3. Research Questions
Research questions help writers focus their
research by providing a path through the
research and writing process. The specificity of a
well-developed research question helps writers avoid
the “all-about” paper and work toward supporting a
specific, arguable thesis.
Creating a research question is a task. Good
research questions are formed and worked on, and are
rarely simply found. You start with what interests
you, and you refine it until it is workable. There is
no recipe for the perfect research question, but there
are bad research questions. The following guidelines
highlight some of the features of good questions.
4. Good research questions are
Relevant: Arising from issues raised in literature
and/or practice, the question will be of academic and
Manageable: You must be able to access your sources
of data, and to give a full and nuanced answer to your
Substantial and original: The question should
showcase your imaginative abilities, however far it
may be couched in existing literature.
Fit for assessment: Remember, you must satisfy the
learning outcomes of your course. Your question must
be open to assessment, as well as interesting.
5. Good research questions are
Clear and simple: A clear and simple research
question will become more complex as your research
progresses. Start with an uncluttered question then
unpeel the layers in your reading and writing.
Interesting: Make your question interesting, but try
to avoid questions which are convenient or flashy.
Remember, you will be thinking about this question
for an entire year.
Hypothesize. After you’ve come up with a question,
think about what the path you think the answer will
take. At this step, you are well on your way to having a
focus for your research, constructing a thesis, and
then writing out your argument in a paper.
6. Steps to developing a research
Choose an interesting general topic. Even directed
academic research should focus on a topic in which the
writer is at least somewhat personally invested.
Do some preliminary research on your general topic.
Do a few quick searches in current periodicals and
journals on your topic to see what’s already been done
and to help you narrow your focus. What questions does
this early research raise?
Consider your audience. For most college papers, your
audience will be academic, but always keep your audience
in mind when narrowing your topic and developing your
question. Would that particular audience be interested in
7. Steps to developing a research
Start asking questions. Taking into consideration all
of the above, start asking yourself open-ended “how”
and “why” questions about your general topic.
Evaluate your question. After you’ve got a question or
even a couple of question down on paper, evaluate
these questions to realize if they would be effective
research questions or if they need more revising.
8. Sources of research question
Research begins with asking questions.
Curiosity about a casual observation that you have
made could initiate a series of questions.
For example, you may notice that youth spend much
time watching television and that many of the
television programs include violence. So you may
ask yourself, “Does watching television violence
have a negative impact on personality
development?” This is the beginning of a good
Topics for research questions often begin with your
own curiosity. This curiosity may be fuelled by your
own personal experiences or observations.
9. Sources of research question
A researcher needs to become familiar with the research
findings that already exist. These findings are most likely to
be reported in books and journal articles. Several strategies
for obtaining this information are outlined in the following
1. Professors/Teacher/Research Scientist: Ask the faculty in the
psychology department whether they have any information
regarding your research question or whether they know of
anyone doing research on the topic (this is also a good way to
meet the faculty). Often, the research interests of the faculty
are listed on a department Web site. Most faculty that we know
enjoy discussing possible research topics with students and will
often provide suggestions that help to shape and focus the topic. If
the topic is of interest to the faculty member, he or she may
suggest that you take an independent study course under his
or her supervision. You may encounter these researchers at a
scientific conference where you attend their research presentation.
10. Sources of research question
2. Textbooks: Look in the subject index of a textbook in your
area of interest. The text will often include the names of
researchers and citations of books or articles. For example,
look in a Developmental Psychology textbook for “television.”
You will undoubtedly find a section that discusses the impact
of television on development.
3. Databases: Use keywords to search relevant databases.
Several very good electronic databases contain references
to journal articles or books. Some databases that are useful
for behavioral research include PsycLit, PsycINFO,
ProQuest, JSTOR Scholarly Journals, MedLine,
Psychological Abstract and Sociological Abstracts. After
you get access to a database, you can search it for references.
You can search by author, year, or other means.
11. Sources of research question
4. Internet: The Internet can be a source of research ideas.
However, it takes some skill to search the Internet
First, much of the information on the Internet has no
relation to science, and it can be very
difficult to search a topic without hitting these sites.
Second, some of the information on the Internet appears to be
scientific when it is not. You must critically evaluate each
site. For example, is the site located at a university or a known
research agency? What are the credentials of the researcher(s)?
Are there product advertisements at the site? Also, certain
Internet search engines are more focused on scholarly
information. As of this writing, two useful search engines are
Ingenta, Galaxy and Google Scholar.
13. Research Hypothesis
A research hypothesis is a statement of
expectation or prediction that will be tested by
Before formulating your research hypothesis,
read about the topic of interest to you. From
your reading, which may include articles, books
and/or cases, you should gain sufficient information
about your topic that will enable you to narrow or
limit it and express it as a research question.
The research question flows from the topic that you
are considering. The research question, when stated
as one sentence, is your Research Hypothesis.
14. Research Hypothesis
In some disciplines, the hypothesis is called a
“thesis statement.” Other words for
“hypothesized” are “posited,” “theorized” or
In your hypothesis, you are predicting the
relationship between variables. Through the
disciplinary insights gained in the research
process throughout the year, you “prove” your
This is a process of discovery to create greater
understandings or conclusions. It is not a strict
proof as in logic or mathematics.
15. Hints for the formulation of your
1. Be sure to read on the topic to familiarize
yourself with it before making a final decision.
2. As noted, a research hypothesis is more than
just a topic. It has two elements (variables) that
are in relation to each other. Remember that,
within the word "hypothesis" is the word "thesis."
Your hypothesis is what you propose to “prove”
by your research. As a result of your research, you
will arrive at a conclusion, a theory, or
understanding that will be useful or applicable
beyond the research itself.
16. Hints for the formulation of your
3. Avoid judgmental words in your hypothesis.
Value judgments are subjective and are not
appropriate for a hypothesis. You should strive to be
objective. Therefore the use of personal opinion is
to be avoided.
4. Your hypothesis must involve an issue or question
that cannot be answered exclusively by the
discipline. It is best to choose a hypothesis
where you already have some level of
familiarity with the disciplines that are most
relevant to the topic.
17. Hints for the formulation of your
5. Be sure that each term in your hypothesis is
clearly understood and defined; do not deal in
generalities or assume that the reader knows the
meaning of a technical term.
6. Know that your hypothesis may change over time as
your research progresses.
18. Your will be expressing your
hypothesis in 3 ways:
1. As a one-sentence hypothesis.
2. As a research question.
3. As a title for your paper
19. Characteristics of Hypothesis
1. The hypothesis should be conceptually clear: A good
research hypothesis is one which is based upon
operationally defined concepts.
2. The hypothesis must be testable: It should be
formulated in a way that can be tested directly and found
to be probably false.
3. The hypothesis should be economical and parsimonious:
If several hypothesis are offered to test a research
problem, the more economical and parsimonious ones
should be preferred to hypothesis involving higher
20. Characteristics of Hypothesis
4. The hypothesis should be related to the existing
body of theory and fact: If the investigator advances a
hypothesis, which seems to him interest but which is not
related to the existing body of theory of facts, it cannot
be a good research hypothesis. For example, the
investigator develops a that skin color produces a
difference in intelligence then it may be an interesting
hypothesis but may not be scientifically sound because
no theory has proved so.
5. The hypothesis should have logical unity and
comprehensiveness: If several hypothesis can be
formulated regarding the same research problem, the
most comprehensive one should be preferred.
21. Characteristics of Hypothesis
6. The hypothesis should be general in scope: A general
hypothesis permits several deductions and thus, explains
several facts at a time. However, very broad or very
general hypothesis cannot be good research hypothesis
because such hypothesis are often vague and cannot be
7. The hypothesis should be related to available
scientific tools and techniques: A hypothesis about
which data cannot be collected because no scientific
tools or techniques are available, cannot be a good
8. The hypothesis should be accord with other
hypotheses of the same field: