Tips for Narrowing and Developing a Research Question

Last Updated: 05 February 2024

Have you hit a dead-end trying to write a strong research question? You are not alone. Many people planning a research study undergo this phase. As the name says, a research question is based on research and is the first and the most essential step in a research process. It acts as a map of what you want to discover and sets a clear goal for a thesis, research paper, or dissertation. A good research question will tell readers what problems the paper tries to solve.

Developing a good research question is challenging but not impossible. It involves working from outside in using a broad topic to narrow down all the ideas to a single question that you want to research.

If you want someone to hire to write a research question for you based on your research topic, interests, or preference, you can hire our best paper writers. Whether it is undergrad, master's, or doctorate level, we have you.

In this article, we discuss a research question, the type of research questions, steps for developing one, and good examples of research questions.

What is a Research Question?

A research question is a query a paper chooses to answer or the question around which you center your research.

It addresses a problem that is answered by analyzing and interpreting data systematically. A research question leads to a research project and defines the pace of the research process.

To write a good research question, ensure it is specific, clear, focused, concise, complex, and arguable. Let us explore these qualities in-depth.

Specific and Focused

A research question that is too broad is difficult to answer in one study because multiple variables should be considered.

A specific and focused research question will show that the data and observations made during the research have confirmed or denied the chosen hypothesis.

Consider aligning the question with the research problem to keep the question focused. A vague question will likely lead to another research problem or hypothesis not mentioned in the introduction.

Make sure your question contains correct terms that have a clear meaning. Consider the following example:

Rather than asking what is the effect of water on the body, you could say, how does taking eight glasses of water in a day help keep a person healthy?

Easily Researchable Using Primary and Secondary Sources

You must use credible sources to develop relevant arguments for the paper. You should rethink your research question if you cannot easily access relevant data to build your argument.

Also, avoid all subjective words, such as good, bad, worse, etc., as they do not provide good criteria for answering them. For instance,

Instead of saying, “Is homeschooling better than traditional education?” You could say, “How effective is homeschooling compared to traditional education?”

Simple to Answer within the Given Timeframe

You must have ample time to research and find all the relevant material to build an argument for the research question. When you realize you cannot access information within the given timeframe, narrow down your question.

A research question that needs advanced technology, unattainable and expensive resources, or complicated procedures will cause problems.

Another major constraint to conducting timely research is budget.

Relevant to Your Field of Study

If you are taking a medical program, your research question should be based on that. When taking a medical program, you cannot write a research question about an engineering topic.

In addition, the research question should be based on the topic given. It should address the gap in knowledge in your field of study.

The question should also come up with more knowledge about an existing debate that will contribute immensely to society. This knowledge should provide the groundwork for future researchers to build on. It should also be original, something no person has thought of before.

Focused on a Single Phenomenon

To define your research question, you must base it on a single phenomenon. If you base it on multiple phenomena, the response from the research subjects will waver and possibly move in different directions.

Leads to in-depth Research

Academic papers such as dissertations and research papers are usually dozens of pages long. Consequently, a good research question should be complex enough to warrant exhaustive research to cover such lengths and to stand up to peer reviewers' scrutiny.

Other characteristics of the research question are that they are:

The answer to the research question will be your thesis statement, which is simply the central position of the paper.

While some papers will require only one question, others, like dissertations or theses, will need multiple questions. However, they should all be connected to certain arguments of the paper.

Types of Research Questions

Research questions are classified into different categories based on the type of research conducted.

You can write an effective research question by understanding the research type — qualitative or quantitative. If you intend to collect qualitative data, come up with qualitative research questions.

Conversely, if you will collect quantifiable data, come up with quantitative research questions.

Quantitative Research Questions

These types of research questions are those that plan to gather quantitative data. They are more specific because they include measurable and easy-to-answer information.

Quantitative research questions include the studied population, variables (independent and dependent), and research design.

Usually, these questions are developed before the start of a study. What's more, they do not require a yes or no response. For this reason, there is no use of words like "is," "are," or "do."

Quantitative research questions can be further divided into three different types:

Descriptive Research Question

These types of research questions provide pictorial information about the considered variable. Descriptive questions are popular and the easiest means of quantifying variables. They typically begin with words like How, and What. For example:

Gathering sufficient answers to questions like these will help you make smart decisions based on hard evidence.

Descriptive research questions are an important part of the systematic methodology and are useful in answering what, where, how, and when queries.

Note that these questions do not involve causative factors of the found attributes but focus on the "what" part of the questions.

Comparative Research Questions

These questions seek to discover the differences between two or more subjects across dependable variables. They help identify distinct features that differentiate one research subject from another and, at the same time, highlight the existing similarities. An example of these research questions are:

Relationship Research Questions

As the name suggests, these questions seek to understand the nature of two or more variables.

For example:

Qualitative Research Question

Qualitative research questions seek to collect qualitative data from subjects in research. They collect no statistical data and are effective for conducting one-on-one or focused-styled interviews.

The aim is to understand a particular population’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For this reason, the questions usually aim at discovering, explaining, and exploring issues.

Some words used to construct qualitative research include how, what, generate, identity, describe, meaning, outline, and experience.

A good qualitative research question is:

A good example of qualitative research is unstructured interviews because they allow the subjects to talk endlessly. As a researcher, this allows you to understand who the subjects are and what they say.

Take note that a qualitative research question that is poorly constructed will negatively affect the results of the study. This is because it leads to unclear responses, which results in a waste of time and money.

Qualitative research questions can be categorized into different types:

Exploratory Questions

These questions intend to investigate a problem that is misunderstood. The aim is to provide more information about touch without attributing any biases.

Predictive Questions

These questions forecast a possible outcome. They use information from the past to predict future outcomes surrounding a topic.

Interpretive Questions

These questions study people (focus groups) in their natural habitat. They also seek to understand how they perceive their common experiences about different numbers of phenomena. For example:

How do teens in a summer-based program adjust to activity changes?

Evaluation Research Question

These research questions aim to measure the worthiness of procedures, products, theories, etc.

An example of these questions include:

Are customers satisfied with a particular product/program?

Steps for Developing a Strong Research Question

A good research question is at the core of any systematic investigation, so knowing how to develop one is important.

Research questions help researchers focus their research studies as they provide a roadmap for the research and writing process.

A well-developed research question helps you to avoid the all-about paper and work towards supporting a specific and arguable thesis or argument.

The following are steps that will help you frame a strong research question.

Step 1: Start with an Interesting Topic

A good research topic can make or break the research process. The topic you choose will influence the course of the research, so you must select an interesting one.

Ideally, you want to choose an interesting topic as it will keep you engaged as you do your research.

By the way, there is a way to tie your interest to a topic in your field of study. For instance, if you wish to be a pediatric nurse someday and the topic you are to write about is antibiotic use, your topic could be the impact of antibiotic use on children's immunities.

Selecting a topic you are already familiar with is also important instead of tackling something completely new.

Additionally, consider whether your audience will be interested in the chosen topic. Keeping your audience in mind will help you choose a topic they will be eager to read.

Step 2: Conduct a Preliminary Research

A research plan should begin immediately when you have identified an interesting topic. So do preliminary research by first identifying the basics of the topic. Review recent academic journals and other material.

In addition, online searches are a great point to start. Check what other researchers have done and the questions that arise from their work.

The aim of doing this is to identify any gaps or weaknesses in the literature or the current research. You can then use these gaps to develop a good research question. For this reason, preliminary research is sometimes called pre-research.

Take note that broad research will result in numerous sources, which can take time to go through. So, make things easy for yourself by narrowing down your focus by thinking about the stance you wish to take on the paper.

Some great preliminary tips to keep in mind include:

  1. Start with Wikipedia, but do not use it as an official source. Make sure to check the link below for more information.
  2. To jump to interesting article sections, click "Ctrl+F."
  3. Limit period searches by clicking the Google search tools options and selecting any time to see available options. It will bring information from various periods, last month or a year ago.
  4. Be more specific in your search by Using Google Advanced Search or try the following tips.
    • Narrow your search results by putting quotation marks on your keywords.
    • Add “site: .gov" or "site: .edu," "site: .org" or site: .gov" to find specific websites.

As you do this, write down questions you would like answered.

If your institution provides grants for the research, they might encourage you to do a systematic review to see whether similar studies do not exist before allocating the grant.

Step 3: Write Down the Questions

Considering the knowledge you have garnered from the above, ask questions. This is a stage where you start poking holes in the available research.

Similarly, you can develop a research question complementing the existing literature. The goal is to identify a problem that will lead to the research.

Ask open-ended questions about the topic using what, like what, how, etc. Also, consider the "so what" of your topic. What is the essence of this topic, and why should it matter to others?

Write down two or three questions because it will give you options, allowing you to look at the research from different angles. This will help you narrow down the questions to one you want to focus on.

Ensure you evaluate the questions to determine whether they will be effective as research questions or need to be refined. Consider aspects such as clarity, brevity/conciseness, complexity, focus, and other factors highlighted above. Keep the characteristics of a good research question in mind, as this will help you select the right one.

Step 4: Frame the Research Question

Although often overlooked, using a framework to guide how you format a research question can save you the headache of numerous revisions by your professor.

Use the PICOT framework to frame your research question. PICOT stands for:

PICOT format is mostly used in nursing and medical fields.

Another framework you could use is the PEO framework, which stands for:

They can help you create a focused research question with all the necessary elements.

Step 5: Hypothesize the Research Question

Before writing your research paper, you must formulate the question fully. Then, decide on which path the question should take. Do this by asking yourself the following questions:

Examples of Strong Research Questions

A good research question shows that you can turn a bunch of facts about a particular topic into something meaningful. With that said, here are examples of strong research questions.

A good research question is open-ended because the answers provided are subject to debate. In addition, this is what you want, especially when writing a persuasive paper.

Consider the following scenario.

There is a highway where the government has dropped the speed limit to 20 miles per hour. In addition, since then, there have not been any accidents that have claimed lives. So, what does that mean?

Does it mean every motorist should drive slowly? Does it mean that saving lives comes at the cost of the lowest speed limit?

Many interpretations could arise from the above statement. They are all correct, but some could be better than others could.

The following are some examples of strong research questions.

Wrong: How does social media affect a person's mind?

Right: What should social media sites like TikTok do to address the harmful effects on teenagers?

Wrong: How has global warming affected the environment

Right: What are the effects of melting glaciers on penguins?

Wrong: What measures are doctors taking to treat cancer?

Right: What factors are likely factors that could predict a person could get cervical cancer?

Wrong: How has the war in Ukraine affected people?

Right: how has the invasion of Ukraine affected civilians mentally?

Wrong: is the healthcare system in the UK better than the one in the US?

Right: how is the healthcare system in the UK compared to the one in the UK regarding providing equitable care?

Wrong: What are the education strategies for driving?

Right: What education strategies encourage safe driving among young adults?

Closings Remarks

Research questions are an important part of any research because they provide a clear guideline for the process. A good research question must be concise, specific, focused, relevant, and feasible. Before you write the research question, develop an interesting topic and do preliminary research as you jot down possible questions. Finally, frame the questions using any framework (PICOT or PEO).

Research questions should be well-thought-of and not just thrown around anyhow. If you have trouble developing a research question and could use some help, our GradeCrest dissertation writers can help you. We offer custom writing services at advanced stages through our qualified team of writers. Head to our homepage, fill out the order form with the assignment details and follow the steps to get us started on your project.


How do you write a good research question and hypothesis?

Before stating your hypothesis, you must first write a good research question. To do this, start by:

What is an example of a hypothesis and research question?

Research question: How does eating an apple daily affect a middle-aged person?

Hypothesis: Increasing the consumption of apples in people over 50 reduces the frequency of doctor's visits.

What is an example of a strong research question?

What are the positive effects of taking medications in curing ADHD symptoms in elementary kids?

How do you write a strong research question?

To write a good research question, you must ensure that it:

What is a good and bad research question?