A research question is the question around which you center your research. 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.
Your research question should be:
You should ask a question about an issue that you are genuinely curious and/or passionate about.
The question you ask should be developed for the discipline you are studying. A question appropriate for Biology, for instance, is different from an appropriate one in Political Science or Sociology. You may want to discuss your ideas for a research question with your professor.
Research is not passive reporting, it is a search for answers. A research question is what drives your research project; it is something that you want to know about your topic and it is something you want to explore and try to answer in your research project.
Research typically begins with a topic that has piqued your curiosity. When you're researching a topic, you typically are interested in questions of who, what, where and when.
As you learn more about your chosen topic, however, you'll discover that scholars may have different approaches and arguments about the topic, and you'll start to ask your own research questions. Research questions typically begin with why or how.
When you've selected a research question to explore and are ready to make an argument as to how to answer it, you'll come up with a thesis.
You'll want to start by narrowing down your research topic into a research question. You'll work individually and in pairs to complete the worksheet here. Download a copy so you can edit and save it for your upcoming research paper. When discussing your topic and question with your group, consider the following criteria to determine the viability of your research question:
Not easily answered with a simple yes or no
Has an underlying problem of social significance (local, national, or international)
Poses a genuine question and aims for neutrality (Neutrality in this sense means there is no predetermined answer and you are arguing based on where your research could take you. You should ultimately argue for a position.)
Can be answered with reliable evidence (are you able to find scholarly research about your question? Try looking in a database!)
Has appropriate scope (not too broad or too narrow)