What Is A Good Research Question?

The research question is a type of query that presents a 'clear, focused, concise, arguable and complex' proposal for students to use as a basis for their research. A research question needs to have a compelling enough 'reason' for a student to base their research around it, usually a reason that provides a complete answer to the question they've asked.

Research questions provide student writers a topic to base their research around. On an interesting note, a compelling research question can provide students with more than enough support to create a truly well developed thesis about a specific topic.

What makes a good research question?

There are many characteristics that define a 'good' research question. Many academic resources, to provide an example, place a large emphasis on 'answering something new' by posing a research question that allows that opportunity.

Due to the replicable nature of scientific and academic research, students are encouraged to 'build upon' previous research through asking new questions that support and add on to previous research in their field of study.

Good research questions are also considered practical by many academic resources. Practicality, in this context, generally refers to whether a student has the means to sufficiently answer their research question during the duration of their research assignment. A student should ensure that they have both the time and resources to answer their research question throughout the duration of their school year.

On another interesting note, good research questions are simple. While research questions do propose the discovery of new theories, the simplicity of a research question should come first. This example by an academic resource suggests that (paraphrased from source):

“How do online users experience and/or address privacy issues on social networking websites, such as as Facebook and MySpace?”

The topic presented in the example (privacy issues in social networking) is a relatively simple subject, as it represents an everyday example with supporting research already covered in that field of study. A student could theoretically use their research question (as stated) to find out answers to an already posed question, particularly if they have new specific data to report.

The 'good' research question

A good research question is one that's useful for conducting research—a hypothesis in question form, as mentioned by some resources. A hypothesis, according to dictionary definitions, is a kind of 'proposed explanation that's made on the basis of limited evidence, used as a starting point for further investigation.'

When presented as a research question, a hypothesis can be used as a way for a student to begin their research to find an answer to that particular question.