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Research Process: Research Question(s)

What is the research process? This will cover: Creating a problem statement, creating research question(s), conducting a literature review, selecting research methods, and quantifying & presenting results.

Quick Overview

Research questions are clear statements of what you want to know.  The questions should be concise and unambiguous.

The research questions guide the research methods that will be applied to help solve the problem (i.e., answer the questions).  It guides the study design, methods, how data is gathered, and what analyses will be conducted.

Types of Research Questions: Why? When? Who? How? Where?

Why: seeks causal explanations.  The answer will begin with "because"

When: locates:

  • Events in relation to the time at which they happened
  • Processes in relation to when they happened and their duration
  • The setting of things in temporal order, or sequencing
  • Boundaries of the context of your research.

Who addresses agency. They seek to identify the persons, institutions, or collective bodies responsible for the things you are researching.

How:  indicates mechanisms. The answers describe ways in which things are done, which together result in a given outcome. These questions might cover:

  • How you carry out your own research.
  • The accounts you generate from your research to indicate how something happened.

Where: sets your research in context. It is important to understand the social world in terms of contextual spaces and circumstances. Both where and when questions should generate answers which help you define the extent to which you can generalize the results of your research.

Byrne, D. (2017). Types of research questions: why? when? who? how? where?. Project Planner. 10.4135/9781526408525.

Full Overview of the Research Question

What is a research question? (a link to a quick definition)

Above is a link to a quick encyclopedic definition of what a research question is.

How do I develop a researchable question(s)?

Above is a link that provides more in-depth guidance on developing your research question(s).

Book:  Constructing Research Questions: Doing Interesting Research

Above is a link that provides access to a book that discusses developing good research questions.

Video on Research Question(s)

Other Things to Think about...

Once you have identified your overarching research problem, you need to develop some specific research questions that can be answered (via research).  Below are some tips to help ensure you have formulated a valid question(s). Ask yourself:

1. Do I know enough about this company or topic to develop interesting questions that relate to current issues or debates?

2. What research method(s) will I need to use to answer my questions?

3.  Do I have the knowledge and competence required to use the particular research method(s) I need?

4. Do I have the resources I need?

5.  Do I have access to the research materials I need? (analyst reports, scholarly articles, etc.)

6. Do I have enough time to complete the research, analyze results, and write up my findings?

Examples of Poorly Written and Well-Written Research Questions

Poor Example:    Welfare on children's attitudes.                                                                    

Good Example:   What effect does welfare assistance to parents have on the attitudes of their children toward work?


Poor Example:    Retirement plans of adults                                                                   

Good Example:   How do retirement plans for adults compare with the actual realization, in retirement, of those plans in terms of self-satisfaction and self-adjustment?