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Developing Research Questions: Focus your Research

Developing Research Questions: Focus your Research

Author: Jill Walter

    Introduce research questions and why it is important to have a question in mind before beginning research. 


    Explain how to pick a research question based on personal interests.


    Explain how to pick a research question based on finding gaps.


    Explain how to pick a research question that is relevant and not overdone.


This packet should help a learner seeking to understand how to prepare to write a paper and who is confused about how to develop an appropriate research question. It will explain strategies for choosing a research question. 

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Sid the Science Kid - King of the Research Question!

Research questions allow us to focus our research and our thinking. If we have a question to guide our planning, researching, and writing, we are better prepared to keep a laserlike focus on the details. With all of the information that is available while researching, this is key!

Sid the Science Kid (PBS program) start each episode with a research question (that interests him and affect his life) and then works to research the answer all throughout the show. Watch a quick preview of his question and how he starts the process of researching.

Source: YouTube, PBS, Jill Walter

Research question? Research problem?



What question do you want to attempt to answer, or what problem do you want to attempt to solve? 

As you choose a question or a problem, decide if you want or need to have a narrow or wide focus. Do you want to zero in on one small aspect of the question or problem, or do you want to have a broader perspective? 

Your research question should focus on the "so what?" of the matter.  Think about your audience.  Think about the potential impact of the research you are considering. What is the benefit of answering your research question? Who will it help (and how)?


Source: Jill Walter

Research questions should INTEREST you!

Be sure to choose a topic (and in the end, a research question) that interests you. Consider these questions as starting points:
Do you have a strong opinion on something socially or politically?
Did you read a newspaper article, or see a TV show recently that made you think or made you feel something?
Do you have an issue, problem, or interest that you've always wondered about?
Have you ever wondered why or how of something?

Source: Jill Walter

GAPS in Research are Trouble

There are two kinds of gaps in research to be wary of.  The first gap is one you want and the second gap is one you do not want.


Gap #1 - POSITIVE - Writing a research question that is a gap.

When writing a research question, it is important to think of being original.  Most people have written a research paper at some point in their life.  That means that there are literally millions, even billions of research papers out there stuffed in old file cabinets, saved on computer harddrives, and even being writing as you read this.  Knowing this, you want to make sure you have a research question that is personalized to your taste but also is not one that one has done before.  Look at and talk to others about your topic. See if there is a gap in what people know about your idea.  Is this something that could work as a research question.  What do others or YOU want to know about the topic.  This could be your best start in the right direction.  


Gap #2 - NEGATIVE - Research writing (and planning) that is full of gaps.

When writing research and using your research questions, always remember to practice good writing techniques.  This includes making sure to plan as you write in order to avoid gaps in information.  Remember that your purpose is to inform and teach while writing in this style.  If you leave out the important details or have a gap in your research, you aren't allowing your readers to learn what you did...


Source: Jill Walter, Microsoft Clipart

Relevant? Real?

Learn why you want to have research questions that matter. Look at some samples, see what you might ask yourself in order to determine if it is a relevant question, and see how you might begin to write your research question.

Source: Jill Walter, Microsoft Clipart