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How to Write a Research Question

What is a research question? A research question is the question around which you center your research. It should be:

  • clear : it provides enough specifics that one’s audience can easily understand its purpose without needing additional explanation.
  • focused : it is narrow enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the space the writing task allows.
  • concise : it is expressed in the fewest possible words.
  • complex : it is not answerable with a simple “yes” or “no,” but rather requires synthesis and analysis of ideas and sources prior to composition of an answer.
  • arguable : its potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts.

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. If you are developing your question for a course other than first-year composition, you may want to discuss your ideas for a research question with your professor.

Why is a research question essential to the research process? 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.

Steps to developing a research question:

  • Choose an interesting general topic. Most professional researchers focus on topics they are genuinely interested in studying. Writers should choose a broad topic about which they genuinely would like to know more. An example of a general topic might be “Slavery in the American South” or “Films of the 1930s.”
  • 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 issues are scholars and researchers discussing, when it comes to your topic? What questions occur to you as you read these articles?
  • 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 the question you are developing?
  • Start asking questions. Taking into consideration all of the above, start asking yourself open-ended “how” and “why” questions about your general topic. For example, “Why were slave narratives effective tools in working toward the abolishment of slavery?” or “How did the films of the 1930s reflect or respond to the conditions of the Great Depression?”
  • Is your research question clear? With so much research available on any given topic, research questions must be as clear as possible in order to be effective in helping the writer direct his or her research.
  • Is your research question focused? Research questions must be specific enough to be well covered in the space available.
  • Is your research question complex? Research questions should not be answerable with a simple “yes” or “no” or by easily-found facts.  They should, instead, require both research and analysis on the part of the writer. They often begin with “How” or “Why.”
  • Begin your research . After you’ve come up with a question, think about the possible paths your research could take. What sources should you consult as you seek answers to your question? What research process will ensure that you find a variety of perspectives and responses to your question?

Sample Research Questions

Unclear: How should social networking sites address the harm they cause? Clear: What action should social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook take to protect users’ personal information and privacy? The unclear version of this question doesn’t specify which social networking sites or suggest what kind of harm the sites might be causing. It also assumes that this “harm” is proven and/or accepted. The clearer version specifies sites (MySpace and Facebook), the type of potential harm (privacy issues), and who may be experiencing that harm (users). A strong research question should never leave room for ambiguity or interpretation. Unfocused: What is the effect on the environment from global warming? Focused: What is the most significant effect of glacial melting on the lives of penguins in Antarctica?

The unfocused research question is so broad that it couldn’t be adequately answered in a book-length piece, let alone a standard college-level paper. The focused version narrows down to a specific effect of global warming (glacial melting), a specific place (Antarctica), and a specific animal that is affected (penguins). It also requires the writer to take a stance on which effect has the greatest impact on the affected animal. When in doubt, make a research question as narrow and focused as possible.

Too simple: How are doctors addressing diabetes in the U.S.? Appropriately Complex:   What main environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors predict whether Americans will develop diabetes, and how can these commonalities be used to aid the medical community in prevention of the disease?

The simple version of this question can be looked up online and answered in a few factual sentences; it leaves no room for analysis. The more complex version is written in two parts; it is thought provoking and requires both significant investigation and evaluation from the writer. As a general rule of thumb, if a quick Google search can answer a research question, it’s likely not very effective.

Last updated 8/8/2018

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how develop a research question

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How to Write a Research Question: Types and Examples 

research quetsion

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. 
  • Novel 
  • 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 

References:  

  • 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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How to Develop a Good Research Question? — Types & Examples

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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?

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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  • Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples

Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples

Published on 30 October 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 12 December 2023.

A research question pinpoints exactly what you want to find out in your work. A good research question is essential to guide your research paper , dissertation , or thesis .

All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

Writing Strong Research Questions

Table of contents

How to write a research question, what makes a strong research question, research questions quiz, frequently asked questions.

You can follow these steps to develop a strong research question:

  • Choose your topic
  • Do some preliminary reading about the current state of the field
  • Narrow your focus to a specific niche
  • Identify the research problem that you will address

The way you frame your question depends on what your research aims to achieve. The table below shows some examples of how you might formulate questions for different purposes.

Using your research problem to develop your research question

Note that while most research questions can be answered with various types of research , the way you frame your question should help determine your choices.

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

Research questions anchor your whole project, so it’s important to spend some time refining them. The criteria below can help you evaluate the strength of your research question.

Focused and researchable

Feasible and specific, complex and arguable, relevant and original.

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis – a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

As you cannot possibly read every source related to your topic, it’s important to evaluate sources to assess their relevance. Use preliminary evaluation to determine whether a source is worth examining in more depth.

This involves:

  • Reading abstracts , prefaces, introductions , and conclusions
  • Looking at the table of contents to determine the scope of the work
  • Consulting the index for key terms or the names of important scholars

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarised in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (‘ x affects y because …’).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses. In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

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McCombes, S. (2023, December 12). Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 31 May 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/the-research-process/research-question/

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Writing Studio

Formulating your research question (rq).

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Formulating Your Research Question Return to Writing Studio Handouts

In a research paper, the emphasis is on generating a unique question and then synthesizing diverse sources into a coherent essay that supports your argument about the topic. In other words, you integrate information from publications with your own thoughts in order to formulate an argument. Your topic is your starting place: from here, you will develop an engaging research question. Merely presenting a topic in the form of a question does not transform it into a good research question.

Research Topic Versus Research Question Examples

1. broad topic versus narrow question, 1a. broad topic.

“What forces affect race relations in America?”

1b. NARROWER QUESTION

“How do corporate hiring practices affect race relations in Nashville?”

The question “What is the percentage of racial minorities holding management positions in corporate offices in Nashville?” is much too specific and would yield, at best, a statistic that could become part of a larger argument.

2. Neutral Topic Versus Argumentative Question

2a. neutral topic.

“How does KFC market its low-fat food offerings?”

2b. Argumentative question

“Does KFC put more money into marketing its high-fat food offerings than its lower-fat ones?”

The latter question is somewhat better, since it may lead you to take a stance or formulate an argument about consumer awareness or benefit.

3. Objective Topic Versus Subjective Question

Objective subjects are factual and do not have sides to be argued. Subjective subjects are those about which you can take a side.

3a. Objective topic

“How much time do youth between the ages of 10 and 15 spend playing video games?”

3b. Subjective Question

“What are the effects of video-gaming on the attention spans of youth between the ages of 10 and 15?”

The first question is likely to lead to some data, though not necessarily to an argument or issue. The second question is somewhat better, since it might lead you to formulate an argument for or against time spent playing video games.

4. Open-Ended Topic Versus Direct Question

4a. open-ended topic.

“Does the author of this text use allusion?”

4b. Direct question (gives direction to research)

“Does the ironic use of allusion in this text reveal anything about the author’s unwillingness to divulge his political commitments?”

The second question gives focus by putting the use of allusion into the specific context of a question about the author’s political commitments and perhaps also about the circumstances under which the text was produced.

Research Question (RQ) Checklist

  • Is my RQ something that I am curious about and that others might care about? Does it present an issue on which I can take a stand?
  • Does my RQ put a new spin on an old issue, or does it try to solve a problem?
  • Is my RQ too broad, too narrow, or OK?
  • within the time frame of the assignment?
  • given the resources available at my location?
  • Is my RQ measurable? What type of information do I need? Can I find actual data to support or contradict a position?
  • What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer my RQ (journals, books, internet resources, government documents, interviews with people)?

Final Thoughts

The answer to a good research question will often be the THESIS of your research paper! And the results of your research may not always be what you expected them to be. Not only is this ok, it can be an indication that you are doing careful work!

Adapted from an online tutorial at Empire State College: http://www.esc.edu/htmlpages/writerold/menus.htm#develop (broken link)

Last revised: November 2022 | Adapted for web delivery: November 2022

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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

Junichi Tokuda, PhD

Play Junichi Tokuda video

Ursula Kaiser, MD

Play Ursula Kaiser video

Start Successfully: Build the Foundation of a Good Research Question

Jonathan Williams, MD, MMSc

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

Sharmila Dorbala, MD, MPH

Refining Your Research Question 

Play video of Clare Tempany-Afdhal

Elliot Israel, MD

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

Chris Gibbons, MD,

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: From selecting a topic to writing the bibliography

  • Selecting a Topic
  • Developing a Research Question
  • What Type of Source Do I Need?
  • Selecting the Best Place to Search
  • Search Like a Pro
  • Evaluating Information

Research Questions Worth Asking

This video from the UMD, Global Campus gives a good introduction to research questions.

What is a research question?

Once you have selected a topic, you need to develop a research question. You may be used to working with a thesis statement, but a thesis statement is an answer. If you start your research with an answer, you might miss something important or your paper might be too one-sided. Starting with a question allows you to explore your topic while still having it clearly defined. 

A good research question is specific and focused.

Topic : Netflix

Research Question : How has the rise of streaming television changed the nature of advertising during television shows?

Topic : the environmental impact of fracking

Research Question : What are some of the most effective ways of protecting local ground water from the waste water produced by fracking?

Tip: Beware of research questions that are too broad or too narrow.

Too Broad:  Why is reality television so popular?

Too Narrow:  What are the economic and social consequences of the popularity of Jersey Shore on the lives of teenagers living in Omaha, Nebraska? 

Tip: be willing to tweak your research question as you go.

Research Question:  How has the rise of streaming television changed the nature of advertising during television shows?

Potential Research Finding:  Advertising during television hasn't changed much recently.

New Research Question:  Why has advertising on television been able to remain the same when how we watch television has changed so much?

Examples of Research Questions

The assignment is a 10-15 page paper relying primarily on scholarly resources.

  • How is malaria treated?
  • Will tablet computing replace the need for laptops?
  • How much has the popularity of Harry Potter improved the reading scores of second graders in Missouri?
  • At what point in time will the need for nurses in pedatric wards outpace the graduation rates from nursing schools?
  • In what ways have online communities changed the nature of support systems available for people with Attention Deficit Disorder?
  • How has mountaintop removal mining in western Kentucky impacted the migratory habits of the local bird population?
  • << Previous: Selecting a Topic
  • Next: What Type of Source Do I Need? >>
  • Last Updated: May 28, 2024 5:06 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.gwu.edu/research

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Formulation of Research Question – Stepwise Approach

Simmi k. ratan.

Department of Pediatric Surgery, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India

1 Department of Community Medicine, North Delhi Municipal Corporation Medical College, New Delhi, India

2 Department of Pediatric Surgery, Batra Hospital and Research Centre, New Delhi, India

Formulation of research question (RQ) is an essentiality before starting any research. It aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation. It is, therefore, pertinent to formulate a good RQ. The present paper aims to discuss the process of formulation of RQ with stepwise approach. The characteristics of good RQ are expressed by acronym “FINERMAPS” expanded as feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, relevant, manageable, appropriate, potential value, publishability, and systematic. A RQ can address different formats depending on the aspect to be evaluated. Based on this, there can be different types of RQ such as based on the existence of the phenomenon, description and classification, composition, relationship, comparative, and causality. To develop a RQ, one needs to begin by identifying the subject of interest and then do preliminary research on that subject. The researcher then defines what still needs to be known in that particular subject and assesses the implied questions. After narrowing the focus and scope of the research subject, researcher frames a RQ and then evaluates it. Thus, conception to formulation of RQ is very systematic process and has to be performed meticulously as research guided by such question can have wider impact in the field of social and health research by leading to formulation of policies for the benefit of larger population.

I NTRODUCTION

A good research question (RQ) forms backbone of a good research, which in turn is vital in unraveling mysteries of nature and giving insight into a problem.[ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ] RQ identifies the problem to be studied and guides to the methodology. It leads to building up of an appropriate hypothesis (Hs). Hence, RQ aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation. A good RQ helps support a focused arguable thesis and construction of a logical argument. Hence, formulation of a good RQ is undoubtedly one of the first critical steps in the research process, especially in the field of social and health research, where the systematic generation of knowledge that can be used to promote, restore, maintain, and/or protect health of individuals and populations.[ 1 , 3 , 4 ] Basically, the research can be classified as action, applied, basic, clinical, empirical, administrative, theoretical, or qualitative or quantitative research, depending on its purpose.[ 2 ]

Research plays an important role in developing clinical practices and instituting new health policies. Hence, there is a need for a logical scientific approach as research has an important goal of generating new claims.[ 1 ]

C HARACTERISTICS OF G OOD R ESEARCH Q UESTION

“The most successful research topics are narrowly focused and carefully defined but are important parts of a broad-ranging, complex problem.”

A good RQ is an asset as it:

  • Details the problem statement
  • Further describes and refines the issue under study
  • Adds focus to the problem statement
  • Guides data collection and analysis
  • Sets context of research.

Hence, while writing RQ, it is important to see if it is relevant to the existing time frame and conditions. For example, the impact of “odd-even” vehicle formula in decreasing the level of air particulate pollution in various districts of Delhi.

A good research is represented by acronym FINERMAPS[ 5 ]

Interesting.

  • Appropriate
  • Potential value and publishability
  • Systematic.

Feasibility means that it is within the ability of the investigator to carry out. It should be backed by an appropriate number of subjects and methodology as well as time and funds to reach the conclusions. One needs to be realistic about the scope and scale of the project. One has to have access to the people, gadgets, documents, statistics, etc. One should be able to relate the concepts of the RQ to the observations, phenomena, indicators, or variables that one can access. One should be clear that the collection of data and the proceedings of project can be completed within the limited time and resources available to the investigator. Sometimes, a RQ appears feasible, but when fieldwork or study gets started, it proves otherwise. In this situation, it is important to write up the problems honestly and to reflect on what has been learned. One should try to discuss with more experienced colleagues or the supervisor so as to develop a contingency plan to anticipate possible problems while working on a RQ and find possible solutions in such situations.

This is essential that one has a real grounded interest in one's RQ and one can explore this and back it up with academic and intellectual debate. This interest will motivate one to keep going with RQ.

The question should not simply copy questions investigated by other workers but should have scope to be investigated. It may aim at confirming or refuting the already established findings, establish new facts, or find new aspects of the established facts. It should show imagination of the researcher. Above all, the question has to be simple and clear. The complexity of a question can frequently hide unclear thoughts and lead to a confused research process. A very elaborate RQ, or a question which is not differentiated into different parts, may hide concepts that are contradictory or not relevant. This needs to be clear and thought-through. Having one key question with several subcomponents will guide your research.

This is the foremost requirement of any RQ and is mandatory to get clearance from appropriate authorities before stating research on the question. Further, the RQ should be such that it minimizes the risk of harm to the participants in the research, protect the privacy and maintain their confidentiality, and provide the participants right to withdraw from research. It should also guide in avoiding deceptive practices in research.

The question should of academic and intellectual interest to people in the field you have chosen to study. The question preferably should arise from issues raised in the current situation, literature, or in practice. It should establish a clear purpose for the research in relation to the chosen field. For example, filling a gap in knowledge, analyzing academic assumptions or professional practice, monitoring a development in practice, comparing different approaches, or testing theories within a specific population are some of the relevant RQs.

Manageable (M): It has the similar essence as of feasibility but mainly means that the following research can be managed by the researcher.

Appropriate (A): RQ should be appropriate logically and scientifically for the community and institution.

Potential value and publishability (P): The study can make significant health impact in clinical and community practices. Therefore, research should aim for significant economic impact to reduce unnecessary or excessive costs. Furthermore, the proposed study should exist within a clinical, consumer, or policy-making context that is amenable to evidence-based change. Above all, a good RQ must address a topic that has clear implications for resolving important dilemmas in health and health-care decisions made by one or more stakeholder groups.

Systematic (S): Research is structured with specified steps to be taken in a specified sequence in accordance with the well-defined set of rules though it does not rule out creative thinking.

Example of RQ: Would the topical skin application of oil as a skin barrier reduces hypothermia in preterm infants? This question fulfills the criteria of a good RQ, that is, feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, and relevant.

Types of research question

A RQ can address different formats depending on the aspect to be evaluated.[ 6 ] For example:

  • Existence: This is designed to uphold the existence of a particular phenomenon or to rule out rival explanation, for example, can neonates perceive pain?
  • Description and classification: This type of question encompasses statement of uniqueness, for example, what are characteristics and types of neuropathic bladders?
  • Composition: It calls for breakdown of whole into components, for example, what are stages of reflux nephropathy?
  • Relationship: Evaluate relation between variables, for example, association between tumor rupture and recurrence rates in Wilm's tumor
  • Descriptive—comparative: Expected that researcher will ensure that all is same between groups except issue in question, for example, Are germ cell tumors occurring in gonads more aggressive than those occurring in extragonadal sites?
  • Causality: Does deletion of p53 leads to worse outcome in patients with neuroblastoma?
  • Causality—comparative: Such questions frequently aim to see effect of two rival treatments, for example, does adding surgical resection improves survival rate outcome in children with neuroblastoma than with chemotherapy alone?
  • Causality–Comparative interactions: Does immunotherapy leads to better survival outcome in neuroblastoma Stage IV S than with chemotherapy in the setting of adverse genetic profile than without it? (Does X cause more changes in Y than those caused by Z under certain condition and not under other conditions).

How to develop a research question

  • Begin by identifying a broader subject of interest that lends itself to investigate, for example, hormone levels among hypospadias
  • Do preliminary research on the general topic to find out what research has already been done and what literature already exists.[ 7 ] Therefore, one should begin with “information gaps” (What do you already know about the problem? For example, studies with results on testosterone levels among hypospadias
  • What do you still need to know? (e.g., levels of other reproductive hormones among hypospadias)
  • What are the implied questions: The need to know about a problem will lead to few implied questions. Each general question should lead to more specific questions (e.g., how hormone levels differ among isolated hypospadias with respect to that in normal population)
  • Narrow the scope and focus of research (e.g., assessment of reproductive hormone levels among isolated hypospadias and hypospadias those with associated anomalies)
  • Is RQ clear? With so much research available on any given topic, RQs must be as clear as possible in order to be effective in helping the writer direct his or her research
  • Is the RQ focused? RQs must be specific enough to be well covered in the space available
  • Is the RQ complex? RQs should not be answerable with a simple “yes” or “no” or by easily found facts. They should, instead, require both research and analysis on the part of the writer
  • Is the RQ one that is of interest to the researcher and potentially useful to others? Is it a new issue or problem that needs to be solved or is it attempting to shed light on previously researched topic
  • Is the RQ researchable? Consider the available time frame and the required resources. Is the methodology to conduct the research feasible?
  • Is the RQ measurable and will the process produce data that can be supported or contradicted?
  • Is the RQ too broad or too narrow?
  • Create Hs: After formulating RQ, think where research is likely to be progressing? What kind of argument is likely to be made/supported? What would it mean if the research disputed the planned argument? At this step, one can well be on the way to have a focus for the research and construction of a thesis. Hs consists of more specific predictions about the nature and direction of the relationship between two variables. It is a predictive statement about the outcome of the research, dictate the method, and design of the research[ 1 ]
  • Understand implications of your research: This is important for application: whether one achieves to fill gap in knowledge and how the results of the research have practical implications, for example, to develop health policies or improve educational policies.[ 1 , 8 ]

Brainstorm/Concept map for formulating research question

  • First, identify what types of studies have been done in the past?
  • Is there a unique area that is yet to be investigated or is there a particular question that may be worth replicating?
  • Begin to narrow the topic by asking open-ended “how” and “why” questions
  • Evaluate the question
  • Develop a Hypothesis (Hs)
  • Write down the RQ.

Writing down the research question

  • State the question in your own words
  • Write down the RQ as completely as possible.

For example, Evaluation of reproductive hormonal profile in children presenting with isolated hypospadias)

  • Divide your question into concepts. Narrow to two or three concepts (reproductive hormonal profile, isolated hypospadias, compare with normal/not isolated hypospadias–implied)
  • Specify the population to be studied (children with isolated hypospadias)
  • Refer to the exposure or intervention to be investigated, if any
  • Reflect the outcome of interest (hormonal profile).

Another example of a research question

Would the topical skin application of oil as a skin barrier reduces hypothermia in preterm infants? Apart from fulfilling the criteria of a good RQ, that is, feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, and relevant, it also details about the intervention done (topical skin application of oil), rationale of intervention (as a skin barrier), population to be studied (preterm infants), and outcome (reduces hypothermia).

Other important points to be heeded to while framing research question

  • Make reference to a population when a relationship is expected among a certain type of subjects
  • RQs and Hs should be made as specific as possible
  • Avoid words or terms that do not add to the meaning of RQs and Hs
  • Stick to what will be studied, not implications
  • Name the variables in the order in which they occur/will be measured
  • Avoid the words significant/”prove”
  • Avoid using two different terms to refer to the same variable.

Some of the other problems and their possible solutions have been discussed in Table 1 .

Potential problems and solutions while making research question

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Object name is JIAPS-24-15-g001.jpg

G OING B EYOND F ORMULATION OF R ESEARCH Q UESTION–THE P ATH A HEAD

Once RQ is formulated, a Hs can be developed. Hs means transformation of a RQ into an operational analog.[ 1 ] It means a statement as to what prediction one makes about the phenomenon to be examined.[ 4 ] More often, for case–control trial, null Hs is generated which is later accepted or refuted.

A strong Hs should have following characteristics:

  • Give insight into a RQ
  • Are testable and measurable by the proposed experiments
  • Have logical basis
  • Follows the most likely outcome, not the exceptional outcome.

E XAMPLES OF R ESEARCH Q UESTION AND H YPOTHESIS

Research question-1.

  • Does reduced gap between the two segments of the esophagus in patients of esophageal atresia reduces the mortality and morbidity of such patients?

Hypothesis-1

  • Reduced gap between the two segments of the esophagus in patients of esophageal atresia reduces the mortality and morbidity of such patients
  • In pediatric patients with esophageal atresia, gap of <2 cm between two segments of the esophagus and proper mobilization of proximal pouch reduces the morbidity and mortality among such patients.

Research question-2

  • Does application of mitomycin C improves the outcome in patient of corrosive esophageal strictures?

Hypothesis-2

In patients aged 2–9 years with corrosive esophageal strictures, 34 applications of mitomycin C in dosage of 0.4 mg/ml for 5 min over a period of 6 months improve the outcome in terms of symptomatic and radiological relief. Some other examples of good and bad RQs have been shown in Table 2 .

Examples of few bad (left-hand side column) and few good (right-hand side) research questions

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Object name is JIAPS-24-15-g002.jpg

R ESEARCH Q UESTION AND S TUDY D ESIGN

RQ determines study design, for example, the question aimed to find the incidence of a disease in population will lead to conducting a survey; to find risk factors for a disease will need case–control study or a cohort study. RQ may also culminate into clinical trial.[ 9 , 10 ] For example, effect of administration of folic acid tablet in the perinatal period in decreasing incidence of neural tube defect. Accordingly, Hs is framed.

Appropriate statistical calculations are instituted to generate sample size. The subject inclusion, exclusion criteria and time frame of research are carefully defined. The detailed subject information sheet and pro forma are carefully defined. Moreover, research is set off few examples of research methodology guided by RQ:

  • Incidence of anorectal malformations among adolescent females (hospital-based survey)
  • Risk factors for the development of spontaneous pneumoperitoneum in pediatric patients (case–control design and cohort study)
  • Effect of technique of extramucosal ureteric reimplantation without the creation of submucosal tunnel for the preservation of upper tract in bladder exstrophy (clinical trial).

The results of the research are then be available for wider applications for health and social life

C ONCLUSION

A good RQ needs thorough literature search and deep insight into the specific area/problem to be investigated. A RQ has to be focused yet simple. Research guided by such question can have wider impact in the field of social and health research by leading to formulation of policies for the benefit of larger population.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest.

There are no conflicts of interest.

R EFERENCES

How to Write Compelling Research Questions

Harish M

Are you ready to take your research to the next level? Crafting a powerful research question is the key to unlocking the full potential of your academic journey. It's like having a trusty compass that guides you through the vast wilderness of knowledge, ensuring you stay on track and reach your destination.

In this article, we'll walk you through the essential steps to develop a research question that packs a punch. From identifying your research topic to refining and evaluating your question, we've got you covered. Along the way, we'll explore what makes a good research question and share some helpful research questions examples to inspire you. So, whether you're a student, writer, or just curious about how to form a research question, join us as we embark on this exciting adventure of developing research questions that will elevate your research to new heights!

Identify Your Research Topic

Alright, let's dive into the exciting world of identifying your research topic! Picture yourself as an adventurer, ready to explore uncharted territories of knowledge. But before you embark on this thrilling journey, you need to choose a destination that sparks your curiosity and aligns with your goals.

Brainstorming Your Interests

  • Start by brainstorming a list of subjects that pique your interest. Consider areas that haven't been thoroughly explored or present challenges within your field.
  • Ask yourself questions like: What fascinates me? What problems do I want to solve? What knowledge gaps exist in my area of study?
  • Engage in discussions with peers, professors, or experts to gain fresh perspectives and refine your ideas.

Conducting Preliminary Research

Once you have a general topic in mind, it's time to do some background reading to narrow down your focus:

As you explore these resources, consider the following:

  • Look for keywords and concepts that social scientists use to discuss your topic
  • Identify specific cases or examples that can make your ideas more concrete
  • Determine what aspects of the topic you want to focus on and find an angle to contribute through your project

Evaluating Your Topic

Before finalizing your research topic, ensure it meets the following criteria:

  • Aligns with the assignment requirements and guidelines
  • Has a substantial body of accessible and manageable related research
  • Is interesting, relevant, and worthy of the time invested
  • Allows for finding sufficient information in books or scholarly journals
  • Fits your future professional path and enhances your skills

Remember, your research topic is not set in stone. It may evolve as you delve deeper into the research process. Embrace the opportunity to discover new insights and modify your topic accordingly.

Now that you've identified a captivating research topic, you're ready to embark on the next stage of your research adventure: conducting preliminary research to further refine your focus and develop a powerful research question.

Conduct Preliminary Research

Now that you've identified your research topic, it's time to dive deeper and conduct some preliminary research. This crucial step will help you narrow down your focus, identify key concepts, and lay the groundwork for developing a powerful research question.

  • Use search engines like Google Scholar or your library's online catalog to find relevant articles, books, and other resources related to your topic.
  • Explore Wikipedia to gain a broad understanding of your topic and discover potential subtopics or related areas of interest.
  • As you read through your initial search results, take note of frequently used terms, phrases, and concepts related to your topic.
  • Create a list of these key terms to help guide your further research and refine your focus.
  • Assess the quantity and quality of the resources you've found so far.
  • Determine if there is sufficient information available to support your research or if you need to adjust your topic's scope.
  • Diversify your research by exploring various types of sources, such as:
  • As you review the literature, look for areas where there is a lack of information or where scholars disagree.
  • These gaps and debates can help you identify potential research questions and contribute to the existing body of knowledge.
  • Based on your preliminary research, consider narrowing down your topic to a more specific focus.
  • A well-defined and focused topic will make it easier to develop a clear and concise research question.

Remember, conducting preliminary research is an iterative process. As you learn more about your topic, you may need to adjust your focus, search for additional sources, or explore new angles. Embrace this process of discovery and let your curiosity guide you towards a compelling research question.

Define Your Research Problem

Alright, now that you've conducted some preliminary research and have a better understanding of your topic, it's time to define your research problem. This is where the real fun begins!

  • Start by asking "how" and "why" questions about your general topic.
  • For example, instead of asking, "Does social media affect mental health?" try, "How does social media impact the mental health of teenagers?"
  • These types of questions encourage deeper exploration and analysis.
  • Narrow down your research problem to a particular aspect of the broader topic.
  • Consider focusing on a specific place, time, or group of people.
  • Specify the aspects you will address and those you will not.
  • Your research problem should be complex enough to require research and analysis, not just a simple yes/no answer.
  • It should also be significant to you and potentially to others, addressing the "so what" factor.

Crafting the Research Question

Alright, now that you've defined your research problem, it's time to craft a powerful research question that will guide your study. A well-formulated research question should be clear, focused, and complex, avoiding simple yes/no answers and requiring research and analysis.

Characteristics of a Strong Research Question

A good research question exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Answerable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to the field of study and/or society

The PICO(T) Framework

When structuring your research question, consider using the PICO(T) framework:

Avoiding Common Mistakes

To ensure your research question is strong, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Ambiguity: Use clear and specific language to avoid confusion
  • Assumption: Avoid making assumptions or using loaded language
  • Scope: Keep the scope of your question manageable and relevant

Formulating Your Question

When crafting your research question, consider the following formulations:

  • Describing and exploring: "What are the characteristics of...?"
  • Explaining and testing: "What is the relationship between...?"
  • Evaluating and acting: "How effective is...?"

Remember, developing a research question is an iterative process that involves continuously updating your knowledge on the topic and refining your ideas. As you progress through your research, you may need to adjust your question to better align with your findings and insights.

Examples of Research Questions

  • Descriptive: "What are the main challenges faced by small businesses during a pandemic?"
  • Comparative: "How does the effectiveness of online learning compare to traditional classroom learning?"
  • Correlational: "Is there a relationship between social media use and anxiety levels in teenagers?"
  • Exploratory: "What factors contribute to the success of remote work arrangements?"
  • Explanatory: "How does regular exercise impact cognitive function in older adults?"
  • Evaluation: "To what extent do diversity and inclusion initiatives improve employee satisfaction and retention?"

By crafting a strong research question that is clear, focused, and complex, you'll set the foundation for a successful research project that contributes to your field of study and provides valuable insights.

Refine and Evaluate Your Question

Congratulations on crafting a powerful research question! Now, it's time to refine and evaluate your question to ensure it's the best it can be. Let's dive in and make your research question shine!

Determining Relationships and Selecting Variables

  • Identify how variables are related to one another and how these relationships may contribute to your research problem.
  • Summarize how you plan to consider and use these variables and how they might influence the study results.

Asking Critical Open-Ended Questions

Narrow down your research question by asking the following:

  • Who is involved in your research?
  • What specific aspects are you investigating?
  • When and where will your research take place?
  • How will you conduct your study?
  • Why is this research important?

Apply these criteria to make your question more generative, relevant, original, and less obvious.

Seeking Feedback and Revising

Remember, receiving feedback and revising is a valuable step in creating impactful and precise research.

Evaluating Interestingness and Feasibility

Consider the following factors when evaluating your research question:

  • Is the answer in doubt?
  • Does it fill a gap in the research literature?
  • Does it have important practical implications?
  • Do you have enough time and money?
  • Do you possess the necessary technical knowledge and skills?
  • Do you have access to special equipment and research participants?

Striving for Simplicity and Precision

  • Make your research question as specific and concise as possible.
  • Seek input from experts, mentors, and colleagues to refine your question further.
  • Consider how your research question influences factors such as methodology, sample size, data collection, and analysis.

By refining and evaluating your research question, you'll set the stage for a successful research project that contributes valuable insights to your field of study. Remember, a well-crafted research question is central to a well-written paper, sparking interest and leading to new or rethought perspectives.

Developing a powerful research question is the cornerstone of any successful research project. By identifying your research topic, conducting preliminary research, defining your research problem, and crafting a focused question, you'll set the foundation for a meaningful and impactful study. Remember to refine and evaluate your question, seeking feedback from mentors and peers to ensure its relevance and feasibility.

As you embark on your research journey, let your curiosity be your guide. Embrace the process of discovery, and don't be afraid to refine your question as you uncover new insights. By crafting a research question that is clear, focused, and complex, you'll contribute valuable knowledge to your field and make a lasting impact on the world of research. So go forth, intrepid researcher, and let your powerful research question be the beacon that illuminates your path to success!

What are the essential steps to formulate a research question?

To formulate a research question, follow these steps:

  • Choose a general subject area or consider the one that has been assigned to you.
  • Narrow down the topic to a more specific aspect of the general subject.
  • Brainstorm various questions that could be asked about this narrower topic.
  • Select the question that you find most intriguing or compelling.

How can I create a strong research question?

To develop a strong research question, you should:

  • Conduct initial research on your topic to understand the current discourse.
  • Identify a problem or a knowledge gap within your field.
  • Ensure your question aims to contribute to ongoing debates within your field or society.

What is the five-step process for writing a research question?

When crafting a research question, you should:

  • Select a broad topic of interest.
  • Engage in preliminary research to gain background information.
  • Keep in mind the audience for whom the research is intended.
  • Develop a list of possible questions related to the topic.
  • Review and refine the list of questions.
  • Formulate the final research question.

What are the five key elements of an effective research question?

An effective research question typically includes the following five components:

  • Population: the group you are studying.
  • Intervention: the variable or treatment you are considering.
  • Comparator: the standard or control you are comparing the intervention to.
  • Outcome: the expected result or effect of the intervention.
  • Time frame: the period during which the study is conducted.These components can be remembered through the acronyms PICOT and FINER, which stand for Population, Intervention, Comparator, Outcome, Time frame, and Feasible, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, Relevant, respectively.

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Home » Research Questions – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

Research Questions – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Questions

Research Questions

Definition:

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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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?

Foreground Questions

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:

Intervention/Therapy

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)?

Prognosis/Prediction:

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?

Background Questions

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?
  • << Previous: Starting a Project: Overview
  • Next: Selecting Databases >>
  • Last Updated: May 31, 2024 10:32 AM
  • URL: https://guides.nyu.edu/pico

Grad Coach

Research Aims, Objectives & Questions

The “Golden Thread” Explained Simply (+ Examples)

By: David Phair (PhD) and Alexandra Shaeffer (PhD) | June 2022

The research aims , objectives and research questions (collectively called the “golden thread”) are arguably the most important thing you need to get right when you’re crafting a research proposal , dissertation or thesis . We receive questions almost every day about this “holy trinity” of research and there’s certainly a lot of confusion out there, so we’ve crafted this post to help you navigate your way through the fog.

Overview: The Golden Thread

  • What is the golden thread
  • What are research aims ( examples )
  • What are research objectives ( examples )
  • What are research questions ( examples )
  • The importance of alignment in the golden thread

What is the “golden thread”?  

The golden thread simply refers to the collective research aims , research objectives , and research questions for any given project (i.e., a dissertation, thesis, or research paper ). These three elements are bundled together because it’s extremely important that they align with each other, and that the entire research project aligns with them.

Importantly, the golden thread needs to weave its way through the entirety of any research project , from start to end. In other words, it needs to be very clearly defined right at the beginning of the project (the topic ideation and proposal stage) and it needs to inform almost every decision throughout the rest of the project. For example, your research design and methodology will be heavily influenced by the golden thread (we’ll explain this in more detail later), as well as your literature review.

The research aims, objectives and research questions (the golden thread) define the focus and scope ( the delimitations ) of your research project. In other words, they help ringfence your dissertation or thesis to a relatively narrow domain, so that you can “go deep” and really dig into a specific problem or opportunity. They also help keep you on track , as they act as a litmus test for relevance. In other words, if you’re ever unsure whether to include something in your document, simply ask yourself the question, “does this contribute toward my research aims, objectives or questions?”. If it doesn’t, chances are you can drop it.

Alright, enough of the fluffy, conceptual stuff. Let’s get down to business and look at what exactly the research aims, objectives and questions are and outline a few examples to bring these concepts to life.

Free Webinar: How To Find A Dissertation Research Topic

Research Aims: What are they?

Simply put, the research aim(s) is a statement that reflects the broad overarching goal (s) of the research project. Research aims are fairly high-level (low resolution) as they outline the general direction of the research and what it’s trying to achieve .

Research Aims: Examples  

True to the name, research aims usually start with the wording “this research aims to…”, “this research seeks to…”, and so on. For example:

“This research aims to explore employee experiences of digital transformation in retail HR.”   “This study sets out to assess the interaction between student support and self-care on well-being in engineering graduate students”  

As you can see, these research aims provide a high-level description of what the study is about and what it seeks to achieve. They’re not hyper-specific or action-oriented, but they’re clear about what the study’s focus is and what is being investigated.

Need a helping hand?

how develop a research question

Research Objectives: What are they?

The research objectives take the research aims and make them more practical and actionable . In other words, the research objectives showcase the steps that the researcher will take to achieve the research aims.

The research objectives need to be far more specific (higher resolution) and actionable than the research aims. In fact, it’s always a good idea to craft your research objectives using the “SMART” criteria. In other words, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound”.

Research Objectives: Examples  

Let’s look at two examples of research objectives. We’ll stick with the topic and research aims we mentioned previously.  

For the digital transformation topic:

To observe the retail HR employees throughout the digital transformation. To assess employee perceptions of digital transformation in retail HR. To identify the barriers and facilitators of digital transformation in retail HR.

And for the student wellness topic:

To determine whether student self-care predicts the well-being score of engineering graduate students. To determine whether student support predicts the well-being score of engineering students. To assess the interaction between student self-care and student support when predicting well-being in engineering graduate students.

  As you can see, these research objectives clearly align with the previously mentioned research aims and effectively translate the low-resolution aims into (comparatively) higher-resolution objectives and action points . They give the research project a clear focus and present something that resembles a research-based “to-do” list.

The research objectives detail the specific steps that you, as the researcher, will take to achieve the research aims you laid out.

Research Questions: What are they?

Finally, we arrive at the all-important research questions. The research questions are, as the name suggests, the key questions that your study will seek to answer . Simply put, they are the core purpose of your dissertation, thesis, or research project. You’ll present them at the beginning of your document (either in the introduction chapter or literature review chapter) and you’ll answer them at the end of your document (typically in the discussion and conclusion chapters).  

The research questions will be the driving force throughout the research process. For example, in the literature review chapter, you’ll assess the relevance of any given resource based on whether it helps you move towards answering your research questions. Similarly, your methodology and research design will be heavily influenced by the nature of your research questions. For instance, research questions that are exploratory in nature will usually make use of a qualitative approach, whereas questions that relate to measurement or relationship testing will make use of a quantitative approach.  

Let’s look at some examples of research questions to make this more tangible.

Research Questions: Examples  

Again, we’ll stick with the research aims and research objectives we mentioned previously.  

For the digital transformation topic (which would be qualitative in nature):

How do employees perceive digital transformation in retail HR? What are the barriers and facilitators of digital transformation in retail HR?  

And for the student wellness topic (which would be quantitative in nature):

Does student self-care predict the well-being scores of engineering graduate students? Does student support predict the well-being scores of engineering students? Do student self-care and student support interact when predicting well-being in engineering graduate students?  

You’ll probably notice that there’s quite a formulaic approach to this. In other words, the research questions are basically the research objectives “converted” into question format. While that is true most of the time, it’s not always the case. For example, the first research objective for the digital transformation topic was more or less a step on the path toward the other objectives, and as such, it didn’t warrant its own research question.  

So, don’t rush your research questions and sloppily reword your objectives as questions. Carefully think about what exactly you’re trying to achieve (i.e. your research aim) and the objectives you’ve set out, then craft a set of well-aligned research questions . Also, keep in mind that this can be a somewhat iterative process , where you go back and tweak research objectives and aims to ensure tight alignment throughout the golden thread.

The importance of strong alignment 

Alignment is the keyword here and we have to stress its importance . Simply put, you need to make sure that there is a very tight alignment between all three pieces of the golden thread. If your research aims and research questions don’t align, for example, your project will be pulling in different directions and will lack focus . This is a common problem students face and can cause many headaches (and tears), so be warned.

Take the time to carefully craft your research aims, objectives and research questions before you run off down the research path. Ideally, get your research supervisor/advisor to review and comment on your golden thread before you invest significant time into your project, and certainly before you start collecting data .  

Recap: The golden thread

In this post, we unpacked the golden thread of research, consisting of the research aims , research objectives and research questions . You can jump back to any section using the links below.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below – we always love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in 1-on-1 support, take a look at our private coaching service here.

how develop a research question

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This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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39 Comments

Isaac Levi

Thank you very much for your great effort put. As an Undergraduate taking Demographic Research & Methodology, I’ve been trying so hard to understand clearly what is a Research Question, Research Aim and the Objectives in a research and the relationship between them etc. But as for now I’m thankful that you’ve solved my problem.

Hatimu Bah

Well appreciated. This has helped me greatly in doing my dissertation.

Dr. Abdallah Kheri

An so delighted with this wonderful information thank you a lot.

so impressive i have benefited a lot looking forward to learn more on research.

Ekwunife, Chukwunonso Onyeka Steve

I am very happy to have carefully gone through this well researched article.

Infact,I used to be phobia about anything research, because of my poor understanding of the concepts.

Now,I get to know that my research question is the same as my research objective(s) rephrased in question format.

I please I would need a follow up on the subject,as I intends to join the team of researchers. Thanks once again.

Tosin

Thanks so much. This was really helpful.

Ishmael

I know you pepole have tried to break things into more understandable and easy format. And God bless you. Keep it up

sylas

i found this document so useful towards my study in research methods. thanks so much.

Michael L. Andrion

This is my 2nd read topic in your course and I should commend the simplified explanations of each part. I’m beginning to understand and absorb the use of each part of a dissertation/thesis. I’ll keep on reading your free course and might be able to avail the training course! Kudos!

Scarlett

Thank you! Better put that my lecture and helped to easily understand the basics which I feel often get brushed over when beginning dissertation work.

Enoch Tindiwegi

This is quite helpful. I like how the Golden thread has been explained and the needed alignment.

Sora Dido Boru

This is quite helpful. I really appreciate!

Chulyork

The article made it simple for researcher students to differentiate between three concepts.

Afowosire Wasiu Adekunle

Very innovative and educational in approach to conducting research.

Sàlihu Abubakar Dayyabu

I am very impressed with all these terminology, as I am a fresh student for post graduate, I am highly guided and I promised to continue making consultation when the need arise. Thanks a lot.

Mohammed Shamsudeen

A very helpful piece. thanks, I really appreciate it .

Sonam Jyrwa

Very well explained, and it might be helpful to many people like me.

JB

Wish i had found this (and other) resource(s) at the beginning of my PhD journey… not in my writing up year… 😩 Anyways… just a quick question as i’m having some issues ordering my “golden thread”…. does it matter in what order you mention them? i.e., is it always first aims, then objectives, and finally the questions? or can you first mention the research questions and then the aims and objectives?

UN

Thank you for a very simple explanation that builds upon the concepts in a very logical manner. Just prior to this, I read the research hypothesis article, which was equally very good. This met my primary objective.

My secondary objective was to understand the difference between research questions and research hypothesis, and in which context to use which one. However, I am still not clear on this. Can you kindly please guide?

Derek Jansen

In research, a research question is a clear and specific inquiry that the researcher wants to answer, while a research hypothesis is a tentative statement or prediction about the relationship between variables or the expected outcome of the study. Research questions are broader and guide the overall study, while hypotheses are specific and testable statements used in quantitative research. Research questions identify the problem, while hypotheses provide a focus for testing in the study.

Saen Fanai

Exactly what I need in this research journey, I look forward to more of your coaching videos.

Abubakar Rofiat Opeyemi

This helped a lot. Thanks so much for the effort put into explaining it.

Lamin Tarawally

What data source in writing dissertation/Thesis requires?

What is data source covers when writing dessertation/thesis

Latifat Muhammed

This is quite useful thanks

Yetunde

I’m excited and thankful. I got so much value which will help me progress in my thesis.

Amer Al-Rashid

where are the locations of the reserch statement, research objective and research question in a reserach paper? Can you write an ouline that defines their places in the researh paper?

Webby

Very helpful and important tips on Aims, Objectives and Questions.

Refiloe Raselane

Thank you so much for making research aim, research objectives and research question so clear. This will be helpful to me as i continue with my thesis.

Annabelle Roda-Dafielmoto

Thanks much for this content. I learned a lot. And I am inspired to learn more. I am still struggling with my preparation for dissertation outline/proposal. But I consistently follow contents and tutorials and the new FB of GRAD Coach. Hope to really become confident in writing my dissertation and successfully defend it.

Joe

As a researcher and lecturer, I find splitting research goals into research aims, objectives, and questions is unnecessarily bureaucratic and confusing for students. For most biomedical research projects, including ‘real research’, 1-3 research questions will suffice (numbers may differ by discipline).

Abdella

Awesome! Very important resources and presented in an informative way to easily understand the golden thread. Indeed, thank you so much.

Sheikh

Well explained

New Growth Care Group

The blog article on research aims, objectives, and questions by Grad Coach is a clear and insightful guide that aligns with my experiences in academic research. The article effectively breaks down the often complex concepts of research aims and objectives, providing a straightforward and accessible explanation. Drawing from my own research endeavors, I appreciate the practical tips offered, such as the need for specificity and clarity when formulating research questions. The article serves as a valuable resource for students and researchers, offering a concise roadmap for crafting well-defined research goals and objectives. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced researcher, this article provides practical insights that contribute to the foundational aspects of a successful research endeavor.

yaikobe

A great thanks for you. it is really amazing explanation. I grasp a lot and one step up to research knowledge.

UMAR SALEH

I really found these tips helpful. Thank you very much Grad Coach.

Rahma D.

I found this article helpful. Thanks for sharing this.

Juhaida

thank you so much, the explanation and examples are really helpful

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1-Research Questions

6. Developing Your Research Question

Because of all their influence, you might worry that research questions are very difficult to develop. Sometimes it can seem that way. But we’ll help you get the hang of it and, luckily, none of us has to come up with perfect ones right off. It’s more like doing a rough draft and then improving it. That’s why we talk about developing research questions instead of just writing them.

Steps for Developing a Research Question

The steps for developing a research question, listed below, can help you organize your thoughts.

Step 1: Pick a topic (or consider the one assigned to you).

Step 2: Write a narrower/smaller topic that is related to the first.

Step 3: List some potential questions that could logically be asked in relation to the narrow topic.

Step 4: Pick the question that you are most interested in.

Step 5: Change the question you’re interested in so that it is more focused and specific.

MOVIE: Developing Research Questions

As you view this short video on how to develop research questions, think about the steps. Which step do you think is easiest? Which do you think is the hardest?  

Once you know the steps and their order, only three skills are involved in developing a research question:

  • Imagining narrower topics about a larger one,
  • Thinking of questions that stem from a narrow topic, and
  • Focusing questions to eliminate their vagueness.

Every time you use these skills, it’s important to evaluate what you have produced—that’s just part of the process of turning rough drafts into more finished products.

Start with a narrow topic, think of questions, and then focus those questions.

ACTIVITY:  Developing a Research Question

Maybe you have a topic in mind but aren’t sure how to form a research question around it. The trick is to think of a question related to your topic but not answerable with a quick search. Also, try to be specific so that your research question can be fully answered in the final product for your research assignment.

ACTIVITY: Thinking of Questions

For each of the narrow topics below, think of a research question that is logically related to that topic. (Remember that good research questions often, but not always, start with “Why” or “How” because questions that begin that way usually require more analysis.)

  • U.S. investors’ attitudes about sustainability
  • College students’ use of Snapchat
  • The character Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Nature-inspired nanotechnologies
  • Marital therapy

After you think of each research question, evaluate it by asking whether it is:

  • Logically related to the topic
  • In question form
  • Not answerable with a quick Google search
  • Specific, not vague

Sometimes the first draft of a research question is still too broad, which can make your search for sources more challenging. Refining your question to remove vagueness or to target a specific aspect of the topic can help.

ACTIVITY: Focusing Questions

The first draft research questions below are not focused enough. Read them and identify at least one area of vagueness in each. Check your vagueness with what we identified. It’s great if you found more than we did because that can lead to research questions of greater specificity. See the bottom of the page for our answers.

First Drafts of Research Questions:

  • Why have most electric car company start-ups failed?
  • How do crabapple trees develop buds?
  • How has NASA helped America?
  • Why do many first-time elections soon after a country overthrows a dictator result in very conservative elected leaders?
  • How is music composed and performed mostly by African-Americans connected to African-American history?

ANSWER TO ACTIVITY: Focusing Questions

Some answers to the “Focusing Questions” Activity above are:

Question 1: Why have most electric car company start-ups failed? Vagueness: Which companies are we talking about? Worldwide or in a particular country?

Question 2: How do crabapple trees develop buds? Vagueness: There are several kinds of crabapples. Should we talk only about one kind? Does it matter where the crabapple tree lives?

Question 3: How has NASA helped America? Vagueness: NASA has had many projects. Should we should focus on one project they completed? Or projects during a particular time period?

Question 4: Why do many first-time elections soon after a country overthrows a dictator result in very conservative elected leaders? Vagueness: What time period are we talking about? Many dictators have been overthrown and many countries have been involved. Perhaps we should focus on one country or one dictator or one time period.

Question 5: How is music composed and performed mostly by African-Americans connected to African-American history? Vagueness: What kinds of music? Any particular performers and composers? When?

Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research Copyright © 2015 by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • Introduction
  • The Research Process
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  • Primary vs. Secondary Sources
  • Quantitative vs. Qualitative
  • Evaluating Sources

What is a research question?

A research question is an essential tool to help guide your research paper, project, or thesis. It poses a specific question that you are seeking to answer in your paper. Research questions can be broad or narrow, and can change throughout the research process.

A good research question should be:

  • Focused on a single issue
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly in your paper
  • Feasible to answer within the length of your paper
  • Researchable using the resources available to you
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or to society at large

The length of your paper and the research you're able to locate will help to shape your research question. A longer paper, like a thesis or dissertation, may require multiple research questions.

The answer to your research question develops into your thesis statement .

Writing Your Research Question

Chose a Topic

You should choose a research topic that is interesting to you. This will make the research and writing process much more bearable.

A good way to begin brainstorming research questions is to list all the questions you would like to see answered, or topics you would like to learn more about. You may have been provided a list of potential topics by your professor, if none are interesting to you ask if you can develop your own.

It is better to start broad and narrow down your focus as you go.

Do Preliminary Research

graphic depicting an upside down triangle showing the process of narrowing a research subject

Reference materials like encyclopedias can also be good for this purpose.

Narrow Your Topic

Now that you have a basic idea of what research exists on your topic, you can begin to narrow your focus.

Make sure that your question is specific enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the length of your paper.

Developing a Research Question Video Tutorial

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A research question is a statement that defines what is to be studied. It is the core of the research project, study, or literature review. Your research question  focuses the study, determines the methodology, and guides all stages of inquiry, analysis, and reporting.

Your research question should...

  • Be focused 
  • Identify the problem you're writing about
  • Establish significance 

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Market Research

Business planning, website development, product or service selection, marketing and promotion, is it a good idea to start an online business, can i start an online business with $100, what are different types of online marketing strategies, the bottom line.

  • Small Business
  • How to Start a Business

How to Start an Online Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

Crafting a Winning Business Plan: Setting Goals and Strategies

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Katie Miller is a consumer financial services expert. She worked for almost two decades as an executive, leading multi-billion dollar mortgage, credit card, and savings portfolios with operations worldwide and a unique focus on the consumer. Her mortgage expertise was honed post-2008 crisis as she implemented the significant changes resulting from Dodd-Frank required regulations.

how develop a research question

  • How to Start a Business: A Comprehensive Guide and Essential Steps
  • How to Do Market Research, Types, and Example
  • Marketing Strategy: What It Is, How It Works, How To Create One
  • Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained
  • What Is a Marketing Plan? Types and How to Write One
  • Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills
  • Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One
  • Small Business Development Center (SBDC): Meaning, Types, Impact
  • How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan
  • Business Startup Costs: It’s in the Details
  • Startup Capital Definition, Types, and Risks
  • Bootstrapping Definition, Strategies, and Pros/Cons
  • Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, and Popular Websites
  • Starting a Business with No Money: How to Begin
  • A Comprehensive Guide to Establishing Business Credit
  • Equity Financing: What It Is, How It Works, Pros and Cons
  • Best Startup Business Loans
  • Sole Proprietorship: What It Is, Pros & Cons, and Differences From an LLC
  • Partnership: Definition, How It Works, Taxation, and Types
  • What is an LLC? Limited Liability Company Structure and Benefits Defined
  • Corporation: What It Is and How to Form One
  • Starting a Small Business: Your Complete How-to Guide
  • Starting an Online Business: A Step-by-Step Guide CURRENT ARTICLE
  • How to Start Your Own Bookkeeping Business: Essential Tips
  • How to Start a Successful Dropshipping Business: A Comprehensive Guide

Oscar Wong / Getty Images

If you want to get into the online business game, it’s a good time to start. The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped online consumer spending, including how people shop online and how they research products.

Today, 76% of Americans buy products online. Furthermore, roughly a third of people purchase items online weekly. From setting up an ecommerce business to offering web design services, there are countless avenues to explore as an entrepreneur.

Below, we’ll walk through each step to building an online business.

Key Takeaways

  • When starting an online business, comprehensive market research is critical for identifying your target audience and learning how to resonate with your customers and understand their needs.
  • Creating a business plan is an important step for outlining your business goals. It also includes your product description, target market, and financial projections, among other core components.
  • Building your website involves setting up a domain name, finding a hosting company, and designing a strong website with consistent branding that allows your customers to navigate it intuitively.
  • Choosing the right product or service to sell is essential. It’s important to think about how you’re addressing an unmet need.
  • Several digital marketing strategies can be utilized, from content marketing to paid advertising, to help your business grow.

Successful online entrepreneurs study hard in order to have a thorough understanding of their market. This is important for knowing exactly how to reach your target market , because these are the people who will buy your products and drive your business growth.

At its core, market research is about understanding your customers’ needs, pain points, and solutions. It is designed to help your business better meet these needs.

Steps to Conduct Market Research

Market research involves understanding key aspects of your current and future customers. To get a clear sense of your target market, outline the characteristics of your audience—for example, age, location, gender, income, job title, and key pain points.

Once you have identified your target audience, conduct research on the following topics, which will tell you about how they make decisions and how you can better position your business:

  • What are the challenges that your target market faces?
  • Where do they research a given product or service?
  • What are their views on pricing for this product or service?
  • What factors influence their decision to make a purchase?
  • Who are your competitors?

To put this market research into action, there are a number of different avenues you can take:

  • Focus groups
  • Competitive analysis
  • Brand awareness research
  • Market segmentation research

Consider the following questions that may be asked in an interview or focus group to learn more about your audience:

  • “How do you search for that product?”
  • “How useful was it?”
  • “What words do you use when you search on Google?”

When you have completed your market research, identify what you have learned as well as your next steps based on these insights.

Creating a business plan is a key first step for all business owners . It is important for companies looking to secure funding resources. It also serves as a blueprint to summarize your key business objectives and goals.

To write a business plan , incorporate these eight main sections, which are often found in traditional templates:

  • Executive summary : This is typically a one-page section that explains your objectives and includes your mission statement, core team, and why your company is positioned for success.
  • Company description : This describes what you offer, your competitive advantages, and your business goals.
  • Market analysis : This is where you explain your target market, market size, market trends, and competitive landscape.
  • Organization and management : Explain who is working on your team and their professional background and experience.
  • Service or product line : Describe the product or service you are offering, including any copyright or plans for patenting.
  • Marketing and sales : Discuss your marketing and sales strategy. Discuss your pricing, key metrics, and sales plan.
  • Funding request : If you are a company looking for funding, here is where you outline the capital you are requesting and where it will be allocated.
  • Financial projections : Include projections for your company’s revenue and expenses. Consider including an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in this section.

A business plan is important because it helps clarify your action points, who you are, and what you offer, all in a coherent template.

Getting your business online is the next key step. In an ever-changing environment, it is important to know the tools, trends, and strategies for building a strong online presence to allow your business to grow.

Registering Your Domain

The first step is registering your name, or your website address. This can be in the form of your business name “.com.” To purchase your domain name, you can go to sites like GoDaddy or Namecheap . If you decide to build your website using WordPress, you will need to use a site such as these to host your website.

Web Hosting Companies

Alternatively, you can buy your domain name at a hosting company. These are companies like Shopify , Wix , or Amazon Web Services , that may also offer tools to build your website and release content on them. 

Website Design

A well-designed website is important for many reasons. Using a website builder, such as Mailchimp or Squarespace , can allow you to choose a theme, customize your pages, create relevant content, and set up a payment page.

Other key aspects of your website design include its functionality, simplicity, and ease of use. Allowing your potential customers to navigate the site intuitively will be key to their experience. Brand consistency—in your logo, colors, and typeface, for example—is also key to creating a unified brand.

Another essential part of website design is its mobile application. You’ll want to ensure that your website runs smoothly on mobile, that images load properly, that the text is legible, and that buttons are intuitive to click.

This step focuses on how to choose the right product or service to sell. At the heart of this choice is the goal of solving a customer’s problem. But there are a number of strategies you can use to identify your product idea.

For example, you might consider analyzing companies with high-profit margins, products that align with your passion, burgeoning trends, items trending on online marketplaces, and/or customer reviews.

With this in mind, analyze how this product will get to your customers. Additionally, you may consider products that are not available in stores in your local market but are offered in communities such as Europe or Japan, for example.

Marketing strategy and promotion is an essential driver of business growth. As the digital landscape evolves, it’s important to have an effective marketing plan that resonates with changing consumer preferences and needs.

Here are questions that companies can consider as they create their marketing strategy, navigating today’s environment:

  • Impact, value, and growth : What are the goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure success for your business? How will you explain the value that the business provides to its customers and/or society? Create an “elevator speech”—a 30-second description of what you offer and why it’s special.
  • Customer need and brand promise : How does the brand meet a customer’s need through its products and services?
  • Customer experience : How will the business deliver the best experiences at each stage of the customer journey?
  • Organizational model : How will the business operate to serve the customer with the most impact?

These will help you understand what types of strategies can have real impact.

Types of Marketing Strategies

Consider the following digital marketing strategies that can be used for your online business:

  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Influencer marketing

Each of these presents a different way to reach your target audience, drive conversions, or build brand awareness, depending on your marketing goals.

You need to determine that for yourself. But before starting an online business, it’s important to assess the time, investment, and resources you’ll need to get it off the ground. While the barrier to entry can be quite low, it’s worth considering your goals and strategies for making it a reality.

However, compared with starting up a traditional brick-and-mortar business, the risks of launching an online business may be reduced due to lower upfront costs such as rent, staff, and materials, among others.

The short answer: yes. While it depends on the type of business you hope to pursue, there are many ways to set up an online business at very little cost. For example, you could offer your services doing freelance work, photography, bookkeeping, or personal training. The primary costs involved include setting up your business website, which can cost as little as $2 to $20 each year with companies such as GoDaddy.

There are a number of digital marketing strategies that online businesses can use, such as content marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, SEO, and influencer marketing. Each of these strategies can be useful, depending on your product and goals.

Starting an online business can be a powerful way to launch a new product or service while reaching a wider audience. With market research, a solid business plan, a strong website, and a digital marketing strategy, you can get started in growing your company effectively. As customers increasingly make decisions virtually, building an online business is vital to any business owner’s success.

Pew Research Center. “ For Shopping, Phones Are Common and Influencers Have Become a Factor—Especially for Young Adults .”

U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Market Research and Competitive Analysis .”

U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Write Your Business Plan .”

Ogilvy. “ Getting Future Ready with Marketing Transformation ,” Page 15.

GoDaddy. “ How Much Does a Domain Name Cost? Find Out! ”

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The internet has reshaped where, when, and how people shop for goods and services. The popularity of digital shopping has opened a world of opportunities for online business owners. With a computer and a stable internet connection, you can work from anywhere, set your own schedule, and sell to customers worldwide while avoiding the hassle and costs of owning a brick-and-mortar business.

Whether you're just starting to brainstorm about the best online business ideas or already have a concept in mind, here are some tips for getting your business up and running.

8 Ways to start your online business

1. establish a business niche.

If you haven't done so already, you'll need to decide what you want to offer and who your target customers will be. Here are a few factors to consider:

Your interests

Mark Twain once said, "Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life." While only some would agree with this work/life approach, it's a good starting point for choosing a business niche. Think about your passions, skills, and expertise, then focus on ideas where they intersect.

Target audience

Consider your target audience and whether they have a problem no one else is solving or a product no one else is providing. If so, do they have the discretionary income to afford your product or service and are they willing to pay for it? Will there be adequate demand?

Profit potential

Consider if your niche has profit potential in an online environment. For example, an overly large or heavy product may be too expensive to ship at a reasonable cost. Is the idea scalable so you can accommodate more customers and transactions in the future?

2. Choose a business model

A business model is how your company will provide products or services to customers and make money. Some options to consider include:

  • Affiliate marketing. Promote other businesses and receive a commission for each sale you make.
  • Coaching and consulting. Share your expertise and offer guidance.
  • E-commerce. Launch a website and sell products online using one of the best payment gateways .
  • Franchising. Pay a franchise fee and operate under an established brand.
  • Freelancing. Offer a service such as writing, programming, web design, or social media marketing.
  • Information products. Create and sell eBooks or online courses.
  • Subscriptions. Package software or subscription boxes and charge a recurring fee.

3. Write a business plan

A good business plan outlines the steps to start and manage your business. The important thing is to think through the key elements of your venture while focusing on your goals. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), a traditional business plan format includes some combination of the following:

Executive summary

Explain what your company is and why it will be successful. This section should include your mission statement, product or service, basic company information, and financial details if you need financing.

Company description

Provide detailed information about your company: the problem it solves, your target audience, and your competitive advantages.

Market analysis

Explain your industry outlook, what other businesses are doing, and how you can do it better.

Organization and management

Outline who will run your company and how it will be structured. Will it be a general or limited partnership, a C or S corporation, limited liability company (LLC), or are you a sole proprietor?

Service or product line

Describe the product or service you offer, explaining how it benefits your target customers.

Marketing and sales

Explain how you will attract and retain customers and the steps for making a sale.

Funding request

Explain the level of funding you'll need over the next five years and how you'll use it. Include financial projections detailing your forecasted income, cash flow, and budgets. Research how to get a business loan , and familiarize yourself with the SBA website to learn more about its loan programs.

4. Develop your brand

Once you know what you'll sell and how you'll run the business, developing your brand is next. You'll have to choose a business name and create a logo. This process can be relatively simple if you already have ideas in mind—or challenging if you're starting from scratch. You might want to hire a graphic designer to implement your vision.

5. Create a website

Once you have developed your brand, it’s time to build a website. You’ll need to lock in a domain name and choose a hosting service. There are website builders, such as Squarespace , available to help you get started—or you can hire someone to do the work for you.

6. Cover legal bases

The next step is to make your business official. While the requirements vary by business, here are the essential action items:

Register your business

Registering with your state gives you legal grounds to use your brand's name. You can utilize a service like LegalZoom to register as a sole proprietor, LLC, corporation (C corp or S corp), nonprofit, or DBA (doing business as). Consult a tax specialist for help choosing the best business structure for your situation.

Apply for an EIN

You'll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN)—a federal tax ID—to pay federal taxes, apply for business licenses and permits, open a business bank account , and hire employees. You can apply for an EIN for free on the IRS website . The IRS says to beware of websites that charge for this free service.

Licenses and permits

Depending on your business activities and location, you may need licenses and permits from your state, county, or city. Check with your state's website (e.g., ca.gov, nc.gov) to determine your necessary licenses and permits.

Most businesses must file an annual income tax return, and the form you use depends on how your business is structured. Online services like Found, a banking and tax app designed for small business owners, have tools to make keeping track of taxes easier. It's also helpful to establish a relationship with a trusted tax specialist.

7. Market your business

Once your online business is ready for the world, it's time to market it. While marketing strategies vary depending on your business model and target audience, here are a few options to consider:

  • Include your brand in online directories.
  • Create social media profiles and share high-quality content often.
  • Launch compelling email marketing campaigns.
  • Use SEO best practices to optimize your site for search engines.
  • Collaborate with influencers to promote your brand.
  • Leverage your network—including professional contacts, friends, and family.

8. Reward customer loyalty

Keeping existing customers happy is often easier than generating new leads, so it can be worth the extra effort to reward them for their loyalty. Consider offering discounts to repeat customers or perks to patrons who refer friends and family. You might also provide spending-based rewards or incentives for sharing positive reviews on social media.

Of course, one of the best ways to reward loyalty is to connect with your customers personally, making sure they always feel welcome and appreciated. That way, they'll be more likely to become repeat customers, recommend you to friends and family, and help you grow a thriving online business.

Why should you consider starting an online business?

Consumers increasingly prefer shopping online, providing virtually unlimited opportunities for digital entrepreneurs to reach a global audience. Further, many of the traditionally time-consuming aspects of starting a business have been simplified—and made more affordable—by websites such as LegalZoom .

One outcome of the pandemic was the emergence of new and enhanced tools that make remote work not only possible, but more efficient. As a result, it's easier than ever to work anywhere in the world with a laptop and a reliable internet connection.

How to save when starting an online business

Businesses have a slew of start-up costs that can be difficult to manage before you're up and running. Here are a few ways to make balancing the budget a little easier.

Rewards credit cards

A business credit card is an excellent way to keep your business and personal expenses separate for accounting purposes, but that's not the only perk. With the best small business credit cards , you can also earn rewards on your spending, enjoy perks like free travel insurance, and score a hefty welcome bonus.

Tax prep software

A good way to save money in the early days of your business is to use upgradable tax prep and other business-related software. Start with the free version, then upgrade to the premium package once your business takes off.

Payment processing

You'll need a payment service provider to accept online payments. Not surprisingly, some payment solutions are more expensive than others. For example, Square charges 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions, while Venmo costs 1.9% + $0.10 between Venmo accounts. Of course, fees shouldn't be the only consideration when choosing a payment service provider. Still, they're worth paying attention to; even small differences can add up over time.

TIME Stamp: Research and strategy are key to success

Starting an online business involves many of the same steps as opening a brick-and-mortar business. You’ll need to determine your niche, conduct market research, craft a well-thought-out business plan, and develop a brand and website. Implementing a successful marketing plan is also key to building and retaining a solid customer base.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the best type of online business to start.

The best online business for you depends on your professional background, skills, interests, and goals. Think about what you're good at and enjoy doing, then brainstorm ideas for monetizing it.

Which kind of online business is most profitable?

There are a wide variety of online businesses ranging from e-commerce to private tutoring. How profitable one is over the other depends on a number of factors. The start-up and ongoing costs of some are nominal compared to others. For example, an online tutoring business would typically have much lower costs than selling collectibles online. Demand, competition, and how well an online business is managed also impact profitability.

Can I start an online business with $100?

You can start an online business on a shoestring budget. With $100, you’ll be able to buy a domain name, build a basic website (using a free template), and publish the site through a web hosting provider long enough to get you started. Of course, some ventures have higher start-up costs, so you may well need considerably more than $100, depending on your business.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

Building, Architecture, Outdoors, City, Aerial View, Urban, Office Building, Cityscape

Radiology Informatics Data Scientist

  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND PUBLIC HEALTH/RADIOLOGY-GEN
  • Partially Remote
  • Staff-Full Time
  • Staff-Part Time
  • Opening at: May 31 2024 at 13:10 CDT
  • Closing at: Jun 17 2024 at 23:55 CDT

Job Summary:

The Department of Radiology, University of Wisconsin - Madison, School of Medicine & Public Health is seeking a Radiology Informatics Data Scientist who will work under the direction of Dr. John Garrett and will work closely with other staff, medical school groups, UW Health, and the Radiology Informatics team. Dr. Garrett's research focuses on developing novel tools for radiological imaging, leveraging new tools and technologies such as deep learning, and a particular emphasis on translation of novel techniques into clinical practice. Deep learning and machine learning have seen a meteoric rise in applications within Radiology. This growth is both driving the need for high quality curated datasets and mechanisms to introduce these tools into clinical practice. The Radiology Informatics Data Scientist will be responsible for data cleaning and management, the development and maintenance of clinical research databases, helping develop and deploy novel imaging tools, and disseminating new knowledge through abstracts, posters, presentations, and manuscripts. They will be also involved in project monitoring and evaluation, data analysis, oversight of trainees, and dissemination of program results and will work closely with the Department of Radiology's Informatics Analysts.

Responsibilities:

Institutional statement on diversity:.

Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals. The University of Wisconsin-Madison fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background - people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world. For more information on diversity and inclusion on campus, please visit: Diversity and Inclusion

Required Bachelor's Degree in Physics, Biomedical Statistics, Computer Science, or related field. Preferred PhD in Medical Imaging, Physics, Biomedical Statistics, Computer Science, or related field.

Qualifications:

Required: - Experience working with medical imaging and/or electronic health record data, understanding compliance requirements. - Experience in developing machine learning and/or deep learning models for medical imaging, genetic, and/or biological data. - Three or more years of experience with programming languages (C++, Python, Matlab), including libraries like NumPy, SciPy, and scikit-learn. - Proficiency in Linux environment, including common commands and shell scripting. - Familiarity with medical imaging data and standards such as DICOM and HL7, ensuring compliance. Preferred: - Proficiency in database languages (SQL, NoSQL databases like MongoDB, graph databases). - Familiarity with data management and lifecycle platforms such as Flywheel, XNAT, or data versioning tools like DVC. - Previous grant writing experience; manuscript writing; program management and/or development experience. - Experience contributing to clinical research projects, including IRB protocols and clinical trials. - Outstanding communication skills for collaboration with multidisciplinary teams (clinicians, researchers, IT professionals). - Knowledge of statistical analysis and data visualization tools (R, SAS, Matplotlib, Seaborn, Plotly).

Full or Part Time: 50% - 100% This position may require some work to be performed in-person, onsite, at a designated campus work location. Some work may be performed remotely, at an offsite, non-campus work location.

Appointment Type, Duration:

Ongoing/Renewable

Minimum $75,000 ANNUAL (12 months) Depending on Qualifications The starting salary for Data Scientist I is $75,000; the starting salary for Data Scientist II is $85,000; the starting salary for Data Scientist III is $95,000. Starting salary is negotiable based on experience and qualifications.

Additional Information:

Applicants for this position will be considered for the titles listed in this posting. The title is determined by the experience and qualifications of the finalist.

How to Apply:

To apply for this position, please click on the "Apply Now" button. You will be asked to upload a current resume/CV and a cover letter briefly describing your qualifications and experience. You will also be asked to provide contact information for three (3) references, including your current/most recent supervisor during the application process. References will not be contacted without prior notice.

Gabriella Fisk [email protected] 608-890-0034 Relay Access (WTRS): 7-1-1. See RELAY_SERVICE for further information.

Official Title:

Data Scientist I(RE020) or Data Scientist II(RE021) or Data Scientist III(RE061)

Department(s):

A53-MEDICAL SCHOOL/RADIOLOGY/RADIOLOGY

Employment Class:

Academic Staff-Renewable

Job Number:

The university of wisconsin-madison is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer..

You will be redirected to the application to launch your career momentarily. Thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Applicant Tutorial

Disability Accommodations

Pay Transparency Policy Statement

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Scientists Developing mRNA-Based Vaccine Against H5N1 Bird Flu

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter

how develop a research question

TUESDAY, May 28, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental mRNA vaccine against the H5N1 avian flu is highly effective in preventing severe illness and death in lab animals, researchers report.

The vaccine could help fight the H5N1 bird flu outbreaks now spreading in wild birds, poultry and cows in the United States, researchers said.

Stopping those outbreaks is key to preventing the H5N1 flu from leaping into humans, researchers said.

The vaccine was created using the same techniques that produced the COVID vaccines.

U.S. Cities With the Most Homelessness

how develop a research question

“The mRNA technology allows us to be much more agile in developing vaccines; we can start creating a mRNA vaccine within hours of sequencing a new viral strain with pandemic potential,” said senior researcher Scott Hensley , a professor of microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, in Philadelphia.

“During previous influenza pandemics, like the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, vaccines were difficult to manufacture and did not become available until after the initial pandemic waves subsided,” Hensley added in a university news release.

Most flu vaccines are developed using eggs.

Experts inject fertilized chicken eggs with flu strains they expect will be the most dominant and virulent and let it replicate. They then inactivate the virus to use in flu shots.

But it can take up to six months for viruses to be adapted to replicate in fertilized eggs, delaying production past the critical first few months of a pandemic.

“Before 2020, experts thought the influenza virus posed the greatest risk of causing a pandemic, and we had limited options for creating a vaccine if that had happened,” said researcher Dr. Drew Weissman , director of vaccine research at Penn Medicine.

“COVID-19 showed us the power of mRNA-based vaccines as tool to protect humans from emerging viruses quickly, and we are better prepared now to respond to a variety of viruses with pandemic potential, including influenza,” Weissman added.

The mRNA vaccine specifically targets the subtype of H5N1 virus that is circulating widely in birds and cows.

That strain rarely infects humans, but there are concerns that if the virus continues to spread it could evolve and cause a human pandemic, researchers said.

The experimental vaccine elicited a strong immune response in lab mice and ferrets, researchers reported May 23 in the journal Nature Communications .

What’s more, the lab animals maintained high levels of antibodies a year after infection, and vaccinated animals infected with H5N1 cleared the virus quicker and suffered fewer symptoms than unvaccinated critters.

The mRNA flu vaccine also proved as effective as a vaccine produced using traditional egg-based methods, researchers added. Both vaccines elicited strong antibody responses in lab animals.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more about the bird flu .

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania, news release, May 23, 2024

Copyright © 2024 HealthDay . All rights reserved.

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IMAGES

  1. How to Develop a Strong Research Question

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  2. How to Develop a Strong Research Question

    how develop a research question

  3. How to Develop a Strong Research Question

    how develop a research question

  4. How to Write a Good Research Question (w/ Examples)

    how develop a research question

  5. Five Steps to Develop a Strong Research Question

    how develop a research question

  6. 6 Sensational Ways to Create a Research Question

    how develop a research question

VIDEO

  1. Developing a Research Question

  2. |Developing Research Questions|Develop A Good Research Questions|Easy Notes

  3. Research Question with Examples

  4. How to develop a Research Question

  5. What are Causal Research Question? #causalresearchquestion

  6. What is research Problem?

COMMENTS

  1. Writing Strong Research Questions

    How to write a research question. You can follow these steps to develop a strong research question: Choose your topic; Do some preliminary reading about the current state of the field; Narrow your focus to a specific niche; Identify the research problem that you will address; The way you frame your question depends on what your research aims to ...

  2. The Writing Center

    Research questions should not be answerable with a simple "yes" or "no" or by easily-found facts. They should, instead, require both research and analysis on the part of the writer. They often begin with "How" or "Why.". Begin your research. After you've come up with a question, think about the possible paths your research ...

  3. How to Write a Research Question: Types and Examples

    Choose a broad topic, such as "learner support" or "social media influence" for your study. Select topics of interest to make research more enjoyable and stay motivated. Preliminary research. The goal is to refine and focus your research question. The following strategies can help: Skim various scholarly articles.

  4. How to Write a Research Question in 2024: Types, Steps, and Examples

    1. Start with a broad topic. A broad topic provides writers with plenty of avenues to explore in their search for a viable research question. Techniques to help you develop a topic into subtopics and potential research questions include brainstorming and concept mapping.

  5. How to Develop a Good Research Question?

    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.

  6. Writing Strong Research Questions

    A good research question is essential to guide your research paper, dissertation, or thesis. All research questions should be: Focused on a single problem or issue. Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources. Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints. Specific enough to answer thoroughly.

  7. How to Develop a STRONG Research Question

    A good research question is essential to guide your research paper, project, or thesis. It pinpoints exactly what you want to find out and gives your work a ...

  8. Research Question 101

    As the name suggests, these types of research questions seek to explore the relationships between variables. Here, an example could be something like "What is the relationship between X and Y" or "Does A have an impact on B". As you can see, these types of research questions are interested in understanding how constructs or variables ...

  9. Formulating Your Research Question (RQ)

    In a research paper, the emphasis is on generating a unique question and then synthesizing diverse sources into a coherent essay that supports your argument about the topic. In other words, you integrate information from publications with your own thoughts in order to formulate an argument. Your topic is your starting place: from here, you will ...

  10. Creating a Good Research Question

    Insights on Creating a Good Research Question. Junichi Tokuda, PhD, focuses on how to start successfully, and divulges the unique approach he has as a basic scientist when developing a good research question. Play Junichi Tokuda video. Ursula Kaiser, MD, encourages drawing on an already established interest in your subject matter to showcase ...

  11. Developing a Research Question

    Once you have selected a topic, you need to develop a research question. You may be used to working with a thesis statement, but a thesis statement is an answer. If you start your research with an answer, you might miss something important or your paper might be too one-sided. Starting with a question allows you to explore your topic while ...

  12. Formulation of Research Question

    Abstract. Formulation of research question (RQ) is an essentiality before starting any research. It aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation. It is, therefore, pertinent to formulate a good RQ. The present paper aims to discuss the process of formulation of RQ with stepwise ...

  13. Key Steps to Developing a Powerful Research Question

    Reflect on the potential impact of your research when refining your question. 4. Ensure you have access to necessary resources, such as data, participants, or equipment. Remember, receiving feedback and revising is a valuable step in creating impactful and precise research.

  14. Research Questions

    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 ...

  15. Developing a Research Question

    PICO is the most common framework for developing a clinical research question, but multiple question frameworks exist. PICO (Problem/Population, Intervention, ... 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 ...

  16. Research Questions, Objectives & Aims (+ Examples)

    The research aims, objectives and research questions (collectively called the "golden thread") are arguably the most important thing you need to get right when you're crafting a research proposal, dissertation or thesis.We receive questions almost every day about this "holy trinity" of research and there's certainly a lot of confusion out there, so we've crafted this post to help ...

  17. PDF Narrowing a Topic and Developing a Research Question

    Narrowing a Topic and Developing a Research Question Reference Sources Reference sources are a great place to begin your research. They provide: • a way to identify potential research topics. • a starting point to gather information on your topic. • an introduction to major works and key

  18. 6. Developing Your Research Question

    The steps for developing a research question, listed below, can help you organize your thoughts. Step 1: Pick a topic (or consider the one assigned to you). Step 2: Write a narrower/smaller topic that is related to the first. Step 3: List some potential questions that could logically be asked in relation to the narrow topic.

  19. Developing research questions

    Developing research questions. It is likely that at some point during your degree you will be required to create your own research question. The research question states the specific issue or problem that your assignment will focus on. It also outlines the task that you will need to complete. There is no universal set of criteria for a good ...

  20. Developing a Research Question

    A good research question should be: Focused on a single issue. Specific enough to answer thoroughly in your paper. Feasible to answer within the length of your paper. Researchable using the resources available to you. Relevant to your field of study and/or to society at large. The length of your paper and the research you're able to locate will ...

  21. Developing a Research Question

    A research question is a statement that defines what is to be studied. It is the core of the research project, study, or literature review. Your research question focuses the study, determines the methodology, and guides all stages of inquiry, analysis, and reporting. Your research question should... Be focused ; Identify the problem you're ...

  22. PDF DEVELOPING HYPOTHESIS AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS

    DEVELOPING HYPOTHESES & RESEARCH QUESTIONS. Nature of Hypothesis. It can be tested - verifiable or falsifiable Hypotheses are not moral or ethical questions It is neither too specific nor to general It is a prediction of consequences It is considered valuable even if proven false. DEVELOPING HYPOTHESES & RESEARCH QUESTIONS.

  23. Starting an Online Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Key Takeaways. When starting an online business, comprehensive market research is critical for identifying your target audience and learning how to resonate with your customers and understand ...

  24. How to Start an Online Business in 8 Steps

    Package software or subscription boxes and charge a recurring fee. 3. Write a business plan. A good business plan outlines the steps to start and manage your business. The important thing is to ...

  25. Radiology Informatics Data Scientist

    Job Summary: The Department of Radiology, University of Wisconsin - Madison, School of Medicine & Public Health is seeking a Radiology Informatics Data Scientist who will work under the direction of Dr. John Garrett and will work closely with other staff, medical school groups, UW Health, and the Radiology Informatics team. Dr. Garrett's research focuses on developing novel tools for ...

  26. Scientists Developing mRNA-Based Vaccine Against H5N1 Bird Flu

    TUESDAY, May 28, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental mRNA vaccine against the H5N1 avian flu is highly effective in preventing severe illness and death in lab animals, researchers report.

  27. Readout Newsletter: Pfizer's Lorbrena, Ultragenyx, Ionis, Sarepta

    New data being presented at ASCO on the long-approved Pfizer drug Lorbrena are remarkable: The daily pill decreased disease progression in non-small cell lung cancer by 81% over five years. That ...