Success in High School
- Research Question: What are the primary factors that influence academic success in high school, and how do they contribute to student achievement?
Research Title: The Effects of Exercise on Physical and Mental Health
- Research Question: What is the relationship between exercise and physical and mental health, and how can exercise be used as a tool to improve overall well-being?
Research Title: Understanding the Factors that Influence Consumer Purchasing Decisions
- Research Question : What are the key factors that influence consumer purchasing decisions, and how do these factors vary across different demographics and products?
Research Title: The Impact of Technology on Communication
- Research Question : How has technology impacted communication patterns, and what are the effects of these changes on interpersonal relationships and society as a whole?
Research Title: Investigating the Relationship between Parenting Styles and Child Development
- Research Question: What is the relationship between different parenting styles and child development outcomes, and how do these outcomes vary across different ages and developmental stages?
Research Title: The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Treating Anxiety Disorders
- Research Question: How effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy in treating anxiety disorders, and what factors contribute to its success or failure in different patients?
Research Title: The Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity
- Research Question : How is climate change affecting global biodiversity, and what can be done to mitigate the negative effects on natural ecosystems?
Research Title: Exploring the Relationship between Cultural Diversity and Workplace Productivity
- Research Question : How does cultural diversity impact workplace productivity, and what strategies can be employed to maximize the benefits of a diverse workforce?
Research Title: The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare
- Research Question: How can artificial intelligence be leveraged to improve healthcare outcomes, and what are the potential risks and ethical concerns associated with its use?
Applications of Research Questions
Here are some of the key applications of research questions:
- Defining the scope of the study : Research questions help researchers to narrow down the scope of their study and identify the specific issues they want to investigate.
- Developing hypotheses: Research questions often lead to the development of hypotheses, which are testable predictions about the relationship between variables. Hypotheses provide a clear and focused direction for the study.
- Designing the study : Research questions guide the design of the study, including the selection of participants, the collection of data, and the analysis of results.
- Collecting data : Research questions inform the selection of appropriate methods for collecting data, such as surveys, interviews, or experiments.
- Analyzing data : Research questions guide the analysis of data, including the selection of appropriate statistical tests and the interpretation of results.
- Communicating results : Research questions help researchers to communicate the results of their study in a clear and concise manner. The research questions provide a framework for discussing the findings and drawing conclusions.
Characteristics of Research Questions
Characteristics of Research Questions are as follows:
- Clear and Specific : A good research question should be clear and specific. It should clearly state what the research is trying to investigate and what kind of data is required.
- Relevant : The research question should be relevant to the study and should address a current issue or problem in the field of research.
- Testable : The research question should be testable through empirical evidence. It should be possible to collect data to answer the research question.
- Concise : The research question should be concise and focused. It should not be too broad or too narrow.
- Feasible : The research question should be feasible to answer within the constraints of the research design, time frame, and available resources.
- Original : The research question should be original and should contribute to the existing knowledge in the field of research.
- Significant : The research question should have significance and importance to the field of research. It should have the potential to provide new insights and knowledge to the field.
- Ethical : The research question should be ethical and should not cause harm to any individuals or groups involved in the study.
Purpose of Research Questions
Research questions are the foundation of any research study as they guide the research process and provide a clear direction to the researcher. The purpose of research questions is to identify the scope and boundaries of the study, and to establish the goals and objectives of the research.
The main purpose of research questions is to help the researcher to focus on the specific area or problem that needs to be investigated. They enable the researcher to develop a research design, select the appropriate methods and tools for data collection and analysis, and to organize the results in a meaningful way.
Research questions also help to establish the relevance and significance of the study. They define the research problem, and determine the research methodology that will be used to address the problem. Research questions also help to determine the type of data that will be collected, and how it will be analyzed and interpreted.
Finally, research questions provide a framework for evaluating the results of the research. They help to establish the validity and reliability of the data, and provide a basis for drawing conclusions and making recommendations based on the findings of the study.
Advantages of Research Questions
There are several advantages of research questions in the research process, including:
- Focus : Research questions help to focus the research by providing a clear direction for the study. They define the specific area of investigation and provide a framework for the research design.
- Clarity : Research questions help to clarify the purpose and objectives of the study, which can make it easier for the researcher to communicate the research aims to others.
- Relevance : Research questions help to ensure that the study is relevant and meaningful. By asking relevant and important questions, the researcher can ensure that the study will contribute to the existing body of knowledge and address important issues.
- Consistency : Research questions help to ensure consistency in the research process by providing a framework for the development of the research design, data collection, and analysis.
- Measurability : Research questions help to ensure that the study is measurable by defining the specific variables and outcomes that will be measured.
- Replication : Research questions help to ensure that the study can be replicated by providing a clear and detailed description of the research aims, methods, and outcomes. This makes it easier for other researchers to replicate the study and verify the results.
Limitations of Research Questions
Limitations of Research Questions are as follows:
- Subjectivity : Research questions are often subjective and can be influenced by personal biases and perspectives of the researcher. This can lead to a limited understanding of the research problem and may affect the validity and reliability of the study.
- Inadequate scope : Research questions that are too narrow in scope may limit the breadth of the study, while questions that are too broad may make it difficult to focus on specific research objectives.
- Unanswerable questions : Some research questions may not be answerable due to the lack of available data or limitations in research methods. In such cases, the research question may need to be rephrased or modified to make it more answerable.
- Lack of clarity : Research questions that are poorly worded or ambiguous can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. This can result in incomplete or inaccurate data, which may compromise the validity of the study.
- Difficulty in measuring variables : Some research questions may involve variables that are difficult to measure or quantify, making it challenging to draw meaningful conclusions from the data.
- Lack of generalizability: Research questions that are too specific or limited in scope may not be generalizable to other contexts or populations. This can limit the applicability of the study’s findings and restrict its broader implications.
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Educational resources and simple solutions for your research journey
How to craft a strong research question (with research question examples)
A sound and effective research question is a key element that must be identified and pinned down before researchers can even begin their research study or work. A strong research question lays the foundation for your entire study, guiding your investigation and shaping your findings. Hence, it is critical that researchers spend considerable time assessing and refining the research question based on in-depth reading and comprehensive literature review. In this article, we will discuss how to write a strong research question and provide you with some good examples of research questions across various disciplines.
Table of Contents
The importance of a research question
A research question plays a crucial role in driving scientific inquiry, setting the direction and purpose of your study, and guiding your entire research process. By formulating a clear and focused research question, you lay the foundation for your investigation, ensuring that your research remains on track and aligned with your objectives so you can make meaningful contribution to the existing body of knowledge. A well-crafted research question also helps you define the scope of your study and identify the appropriate methodologies and data collection techniques to employ.
Key components of a strong research question
A good research question possesses several key components that contribute to the quality and impact of your study. Apart from providing a clear framework to generate meaningful results, a well-defined research question allows other researchers to understand the purpose and significance of your work. So, when working on your research question, incorporate the following elements:
- Specificity : A strong research question should be specific about the main focus of your study, enabling you to gather precise data and draw accurate conclusions. It clearly defines the variables, participants, and context involved, leaving no room for ambiguity.
- Clarity : A good research question is clear and easily understood, so articulate the purpose and intent of your study concisely without being generic or vague. Ensuring clarity in your research question helps both you and your readers grasp the research objective.
- Feasibility : While crafting a research question, consider the practicality of conducting the research and availability of necessary data or access to participants. Think whether your study is realistic and achievable within the constraints of time, resources, and ethical considerations.
How to craft a well-defined research question
A first step that will help save time and effort is knowing what your aims are and thinking about a few problem statements on the area or aspect one wants to study or do research on. Contemplating these statements as one undertakes more progressive reading can help the researcher in reassessing and fine-tuning the research question. This can be done over time as they read and learn more about the research topic, along with a broad literature review and parallel discussions with peer researchers and supervisors. In some cases, a researcher can have more than one research question if the research being undertaken is a PhD thesis or dissertation, but try not to cover multiple concerns on a topic.
A strong research question must be researchable, original, complex, and relevant. Here are five simple steps that can make the entire process easier.
- Identify a broad topic from your areas of interest, something that is relevant, and you are passionate about since you’ll be spending a lot of time conducting your research.
- Do a thorough literature review to weed out potential gaps in research and stay updated on what’s currently being done in your chosen topic and subject area.
- Shortlist possible research questions based on the research gaps or see how you can build on or refute previously published ideas and concepts.
- Assess your chosen research question using the FINER criteria that helps you evaluate whether the research is Feasible, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, and Relevant. 1
- Formulate the final research question, while ensuring it is clear, well-written, and addresses all the key elements of a strong research question.
Examples of research questions
Remember to adapt your research question to suit your purpose, whether it’s exploratory, descriptive, comparative, experimental, qualitative, or quantitative. Embrace the iterative nature of the research process, continually evaluating and refining your question as you progress. Here are some good examples of research questions across various disciplines.
Exploratory research question examples
- How does social media impact interpersonal relationships among teenagers?
- What are the potential benefits of incorporating mindfulness practices in the workplace?
Descriptive research question examples
- What factors influence customer loyalty in the e-commerce industry?
- Is there a relationship between socioeconomic status and academic performance among elementary school students?
Comparative research question examples
- How does the effectiveness of traditional teaching methods compare to online learning platforms in mathematics education?
- What is the impact of different healthcare policies on patient outcomes in various countries?
Experimental research question examples
- What are the effects of a new drug on reducing symptoms of a specific medical condition?
- Does a dietary intervention have an impact on weight loss among individuals with obesity?
Qualitative research question examples
- What are the lived experiences of immigrants adapting to a new culture?
- What factors influence job satisfaction among healthcare professionals?
Quantitative research question examples
- Is there a relationship between sleep duration and academic performance among college students?
- How effective is a specific intervention in reducing anxiety levels among individuals with phobias?
With these simple guidelines and inspiring examples of research questions, you are equipped to embark on your research journey with confidence and purpose. Here’s wishing you all the best for your future endeavors!
- How to write a research question: Steps and examples. Indeed Career Guide. Available online at https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-write-research-questions
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83 Qualitative Research Questions & Examples
Qualitative research questions help you understand consumer sentiment. They’re strategically designed to show organizations how and why people feel the way they do about a brand, product, or service. It looks beyond the numbers and is one of the most telling types of market research a company can do.
The UK Data Service describes this perfectly, saying, “The value of qualitative research is that it gives a voice to the lived experience .”
Read on to see seven use cases and 83 qualitative research questions, with the added bonus of examples that show how to get similar insights faster with Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence.
What is a qualitative research question?
A qualitative research question explores a topic in-depth, aiming to better understand the subject through interviews, observations, and other non-numerical data. Qualitative research questions are open-ended, helping to uncover a target audience’s opinions, beliefs, and motivations.
How to choose qualitative research questions?
Choosing the right qualitative research questions can be incremental to the success of your research and the findings you uncover. Here’s my six-step process for choosing the best qualitative research questions.
- Start by understanding the purpose of your research. What do you want to learn? What outcome are you hoping to achieve?
- Consider who you are researching. What are their experiences, attitudes, and beliefs? How can you best capture these in your research questions ?
- Keep your questions open-ended . Qualitative research questions should not be too narrow or too broad. Aim to ask specific questions to provide meaningful answers but broad enough to allow for exploration.
- Balance your research questions. You don’t want all of your questions to be the same type. Aim to mix up your questions to get a variety of answers.
- Ensure your research questions are ethical and free from bias. Always have a second (and third) person check for unconscious bias.
- Consider the language you use. Your questions should be written in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Avoid using jargon , acronyms, or overly technical language.
Types of qualitative research questions
For a question to be considered qualitative, it usually needs to be open-ended. However, as I’ll explain, there can sometimes be a slight cross-over between quantitative and qualitative research questions.
These allow for a wide range of responses and can be formatted with multiple-choice answers or a free-text box to collect additional details. The next two types of qualitative questions are considered open questions, but each has its own style and purpose.
- Probing questions are used to delve deeper into a respondent’s thoughts, such as “Can you tell me more about why you feel that way?”
- Comparative questions ask people to compare two or more items, such as “Which product do you prefer and why?” These qualitative questions are highly useful for understanding brand awareness , competitive analysis , and more.
These ask respondents to choose from a predetermined set of responses, such as “On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied are you with the new product?” While they’re traditionally quantitative, adding a free text box that asks for extra comments into why a specific rating was chosen will provide qualitative insights alongside their respective quantitative research question responses.
- Ranking questions get people to rank items in order of preference, such as “Please rank these products in terms of quality.” They’re advantageous in many scenarios, like product development, competitive analysis, and brand awareness.
- Likert scale questions ask people to rate items on a scale, such as “On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied are you with the new product?” Ideal for placement on websites and emails to gather quick, snappy feedback.
Qualitative research question examples
There are many applications of qualitative research and lots of ways you can put your findings to work for the success of your business. Here’s a summary of the most common use cases for qualitative questions and examples to ask.
Qualitative questions for identifying customer needs and motivations
These types of questions help you find out why customers choose products or services and what they are looking for when making a purchase.
- What factors do you consider when deciding to buy a product?
- What would make you choose one product or service over another?
- What are the most important elements of a product that you would buy?
- What features do you look for when purchasing a product?
- What qualities do you look for in a company’s products?
- Do you prefer localized or global brands when making a purchase?
- How do you determine the value of a product?
- What do you think is the most important factor when choosing a product?
- How do you decide if a product or service is worth the money?
- Do you have any specific expectations when purchasing a product?
- Do you prefer to purchase products or services online or in person?
- What kind of customer service do you expect when buying a product?
- How do you decide when it is time to switch to a different product?
- Where do you research products before you decide to buy?
- What do you think is the most important customer value when making a purchase?
Qualitative research questions to enhance customer experience
Use these questions to reveal insights into how customers interact with a company’s products or services and how those experiences can be improved.
- What aspects of our product or service do customers find most valuable?
- How do customers perceive our customer service?
- What factors are most important to customers when purchasing?
- What do customers think of our brand?
- What do customers think of our current marketing efforts?
- How do customers feel about the features and benefits of our product?
- How do customers feel about the price of our product or service?
- How could we improve the customer experience?
- What do customers think of our website or app?
- What do customers think of our customer support?
- What could we do to make our product or service easier to use?
- What do customers think of our competitors?
- What is your preferred way to access our site?
- How do customers feel about our delivery/shipping times?
- What do customers think of our loyalty programs?
Qualitative research question example for customer experience
- 🙋♀️ Question: What is your preferred way to access our site?
- 🤓 Insight sought: How mobile-dominant are consumers? Should you invest more in mobile optimization or mobile marketing?
- 🤯 Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: While using this type of question is ideal if you have a large database to survey when placed on a site or sent to a limited customer list, it only gives you a point-in-time perspective from a limited group of people.
- 💡 A new approach: You can get better, broader insights quicker with Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence. To fully inform your research, you need to know preferences at the industry or market level.
- ⏰ Time to insight: 30 seconds
- ✅ How it’s done: Similarweb offers multiple ways to answer this question without going through a lengthy qualitative research process.
First, I’m going to do a website market analysis of the banking credit and lending market in the finance sector to get a clearer picture of industry benchmarks.
Here, I can view device preferences across any industry or market instantly. It shows me the device distribution for any country across any period. This clearly answers the question of how mobile dominate my target audience is , with 59.79% opting to access site via a desktop vs. 40.21% via mobile
I then use the trends section to show me the exact split between mobile and web traffic for each key player in my space. Let’s say I’m about to embark on a competitive campaign that targets customers of Chase and Bank of America ; I can see both their audiences are highly desktop dominant compared with others in their space .
Qualitative question examples for developing new products or services
Research questions like this can help you understand customer pain points and give you insights to develop products that meet those needs.
- What is the primary reason you would choose to purchase a product from our company?
- How do you currently use products or services that are similar to ours?
- Is there anything that could be improved with products currently on the market?
- What features would you like to see added to our products?
- How do you prefer to contact a customer service team?
- What do you think sets our company apart from our competitors?
- What other product or service offerings would like to see us offer?
- What type of information would help you make decisions about buying a product?
- What type of advertising methods are most effective in getting your attention?
- What is the biggest deterrent to purchasing products from us?
Qualitative research question example for service development
- 🙋♀️ Question: What type of advertising methods are most effective in getting your attention?
- 🤓 Insight sought: The marketing channels and/or content that performs best with a target audience .
- 🤯 Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: When using qualitative research surveys to answer questions like this, the sample size is limited, and bias could be at play.
- 💡 A better approach: The most authentic insights come from viewing real actions and results that take place in the digital world. No questions or answers are needed to uncover this intel, and the information you seek is readily available in less than a minute.
- ⏰ Time to insight: 5 minutes
- ✅ How it’s done: There are a few ways to approach this. You can either take an industry-wide perspective or hone in on specific competitors to unpack their individual successes. Here, I’ll quickly show a snapshot with a whole market perspective.
Using the market analysis element of Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence, I select my industry or market, which I’ve kept as banking and credit. A quick click into marketing channels shows me which channels drive the highest traffic in my market. Taking direct traffic out of the equation, for now, I can see that referrals and organic traffic are the two highest-performing channels in this market.
Similarweb allows me to view the specific referral partners and pages across these channels.
Looking closely at referrals in this market, I’ve chosen chase.com and its five closest rivals . I select referrals in the channel traffic element of marketing channels. I see that Capital One is a clear winner, gaining almost 25 million visits due to referral partnerships.
Next, I get to see exactly who is referring traffic to Capital One and the total traffic share for each referrer. I can see the growth as a percentage and how that has changed, along with an engagement score that rates the average engagement level of that audience segment. This is particularly useful when deciding on which new referral partnerships to pursue.
Once I’ve identified the channels and campaigns that yield the best results, I can then use Similarweb to dive into the various ad creatives and content that have the greatest impact.
These ads are just a few of those listed in the creatives section from my competitive website analysis of Capital One. You can filter this list by the specific campaign, publishers, and ad networks to view those that matter to you most. You can also discover video ad creatives in the same place too.
In just five minutes ⏰
- I’ve captured audience loyalty statistics across my market
- Spotted the most competitive players
- Identified the marketing channels my audience is most responsive to
- I know which content and campaigns are driving the highest traffic volume
- I’ve created a target list for new referral partners and have been able to prioritize this based on results and engagement figures from my rivals
- I can see the types of creatives that my target audience is responding to, giving me ideas for ways to generate effective copy for future campaigns
Qualitative questions to determine pricing strategies
Companies need to make sure pricing stays relevant and competitive. Use these questions to determine customer perceptions on pricing and develop pricing strategies to maximize profits and reduce churn.
- How do you feel about our pricing structure?
- How does our pricing compare to other similar products?
- What value do you feel you get from our pricing?
- How could we make our pricing more attractive?
- What would be an ideal price for our product?
- Which features of our product that you would like to see priced differently?
- What discounts or deals would you like to see us offer?
- How do you feel about the amount you have to pay for our product?
Qualitative research question example for determining pricing strategies
- 🙋♀️ Question: What discounts or deals would you like to see us offer?
- 🤓 Insight sought: The promotions or campaigns that resonate with your target audience.
- 🤯 Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: Consumers don’t always recall the types of ads or campaigns they respond to. Over time, their needs and habits change. Your sample size is limited to those you ask, leaving a huge pool of unknowns at play.
- 💡 A better approach: While qualitative insights are good to know, you get the most accurate picture of the highest-performing promotion and campaigns by looking at data collected directly from the web. These analytics are real-world, real-time, and based on the collective actions of many, instead of the limited survey group you approach. By getting a complete picture across an entire market, your decisions are better informed and more aligned with current market trends and behaviors.
- ✅ How it’s done: Similarweb’s Popular Pages feature shows the content, products, campaigns, and pages with the highest growth for any website. So, if you’re trying to unpack the successes of others in your space and find out what content resonates with a target audience, there’s a far quicker way to get answers to these questions with Similarweb.
Here, I’m using Capital One as an example site. I can see trending pages on their site showing the largest increase in page views. Other filters include campaign, best-performing, and new–each of which shows you page URLs, share of traffic , and growth as a percentage. This page is particularly useful for staying on top of trending topics, campaigns, and new content being pushed out in a market by key competitors.
Qualitative research questions for product development teams
It’s vital to stay in touch with changing consumer needs. These questions can also be used for new product or service development, but this time, it’s from the perspective of a product manager or development team.
- What are customers’ primary needs and wants for this product?
- What do customers think of our current product offerings?
- What is the most important feature or benefit of our product?
- How can we improve our product to meet customers’ needs better?
- What do customers like or dislike about our competitors’ products?
- What do customers look for when deciding between our product and a competitor’s?
- How have customer needs and wants for this product changed over time?
- What motivates customers to purchase this product?
- What is the most important thing customers want from this product?
- What features or benefits are most important when selecting a product?
- What do customers perceive to be our product’s pros and cons?
- What would make customers switch from a competitor’s product to ours?
- How do customers perceive our product in comparison to similar products?
- What do customers think of our pricing and value proposition?
- What do customers think of our product’s design, usability, and aesthetics?
Qualitative questions examples to understand customer segments
Market segmentation seeks to create groups of consumers with shared characteristics. Use these questions to learn more about different customer segments and how to target them with tailored messaging.
- What motivates customers to make a purchase?
- How do customers perceive our brand in comparison to our competitors?
- How do customers feel about our product quality?
- How do customers define quality in our products?
- What factors influence customers’ purchasing decisions ?
- What are the most important aspects of customer service?
- What do customers think of our customer service?
- What do customers think of our pricing?
- How do customers rate our product offerings?
- How do customers prefer to make purchases (online, in-store, etc.)?
Qualitative research question example for understanding customer segments
- 🙋♀️ Question: Which social media channels are you most active on?
- 🤓 Insight sought: Formulate a social media strategy . Specifically, the social media channels most likely to succeed with a target audience.
- 🤯 Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: Qualitative research question responses are limited to those you ask, giving you a limited sample size. Questions like this are usually at risk of some bias, and this may not be reflective of real-world actions.
- 💡 A better approach: Get a complete picture of social media preferences for an entire market or specific audience belonging to rival firms. Insights are available in real-time, and are based on the actions of many, not a select group of participants. Data is readily available, easy to understand, and expandable at a moment’s notice.
- ✅ How it’s done: Using Similarweb’s website analysis feature, you can get a clear breakdown of social media stats for your audience using the marketing channels element. It shows the percentage of visits from each channel to your site, respective growth, and specific referral pages by each platform. All data is expandable, meaning you can select any platform, period, and region to drill down and get more accurate intel, instantly.
This example shows me Bank of America’s social media distribution, with YouTube , Linkedin , and Facebook taking the top three spots, and accounting for almost 80% of traffic being driven from social media.
When doing any type of market research, it’s important to benchmark performance against industry averages and perform a social media competitive analysis to verify rival performance across the same channels.
Qualitative questions to inform competitive analysis
Organizations must assess market sentiment toward other players to compete and beat rival firms. Whether you want to increase market share , challenge industry leaders , or reduce churn, understanding how people view you vs. the competition is key.
- What is the overall perception of our competitors’ product offerings in the market?
- What attributes do our competitors prioritize in their customer experience?
- What strategies do our competitors use to differentiate their products from ours?
- How do our competitors position their products in relation to ours?
- How do our competitors’ pricing models compare to ours?
- What do consumers think of our competitors’ product quality?
- What do consumers think of our competitors’ customer service?
- What are the key drivers of purchase decisions in our market?
- What is the impact of our competitors’ marketing campaigns on our market share ? 10. How do our competitors leverage social media to promote their products?
Qualitative research question example for competitive analysis
- 🙋♀️ Question: What other companies do you shop with for x?
- 🤓 Insight sought: W ho are your competitors? Which of your rival’s sites do your customers visit? How loyal are consumers in your market?
- 🤯 Challenges with traditional qualitative research methods: Sample size is limited, and customers could be unwilling to reveal which competitors they shop with, or how often they around. Where finances are involved, people can act with reluctance or bias, and be unwilling to reveal other suppliers they do business with.
- 💡 A better approach: Get a complete picture of your audience’s loyalty, see who else they shop with, and how many other sites they visit in your competitive group. Find out the size of the untapped opportunity and which players are doing a better job at attracting unique visitors – without having to ask people to reveal their preferences.
- ✅ How it’s done: Similarweb website analysis shows you the competitive sites your audience visits, giving you access to data that shows cross-visitation habits, audience loyalty, and untapped potential in a matter of minutes.
Using the audience interests element of Similarweb website analysis, you can view the cross-browsing behaviors of a website’s audience instantly. You can see a matrix that shows the percentage of visitors on a target site and any rival site they may have visited.
With the Similarweb audience overlap feature, view the cross-visitation habits of an audience across specific websites. In this example, I chose chase.com and its four closest competitors to review. For each intersection, you see the number of unique visitors and the overall proportion of each site’s audience it represents. It also shows the volume of unreached potential visitors.
Here, you can see a direct comparison of the audience loyalty represented in a bar graph. It shows a breakdown of each site’s audience based on how many other sites they have visited. Those sites with the highest loyalty show fewer additional sites visited.
From the perspective of chase.com, I can see 47% of their visitors do not visit rival sites. 33% of their audience visited 1 or more sites in this group, 14% visited 2 or more sites, 4% visited 3 or more sites, and just 0.8% viewed all sites in this comparison.
How to answer qualitative research questions with Similarweb
Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence drastically improves market research efficiency and time to insight. Both of these can impact the bottom line and the pace at which organizations can adapt and flex when markets shift, and rivals change tactics.
Outdated practices, while still useful, take time . And with a quicker, more efficient way to garner similar insights, opting for the fast lane puts you at a competitive advantage.
With a birds-eye view of the actions and behaviors of companies and consumers across a market , you can answer certain research questions without the need to plan, do, and review extensive qualitative market research .
Qualitative research methods have been around for centuries. From designing the questions to finding the best distribution channels, collecting and analyzing findings takes time to get the insights you need. Similarweb Digital Research Intelligence drastically improves efficiency and time to insight. Both of which impact the bottom line and the pace at which organizations can adapt and flex when markets shift.
Get Faster Answers to Qualitative Research Questions with Similarweb Today
Similarweb’s suite of digital intelligence solutions offers unbiased, accurate, honest insights you can trust for analyzing any industry, market, or audience.
- Methodologies used for data collection are robust, transparent, and trustworthy.
- Clear presentation of data via an easy-to-use, intuitive platform.
- It updates dynamically–giving you the freshest data about an industry or market.
- Data is available via an API – so you can plug into platforms like Tableau or PowerBI to streamline your analyses.
- Filter and refine results according to your needs.
Are quantitative or qualitative research questions best?
Both have their place and purpose in market research. Qualitative research questions seek to provide details, whereas quantitative market research gives you numerical statistics that are easier and quicker to analyze. You get more flexibility with qualitative questions, and they’re non-directional.
What are the advantages of qualitative research?
Qualitative research is advantageous because it allows researchers to better understand their subject matter by exploring people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations in a particular context. It also allows researchers to uncover new insights that may not have been discovered with quantitative research methods.
What are some of the challenges of qualitative research?
Qualitative research can be time-consuming and costly, typically involving in-depth interviews and focus groups. Additionally, there are challenges associated with the reliability and validity of the collected data, as there is no universal standard for interpreting the results.
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Examples of Good and Bad Research Questions
Written by Scribendi
So, you've got a research grant in your sights or you've been admitted to your school of choice, and you now have to write up a proposal for the work you want to perform. You know your topic, have done some reading, and you've got a nice quiet place where nobody will bother you while you try to decide where you'll go from here. The question looms:
What Is a Research Question?
Your research question will be your focus, the sentence you refer to when you need to remember why you're researching. It will encapsulate what drives you and be something your field needs an answer for but doesn't have yet.
Whether it seeks to describe a phenomenon, compare things, or show how one variable influences another, a research question always does the same thing: it guides research that will be judged based on how well it addresses the question.
So, what makes a research question good or bad? This article will provide examples of good and bad research questions and use them to illustrate both of their common characteristics so that you can evaluate your research question and improve it to suit your needs.
How to Choose a Research Question
At the start of your research paper, you might be wondering, "What is a good research question?"
A good research question focuses on one researchable problem relevant to your subject area.
To write a research paper , first make sure you have a strong, relevant topic. Then, conduct some preliminary research around that topic. It's important to complete these two initial steps because your research question will be formulated based on this research.
With this in mind, let's review the steps that help us write good research questions.
1. Select a Relevant Topic
When selecting a topic to form a good research question, it helps to start broad. What topics interest you most? It helps when you care about the topic you're researching!
Have you seen a movie recently that you enjoyed? How about a news story? If you can't think of anything, research different topics on Google to see which ones intrigue you the most and can apply to your assignment.
Also, before settling on a research topic, make sure it's relevant to your subject area or to society as a whole. This is an important aspect of developing your research question, because, in general, your research should add value to existing knowledge .
2. Thoroughly Research the Topic
Now that you've chosen a broad but relevant topic for your paper, research it thoroughly to see which avenues you might want to explore further.
For example, let's say you decide on the broad topic of search engines. During this research phase, try skimming through sources that are unbiased, current, and relevant, such as academic journals or sources in your university library.
Check out: 21 Legit Research Databases for Free Articles in 2022
Pay close attention to the subtopics that come up during research, such as the following: Which search engines are the most commonly used? Why do some search engines dominate specific regions? How do they really work or affect the research of scientists and scholars?
Be on the lookout for any gaps or limitations in the research. Identifying the groups or demographics that are most affected by your topic is also helpful, in case that's relevant to your work.
3. Narrow Your Topic to a Single Point
Now that you've spent some time researching your broad topic, it's time to narrow it down to one specific subject. A topic like search engines is much too broad to develop a research paper around. What specifically about search engines could you explore?
When refining your topic, be careful not to be either too narrow or too broad. You can ask yourself the following questions during this phase:
Can I cover this topic within the scope of my paper, or would it require longer, heavier research? (In this case, you'd need to be more specific.)
Conversely, is there not enough research about my topic to write a paper? (In this case, you'd need to be broader.)
Keep these things in mind as you narrow down your topic. You can always expand your topic later if you have the time and research materials.
4. Identify a Problem Related to Your Topic
When narrowing down your topic, it helps to identify a single issue or problem on which to base your research. Ask open-ended questions, such as why is this topic important to you or others? Essentially, have you identified the answer to "so what"?
For example, after asking these questions about our search engine topic, we might focus only on the issue of how search engines affect research in a specific field. Or, more specifically, how search engine algorithms manipulate search results and prevent us from finding the critical research we need.
Asking these "so what" questions will help us brainstorm examples of research questions we can ask in our field of study.
5. Turn Your Problem into a Question
Now that you have your main issue or problem, it's time to write your research question. Do this by reviewing your topic's big problem and formulating a question that your research will answer.
For example, ask, "so what?" about your search engine topic. You might realize that the bigger issue is that you, as a researcher, aren't getting the relevant information you need from search engines.
How can we use this information to develop a research question? We might phrase the research question as follows:
"What effect does the Google search engine algorithm have on online research conducted in the field of neuroscience?"
Note how specific we were with the type of search engine, the field of study, and the research method. It's also important to remember that your research question should not have an easy yes or no answer. It should be a question with a complex answer that can be discovered through research and analysis.
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It can be fun to browse a myriad of research topics for your paper, but there are a few important things to keep in mind.
First, make sure you've understood your assignment. You don't want to pick a topic that's not relevant to the assignment goal. Your instructor can offer good topic suggestions as well, so if you get stuck, ask them!
Next, try to search for a broad topic that interests you. Starting broad gives you more options to work with. Some research topic examples include infectious diseases, European history, and smartphones .
Then, after some research, narrow your topic to something specific by extracting a single element from that subject. This could be a current issue on that topic, a major question circulating around that topic, or a specific region or group of people affected by that topic.
It's important that your research topic is focused. Focus lets you clearly demonstrate your understanding of the topic with enough details and examples to fit the scope of your project.
For example, if Jane Austen is your research topic, that might be too broad for a five-page paper! However, you could narrow it down to a single book by Austen or a specific perspective.
To keep your research topic focused, try creating a mind map. This is where you put your broad topic in a circle and create a few circles around it with similar ideas that you uncovered during your research.
Mind maps can help you visualize the connections between topics and subtopics. This could help you simplify the process of eliminating broad or uninteresting topics or help you identify new relationships between topics that you didn't previously notice.
Keeping your research topic focused will help you when it comes to writing your research question!
A researchable question should have enough available sources to fill the scope of your project without being overwhelming. If you find that the research is never-ending, you're going to be very disappointed at the end of your paper—because you won't be able to fit everything in! If you are in this fix, your research question is still too broad.
Search for your research topic's keywords in trusted sources such as journals, research databases , or dissertations in your university library. Then, assess whether the research you're finding is feasible and realistic to use.
If there's too much material out there, narrow down your topic by industry, region, or demographic. Conversely, if you don't find enough research on your topic, you'll need to go broader. Try choosing two works by two different authors instead of one, or try choosing three poems by a single author instead of one.
Make sure that the topic for your research question is a reasonable one to pursue. This means it's something that can be completed within your timeframe and offers a new perspective on the research.
Research topics often end up being summaries of a topic, but that's not the goal. You're looking for a way to add something relevant and new to the topic you're exploring. To do so, here are two ways to uncover strong, reasonable research topics as you conduct your preliminary research:
Check the ends of journal articles for sections with questions for further discussion. These make great research topics because they haven't been explored!
Check the sources of articles in your research. What points are they bringing up? Is there anything new worth exploring? Sometimes, you can use sources to expand your research and more effectively narrow your topic.
For your research topic to stand on its own, it should be specific. This means that it shouldn't be easily mistaken for another topic that's already been written about.
If you are writing about a topic that has been written about, such as consumer trust, it should be distinct from everything that's been written about consumer trust so far.
There is already a lot of research done on consumer trust in specific products or services in the US. Your research topic could focus on consumer trust in products and services in a different region, such as a developing country.
If your research feels similar to existing articles, make sure to drive home the differences.
Whether it's developed for a thesis or another assignment, a good research topic question should be complex enough to let you expand on it within the scope of your paper.
For example, let's say you took our advice on researching a topic you were interested in, and that topic was a new Bridezilla reality show. But when you began to research it, you couldn't find enough information on it, or worse, you couldn't find anything scholarly.
In short, Bridezilla reality shows aren't complex enough to build your paper on. Instead of broadening the topic to all reality TV shows, which might be too overwhelming, you might consider choosing a topic about wedding reality TV shows specifically.
This would open you up to more research that could be complex enough to write a paper on without being too overwhelming or narrow.
Because research papers aim to contribute to existing research that's already been explored, the relevance of your topic within your subject area can't be understated.
Your research topic should be relevant enough to advance understanding in a specific area of study and build on what's already been researched. It shouldn't duplicate research or try to add to it in an irrelevant way.
For example, you wouldn't choose a research topic like malaria transmission in Northern Siberia if the mosquito that transmits malaria lives in Africa. This research topic simply isn't relevant to the typical location where malaria is transmitted, and the research could be considered a waste of resources.
Do Research Questions Differ between the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Hard Sciences?
The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.
First, a bit of clarification: While there are constants among research questions, no matter what you're writing about, you will use different standards for the humanities and social sciences than for hard sciences, such as chemistry. The former depends on subjectivity and the perspective of the researcher, while the latter requires answers that must be empirically tested and replicable.
For instance, if you research Charles Dickens' writing influences, you will have to explain your stance and observations to the reader before supporting them with evidence. If you research improvements in superconductivity in room-temperature material, the reader will not only need to understand and believe you but also duplicate your work to confirm that you are correct.
Do Research Questions Differ between the Different Types of Research?
Research questions help you clarify the path your research will take. They are answered in your research paper and usually stated in the introduction.
There are two main types of research—qualitative and quantitative.
If you're conducting quantitative research, it means you're collecting numerical, quantifiable data that can be measured, such as statistical information.
Qualitative research aims to understand experiences or phenomena, so you're collecting and analyzing non-numerical data, such as case studies or surveys.
The structure and content of your research question will change depending on the type of research you're doing. However, the definition and goal of a research question remains the same: a specific, relevant, and focused inquiry that your research answers.
Below, we'll explore research question examples for different types of research.
Comparative research questions are designed to determine whether two or more groups differ based on a dependent variable. These questions allow researchers to uncover similarities and differences between the groups tested.
Because they compare two groups with a dependent variable, comparative research questions usually start with "What is the difference in…"
A strong comparative research question example might be the following:
"What is the difference in the daily caloric intake of American men and women?" ( Source .)
In the above example, the dependent variable is daily caloric intake and the two groups are American men and women.
A poor comparative research example might not aim to explore the differences between two groups or it could be too easily answered, as in the following example:
"Does daily caloric intake affect American men and women?"
Always ensure that your comparative research question is focused on a comparison between two groups based on a dependent variable.
Descriptive research questions help you gather data about measurable variables. Typically, researchers asking descriptive research questions aim to explain how, why, or what.
These research questions tend to start with the following:
For example, a good descriptive research question might be as follows:
"What percentage of college students have felt depressed in the last year?" ( Source .)
A poor descriptive research question wouldn't be as precise. This might be something similar to the following:
"What percentage of teenagers felt sad in the last year?"
The above question is too vague, and the data would be overwhelming, given the number of teenagers in the world. Keep in mind that specificity is key when it comes to research questions!
Correlational research measures the statistical relationship between two variables, with no influence from any other variable. The idea is to observe the way these variables interact with one another. If one changes, how is the other affected?
When it comes to writing a correlational research question, remember that it's all about relationships. Your research would encompass the relational effects of one variable on the other.
For example, having an education (variable one) might positively or negatively correlate with the rate of crime (variable two) in a specific city. An example research question for this might be written as follows:
"Is there a significant negative correlation between education level and crime rate in Los Angeles?"
A bad correlational research question might not use relationships at all. In fact, correlational research questions are often confused with causal research questions, which imply cause and effect. For example:
"How does the education level in Los Angeles influence the crime rate?"
The above question wouldn't be a good correlational research question because the relationship between Los Angeles and the crime rate is already inherent in the question—we are already assuming the education level in Los Angeles affects the crime rate in some way.
Be sure to use the right format if you're writing a correlational research question.
How to Avoid a Bad Question
Ask the right questions, and the answers will always reveal themselves.
If finding the right research question was easy, doing research would be much simpler. However, research does not provide useful information if the questions have easy answers (because the questions are too simple, narrow, or general) or answers that cannot be reached at all (because the questions have no possible answer, are too costly to answer, or are too broad in scope).
For a research question to meet scientific standards, its answer cannot consist solely of opinion (even if the opinion is popular or logically reasoned) and cannot simply be a description of known information.
However, an analysis of what currently exists can be valuable, provided that there is enough information to produce a useful analysis. If a scientific research question offers results that cannot be tested, measured, or duplicated, it is ineffective.
Bad Research Question Examples
Here are examples of bad research questions with brief explanations of what makes them ineffective for the purpose of research.
"What's red and bad for your teeth?"
This question has an easy, definitive answer (a brick), is too vague (What shade of red? How bad?), and isn't productive.
"Do violent video games cause players to act violently?"
This question also requires a definitive answer (yes or no), does not invite critical analysis, and allows opinion to influence or provide the answer.
"How many people were playing balalaikas while living in Moscow on July 8, 2019?"
This question cannot be answered without expending excessive amounts of time, money, and resources. It is also far too specific. Finally, it doesn't seek new insight or information, only a number that has no conceivable purpose.
How to Write a Research Question
The quality of a question is not judged by its complexity but by the complexity of thinking it provokes.
What makes a good research question? A good research question topic is clear and focused. If the reader has to waste time wondering what you mean, you haven't phrased it effectively.
It also needs to be interesting and relevant, encouraging the reader to come along with you as you explain how you reached an answer.
Finally, once you explain your answer, there should be room for astute or interested readers to use your question as a basis to conduct their own research. If there is nothing for you to say in your conclusion beyond "that's the truth," then you're setting up your research to be challenged.
Good Research Question Examples
Here are some examples of good research questions. Take a look at the reasoning behind their effectiveness.
"What are the long-term effects of using activated charcoal in place of generic toothpaste for routine dental care?"
This question is specific enough to prevent digressions, invites measurable results, and concerns information that is both useful and interesting. Testing could be conducted in a reasonable time frame, without excessive cost, and would allow other researchers to follow up, regardless of the outcome.
"Why do North American parents feel that violent video game content has a negative influence on their children?"
While this does carry an assumption, backing up that assumption with observable proof will allow for analysis of the question, provide insight on a significant subject, and give readers something to build on in future research.
It also discusses a topic that is recognizably relevant. (In 2022, at least. If you are reading this article in the future, there might already be an answer to this question that requires further analysis or testing!)
"To what extent has Alexey Arkhipovsky's 2013 album, Insomnia , influenced gender identification in Russian culture?"
While it's tightly focused, this question also presents an assumption (that the music influenced gender identification) and seeks to prove or disprove it. This allows for the possibilities that the music had no influence at all or had a demonstrable impact.
Answering the question will involve explaining the context and using many sources so that the reader can follow the logic and be convinced of the author's findings. The results (be they positive or negative) will also open the door to countless other studies.
How to Turn a Bad Research Question into a Good One
If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.
How do you turn something that won't help your research into something that will? Start by taking a step back and asking what you are expected to produce. While there are any number of fascinating subjects out there, a grant paying you to examine income disparity in Japan is not going to warrant an in-depth discussion of South American farming pollution.
Use these expectations to frame your initial topic and the subject that your research should be about, and then conduct preliminary research into that subject. If you spot a knowledge gap while researching, make a note of it, and add it to your list of possible questions.
If you already have a question that is relevant to your topic but has flaws, identify the issues and see if they can be addressed. In addition, if your question is too broad, try to narrow it down enough to make your research feasible.
Especially in the sciences, if your research question will not produce results that can be replicated, determine how you can change it so a reader can look at what you've done and go about repeating your actions so they can see that you are right.
Moreover, if you would need 20 years to produce results, consider whether there is a way to tighten things up to produce more immediate results. This could justify future research that will eventually reach that lofty goal.
If all else fails, you can use the flawed question as a subtopic and try to find a better question that fits your goals and expectations.
When you have your early work edited, don't be surprised if you are told that your research question requires revision. Quite often, results or the lack thereof can force a researcher to shift their focus and examine a less significant topic—or a different facet of a known issue—because testing did not produce the expected result.
If that happens, take heart. You now have the tools to assess your question, find its flaws, and repair them so that you can complete your research with confidence and publish something you know your audience will read with fascination.
Of course, if you receive affirmation that your research question is strong or are polishing your work before submitting it to a publisher, you might just need a final proofread to ensure that your confidence is well placed. Then, you can start pursuing something new that the world does not yet know (but will know) once you have your research question down.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 113 great research paper topics.
One of the hardest parts of writing a research paper can be just finding a good topic to write about. Fortunately we've done the hard work for you and have compiled a list of 113 interesting research paper topics. They've been organized into ten categories and cover a wide range of subjects so you can easily find the best topic for you.
In addition to the list of good research topics, we've included advice on what makes a good research paper topic and how you can use your topic to start writing a great paper.
What Makes a Good Research Paper Topic?
Not all research paper topics are created equal, and you want to make sure you choose a great topic before you start writing. Below are the three most important factors to consider to make sure you choose the best research paper topics.
#1: It's Something You're Interested In
A paper is always easier to write if you're interested in the topic, and you'll be more motivated to do in-depth research and write a paper that really covers the entire subject. Even if a certain research paper topic is getting a lot of buzz right now or other people seem interested in writing about it, don't feel tempted to make it your topic unless you genuinely have some sort of interest in it as well.
#2: There's Enough Information to Write a Paper
Even if you come up with the absolute best research paper topic and you're so excited to write about it, you won't be able to produce a good paper if there isn't enough research about the topic. This can happen for very specific or specialized topics, as well as topics that are too new to have enough research done on them at the moment. Easy research paper topics will always be topics with enough information to write a full-length paper.
Trying to write a research paper on a topic that doesn't have much research on it is incredibly hard, so before you decide on a topic, do a bit of preliminary searching and make sure you'll have all the information you need to write your paper.
#3: It Fits Your Teacher's Guidelines
Don't get so carried away looking at lists of research paper topics that you forget any requirements or restrictions your teacher may have put on research topic ideas. If you're writing a research paper on a health-related topic, deciding to write about the impact of rap on the music scene probably won't be allowed, but there may be some sort of leeway. For example, if you're really interested in current events but your teacher wants you to write a research paper on a history topic, you may be able to choose a topic that fits both categories, like exploring the relationship between the US and North Korea. No matter what, always get your research paper topic approved by your teacher first before you begin writing.
113 Good Research Paper Topics
Below are 113 good research topics to help you get you started on your paper. We've organized them into ten categories to make it easier to find the type of research paper topics you're looking for.
- Discuss the main differences in art from the Italian Renaissance and the Northern Renaissance .
- Analyze the impact a famous artist had on the world.
- How is sexism portrayed in different types of media (music, film, video games, etc.)? Has the amount/type of sexism changed over the years?
- How has the music of slaves brought over from Africa shaped modern American music?
- How has rap music evolved in the past decade?
- How has the portrayal of minorities in the media changed?
- What have been the impacts of China's one child policy?
- How have the goals of feminists changed over the decades?
- How has the Trump presidency changed international relations?
- Analyze the history of the relationship between the United States and North Korea.
- What factors contributed to the current decline in the rate of unemployment?
- What have been the impacts of states which have increased their minimum wage?
- How do US immigration laws compare to immigration laws of other countries?
- How have the US's immigration laws changed in the past few years/decades?
- How has the Black Lives Matter movement affected discussions and view about racism in the US?
- What impact has the Affordable Care Act had on healthcare in the US?
- What factors contributed to the UK deciding to leave the EU (Brexit)?
- What factors contributed to China becoming an economic power?
- Discuss the history of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies (some of which tokenize the S&P 500 Index on the blockchain) .
- Do students in schools that eliminate grades do better in college and their careers?
- Do students from wealthier backgrounds score higher on standardized tests?
- Do students who receive free meals at school get higher grades compared to when they weren't receiving a free meal?
- Do students who attend charter schools score higher on standardized tests than students in public schools?
- Do students learn better in same-sex classrooms?
- How does giving each student access to an iPad or laptop affect their studies?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of the Montessori Method ?
- Do children who attend preschool do better in school later on?
- What was the impact of the No Child Left Behind act?
- How does the US education system compare to education systems in other countries?
- What impact does mandatory physical education classes have on students' health?
- Which methods are most effective at reducing bullying in schools?
- Do homeschoolers who attend college do as well as students who attended traditional schools?
- Does offering tenure increase or decrease quality of teaching?
- How does college debt affect future life choices of students?
- Should graduate students be able to form unions?
- What are different ways to lower gun-related deaths in the US?
- How and why have divorce rates changed over time?
- Is affirmative action still necessary in education and/or the workplace?
- Should physician-assisted suicide be legal?
- How has stem cell research impacted the medical field?
- How can human trafficking be reduced in the United States/world?
- Should people be able to donate organs in exchange for money?
- Which types of juvenile punishment have proven most effective at preventing future crimes?
- Has the increase in US airport security made passengers safer?
- Analyze the immigration policies of certain countries and how they are similar and different from one another.
- Several states have legalized recreational marijuana. What positive and negative impacts have they experienced as a result?
- Do tariffs increase the number of domestic jobs?
- Which prison reforms have proven most effective?
- Should governments be able to censor certain information on the internet?
- Which methods/programs have been most effective at reducing teen pregnancy?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of the Keto diet?
- How effective are different exercise regimes for losing weight and maintaining weight loss?
- How do the healthcare plans of various countries differ from each other?
- What are the most effective ways to treat depression ?
- What are the pros and cons of genetically modified foods?
- Which methods are most effective for improving memory?
- What can be done to lower healthcare costs in the US?
- What factors contributed to the current opioid crisis?
- Analyze the history and impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic .
- Are low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets more effective for weight loss?
- How much exercise should the average adult be getting each week?
- Which methods are most effective to get parents to vaccinate their children?
- What are the pros and cons of clean needle programs?
- How does stress affect the body?
- Discuss the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
- What were the causes and effects of the Salem Witch Trials?
- Who was responsible for the Iran-Contra situation?
- How has New Orleans and the government's response to natural disasters changed since Hurricane Katrina?
- What events led to the fall of the Roman Empire?
- What were the impacts of British rule in India ?
- Was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary?
- What were the successes and failures of the women's suffrage movement in the United States?
- What were the causes of the Civil War?
- How did Abraham Lincoln's assassination impact the country and reconstruction after the Civil War?
- Which factors contributed to the colonies winning the American Revolution?
- What caused Hitler's rise to power?
- Discuss how a specific invention impacted history.
- What led to Cleopatra's fall as ruler of Egypt?
- How has Japan changed and evolved over the centuries?
- What were the causes of the Rwandan genocide ?
- Why did Martin Luther decide to split with the Catholic Church?
- Analyze the history and impact of a well-known cult (Jonestown, Manson family, etc.)
- How did the sexual abuse scandal impact how people view the Catholic Church?
- How has the Catholic church's power changed over the past decades/centuries?
- What are the causes behind the rise in atheism/ agnosticism in the United States?
- What were the influences in Siddhartha's life resulted in him becoming the Buddha?
- How has media portrayal of Islam/Muslims changed since September 11th?
- How has the earth's climate changed in the past few decades?
- How has the use and elimination of DDT affected bird populations in the US?
- Analyze how the number and severity of natural disasters have increased in the past few decades.
- Analyze deforestation rates in a certain area or globally over a period of time.
- How have past oil spills changed regulations and cleanup methods?
- How has the Flint water crisis changed water regulation safety?
- What are the pros and cons of fracking?
- What impact has the Paris Climate Agreement had so far?
- What have NASA's biggest successes and failures been?
- How can we improve access to clean water around the world?
- Does ecotourism actually have a positive impact on the environment?
- Should the US rely on nuclear energy more?
- What can be done to save amphibian species currently at risk of extinction?
- What impact has climate change had on coral reefs?
- How are black holes created?
- Are teens who spend more time on social media more likely to suffer anxiety and/or depression?
- How will the loss of net neutrality affect internet users?
- Analyze the history and progress of self-driving vehicles.
- How has the use of drones changed surveillance and warfare methods?
- Has social media made people more or less connected?
- What progress has currently been made with artificial intelligence ?
- Do smartphones increase or decrease workplace productivity?
- What are the most effective ways to use technology in the classroom?
- How is Google search affecting our intelligence?
- When is the best age for a child to begin owning a smartphone?
- Has frequent texting reduced teen literacy rates?
How to Write a Great Research Paper
Even great research paper topics won't give you a great research paper if you don't hone your topic before and during the writing process. Follow these three tips to turn good research paper topics into great papers.
#1: Figure Out Your Thesis Early
Before you start writing a single word of your paper, you first need to know what your thesis will be. Your thesis is a statement that explains what you intend to prove/show in your paper. Every sentence in your research paper will relate back to your thesis, so you don't want to start writing without it!
As some examples, if you're writing a research paper on if students learn better in same-sex classrooms, your thesis might be "Research has shown that elementary-age students in same-sex classrooms score higher on standardized tests and report feeling more comfortable in the classroom."
If you're writing a paper on the causes of the Civil War, your thesis might be "While the dispute between the North and South over slavery is the most well-known cause of the Civil War, other key causes include differences in the economies of the North and South, states' rights, and territorial expansion."
#2: Back Every Statement Up With Research
Remember, this is a research paper you're writing, so you'll need to use lots of research to make your points. Every statement you give must be backed up with research, properly cited the way your teacher requested. You're allowed to include opinions of your own, but they must also be supported by the research you give.
#3: Do Your Research Before You Begin Writing
You don't want to start writing your research paper and then learn that there isn't enough research to back up the points you're making, or, even worse, that the research contradicts the points you're trying to make!
Get most of your research on your good research topics done before you begin writing. Then use the research you've collected to create a rough outline of what your paper will cover and the key points you're going to make. This will help keep your paper clear and organized, and it'll ensure you have enough research to produce a strong paper.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.
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- Descriptive Research | Definition, Types, Methods & Examples
Descriptive Research | Definition, Types, Methods & Examples
Published on May 15, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on June 22, 2023.
Descriptive research aims to accurately and systematically describe a population, situation or phenomenon. It can answer what , where , when and how questions , but not why questions.
A descriptive research design can use a wide variety of research methods to investigate one or more variables . Unlike in experimental research , the researcher does not control or manipulate any of the variables, but only observes and measures them.
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When to use a descriptive research design, descriptive research methods, other interesting articles.
Descriptive research is an appropriate choice when the research aim is to identify characteristics, frequencies, trends, and categories.
It is useful when not much is known yet about the topic or problem. Before you can research why something happens, you need to understand how, when and where it happens.
Descriptive research question examples
- How has the Amsterdam housing market changed over the past 20 years?
- Do customers of company X prefer product X or product Y?
- What are the main genetic, behavioural and morphological differences between European wildcats and domestic cats?
- What are the most popular online news sources among under-18s?
- How prevalent is disease A in population B?
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Descriptive research is usually defined as a type of quantitative research , though qualitative research can also be used for descriptive purposes. The research design should be carefully developed to ensure that the results are valid and reliable .
Survey research allows you to gather large volumes of data that can be analyzed for frequencies, averages and patterns. Common uses of surveys include:
- Describing the demographics of a country or region
- Gauging public opinion on political and social topics
- Evaluating satisfaction with a company’s products or an organization’s services
Observations allow you to gather data on behaviours and phenomena without having to rely on the honesty and accuracy of respondents. This method is often used by psychological, social and market researchers to understand how people act in real-life situations.
Observation of physical entities and phenomena is also an important part of research in the natural sciences. Before you can develop testable hypotheses , models or theories, it’s necessary to observe and systematically describe the subject under investigation.
A case study can be used to describe the characteristics of a specific subject (such as a person, group, event or organization). Instead of gathering a large volume of data to identify patterns across time or location, case studies gather detailed data to identify the characteristics of a narrowly defined subject.
Rather than aiming to describe generalizable facts, case studies often focus on unusual or interesting cases that challenge assumptions, add complexity, or reveal something new about a research problem .
If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Normal distribution
- Degrees of freedom
- Null hypothesis
- Discourse analysis
- Control groups
- Mixed methods research
- Non-probability sampling
- Quantitative research
- Ecological validity
- Rosenthal effect
- Implicit bias
- Cognitive bias
- Selection bias
- Negativity bias
- Status quo bias
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55 Research Paper Topics to Jump-Start Your Paper
Coming up with research paper topics is the first step in writing most papers. While it may seem easy compared to the actual writing, choosing the right research paper topic is nonetheless one of the most important steps. Your topic determines the entire writing process: your core arguments, which sources you use, the structure of your outline, and ultimately how well the paper is received.
Unfortunately, how to select a research topic isn’t always obvious. So here, we explain how to come up with research paper topics that will work for you. We even share a list of research topics to help inspire you.
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What are research paper topics?
A research paper topic is the main focus of a piece of academic writing , encompassing the author’s main argument, thesis, or hypothesis that they plan to research and investigate.
Usually, the assignment stipulates what kind of research paper topics you can use, but even so you should choose topics that you feel passionately about and that have ample resources to fully develop your ideas.
How to come up with research paper topic examples
The ideal approach is to create a list of research topics that fulfill the criteria, and then choose the best one. Because research paper topics can be pretty broad, creating a list helps you narrow down ideas and consider fresh alternatives.
Of course, creating a list of research topics takes some effort. To save you time, here are some tried-and-true methods for how to come up with research paper topic examples:
- Personal interest: Which topics are you interested in or particularly curious about?
- Topics in class discussions: Was anything mentioned in class that you’d like to examine more deeply?
- Current events: Are there any topics in the news that fit the requirements for the assignment?
- Research gaps: For dissertations , are there any topics that haven’t been sufficiently researched before that you could contribute original data to?
- Advice from teacher, colleagues, or friends: Can you ask someone knowledgeable to help you brainstorm research paper topics?
- Search online: What kinds of relevant topics do people discuss online?
Once you have a short list of research topics, it’s time to move on to the next step: deciding how to select a research topic from the list.
How to select a research topic
As we explain in our guide on how to write a research paper , you should choose a topic with enough content to fill the length of your paper. On top of that, it’s best to pick a topic that you’re personally interested in, since you’re going to be spending long hours researching it and discussing it.
To keep your paper focused, choose a specific topic instead of a broad one . For example, instead of a general topic like “the eating habits of cats,” try to narrow it down a little, like “the eating habits of tigers.” With broad topics, you won’t be able to cover everything . Limit the scope of your topic so you can fully discuss it within the paper.
However, if you get too specific, you won’t have enough data, sources, or knowledge to write a substantial report. For example, if your topic was “the eating habits of my cat Charlie,” most likely you wouldn’t have enough information to fill more than a page or two.
So try to pick a topic that’s not only precise but manageable enough to describe completely within the limitations of the assignment.
Research paper topic vs. thesis vs. hypothesis
What’s the difference between a research paper topic, a thesis, and a hypothesis?
A research paper thesis is the main argument your paper tries to prove or explain. As such, the thesis is a core part of your entire research paper topic. A thesis is typically summed up in a thesis statement , a single sentence at the beginning of the paper to introduce your argument to the reader.
For example, if your topic was analyzing wind power in Mexico, your thesis might be:
Wind power effectively enabled Mexico to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, thanks to natural winds in the south.
With this thesis, your paper would then discuss the availability of wind, what factors of the south make it ideal, and how Mexico went about enacting it with regard to the Paris Agreement.
Specific to scientific works, a research paper hypothesis is a statement that describes what the author hopes to prove or disprove with their paper. A hypothesis is similar to a thesis in that it sums up the research paper topic, but a hypothesis requires original data and often testing to prove whether it’s true, whereas a thesis can draw on other people’s research.
55 examples of research topics
- The evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- Comparing the impacts of pollution on freshwater and saltwater ecosystems
- How the Human Genome Project changed the field of biology
- How modern-day urbanization affects wildlife and natural habitats
- The ethical considerations of CRISPR technology
- Leveraging sustainable business practices for marketing purposes
- How attitudes about financial risk management have changed over time
- Different leadership styles and their impact on organizational performance
- The challenges of cross-cultural business negotiations
- The practicality of big data analytics for small businesses
- How the internet changed in-person social interactions
- The most effective strategies for interpersonal conflict resolution
- The relationship between media literacy and voting habits
- The evolution of communication in family dynamics
- How advertising affects decision-making outside of sales
- The application of blockchain technology outside of finance
- The future of quantum computing
- The greatest threats to cybersecurity at present
- The ramifications of humanizing AI
- An in-depth comparison between cloud computing and fog computing
- Rehabilitation versus punishment in the juvenile justice system
- The merits of decriminalizing certain drugs
- Comparing the apprehension of white-collar and blue-collar criminals
- The evolution of profiling and behavioral analysis
- The effects of a private prison system on lawmaking
- Cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation
- Comparing the historic traditions of younger and older countries
- Effective strategies to preserve indigenous cultures
- The merits of multiculturalism in big cities
- The influence of public school systems on cultural understanding
- The relationship between socioeconomic factors and educational achievements
- The challenges of early childhood education compared to that of older students
- Effective strategies for promoting interest in STEM fields
- Predicting the future of education based on current trends
- Pros and cons of multilingual classrooms
- The evolution of mental health treatment over time
- Analyzing the most successful public health campaigns throughout history
- Misinformation and diet-related illnesses
- Comparing the health effects of natural drugs and synthetic drugs
- The future of telehealth and telemedicine
- Comparing feminist literature of the first, second, third, and fourth waves
- How colonization historically affected literature
- Comparing the genres of high fantasy and magic realism
- The decline of literary journals in the modern era
- The history of metafiction and self-referential literature
- Effective strategies for combating political corruption
- Leading causes of political extremism and terrorism
- Comparing the efficiency of different electoral systems around the world
- Comparing populism in North America and Europe
- The connection between specific governments and the happiness index of their people
Research paper topics FAQs
A research paper topic is the main focus of a piece of academic writing, encompassing the author’s main argument, thesis, or hypothesis, as well as the evidence to support it and the ultimate conclusion.
How do you come up with research paper topic examples?
You can brainstorm some research paper topics by asking people or searching online. Sometimes current events or topics discussed in the classroom can fit the type of topic you need. Try to think of topics you have a personal connection to, or perhaps topics that have not yet been sufficiently researched.
What’s the difference between a research paper topic, thesis, and hypothesis?
A research paper topic describes the general subject matter of the entire paper. A thesis is the specific argument that the author is trying to prove or explain. A hypothesis is particular to scientific papers; it is what the author attempts to prove or disprove through original testing.
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Research: Can a More Detailed LinkedIn Profile Boost Your Salary?
- Boris Groysberg
According to a study of 1,741 executives, showcasing merit can move the needle when it comes to compensation.
Our digital presence impacts how others perceive us. A simple résumé and a list of references no longer captures the essence of our professional capabilities. In this article, the authors explain how the intentional management of our online personas can have a positive and measurable connection to pay. To measure the effects of digital presence on compensation, they analyzed a sample of 1,741 executives who changed jobs between 2004 and 2011. Their investigation focused on whether their digital professional presence (DPP), as measured by the amount of content displayed in their personal LinkedIn profiles, correlated with differences in compensation. They found that a more enhanced DPP is positively linked to compensation — but that the strength of connection varies depending on certain factors: seniority level, race, gender, and geography.
If you search online for an artist — a painter, photographer, or songwriter — there is a good chance you’ll find curated pages that showcase their work and tell their creator story. In creative fields, curating a digital portfolio is a calling card. But in other fields, it can be an afterthought, if it’s even thought of at all. Many in management do not think enough about how others discover them in the digital space — or, as we call it, their digital professional presence (DPP).
- BG Boris Groysberg is a professor of business administration in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School and a faculty affiliate at the school’s Race, Gender & Equity Initiative. He is the coauthor, with Colleen Ammerman, of Glass Half-Broken: Shattering the Barriers That Still Hold Women Back at Work (Harvard Business Review Press, 2021). bgroysberg
- Eric Lin is an associate professor of business and co-chair of the business program at Oberlin College and Conservatory. His research focuses on human capital and talent management. LinXEric
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