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A research question represents a starting point in the process of writing any kind of academic paper, which makes it extremely important for the overall success and outcome of your work. The research question you choose will determine the direction of the paper and show you the way to go with your analysis.
Now, you are probably wondering: What is a research question?
By definition, a research question is an answerable inquiry into a specific concern or issue. A well-designed research inquiry will help you to narrow down the focus of the project, create a meaningful hypothesis, and gather the information needed to support the thesis.
However, writing a good research question will not be a problem if you understand the methodology of work. In this post, we will explain how to craft a research question for your thesis.
The Features of a Research Question
Scientists and scholars spent a lot of time thinking about the methodology of writing a research question, but practice showed that well-designed inquiries have a set of highly specific features that every student needs to respect. These features include the following:
- Clarity: A research question has to be clear enough so that everyone can understand it instantly. We are not talking about scholars only, but rather about the average reader who might take a look at your paper.
- Focus: You can hardly ever answer an all-encompassing research question that solves big mysteries of the universe. Instead, you have to focus on highly specific research questions that allow you to give concrete and precise answers.
- Concise: The best academic inquiries are clear and concise. Try to formulate your research question in a way that is brief and easy to understand.
- Complexity: Research questions never have a simple Yes or No format. On the contrary, these are complex themes that require the same sort of answer.
- Arguable: The last thing you should pay attention to is that research questions are allowing the audience to engage and take part in the debate.
Things to Do before Defining a Research Question
As a student, you don’t want to rush into things and begin brainstorming different alternatives immediately. On the contrary, there are some things that you need to do before defining your research question.
First of all, you should try to find a topic that you already know and consider to be interesting. This will help you to approach the issue with enough passion and it will also remove a lot of preparatory work from your back.
Secondly, you must check out the existing works in a given domain. After all, it’s hard to imagine that you are the first student dealing with this theme, so you better conduct online research and go to the library to find the most relevant studies and theories.
The next thing you need to do is write down the questions you wanted to ask while reading background materials. These are the usual questions beginning with what, who, why, where, when, and how. Such notes might help you to define your own research question once the preparation is over.
Last but not least, you should also think about the area of your research and ask yourself a simple question: Is this topic relevant and interesting enough? If you believe you can contribute to the broader academic community, feel free to move on.
6 Ways to Write a Perfect Research Question
Now that you’re done with preparation, it is time to focus on writing the research question. We will give you six suggestions on how to do it properly.
1. Choose an interesting topic
The first step toward crafting a great research question is to choose an interesting topic. Every field of work can give you lots of appealing ideas that you will enjoy writing about, while the audience will also be eager to read it.
To make a research question more interesting, you can pair the topic with the local community issues or discuss trendy events. For instance, you could write about the problem anorexia in your country or analyze cinema theories in relation to the latest X-Men movie.
2. Select the most relevant literature
You cannot cover every single theory in your academic paper, but you certainly need to select a few relevant authors and discuss the topic with respect to their works. Their conclusions will help you to filter ideas and identify the best solution for your research question.
3. Think about the audience
The third step in this procedure is to think about the audience. Who is going to read your paper? If you are writing it for your mentor exclusively, then you are free to dig deeper into the theory and science jargon. But if you expect the non-academic audience to show interests in your project, the research question must be much more interesting.
4. Make a list of possible questions
After everything you’ve done so far, it shouldn’t be difficult to make a list of possible research questions. The good thing about this stage of the process is that you don’t have to worry about making a mistake because it’s all about brainstorming and listing pretty much any idea that comes to your mind.
5. Analyze the questions and choose the best one
Now that you have a full stack of research questions, you can filter through them to find the best solution for your academic project. How can you tell which one is the most appropriate? The answer is simple – you just need to identify a research question that perfectly fits the demands we mentioned above.
6. Start your research
The quest for research question is finally over, so now you can focus on your work. Use all the resources you found during the preparation phase and don’t hesitate to add something new to the existing solutions or theories.
Creating a research question is one of the most important parts of academic paper writing because it gives a general direction to your thesis. In this article, we explained to you how to write a perfect research question. Now it’s your turn to use those tips and kickstart your academic project!