Learn how to ask precise research questions and formulate clear hypotheses, including how to construct different types of questions and hypotheses, address the differences between correlation and causation, provide clear definitions for terms, and understand when to accept or reject a hypothesis. This is the second lesson in the Introduction to Research series.
© 2021 American Psychological Association.
A research question is the driving question(s) behind your research. It should be about an issue that you are genuinely curious and/or passionate about. A good research question is:
Clear: The purpose of the study should be clear to the reader, without additional explanation.
Focused: The question is specific. Narrow enough in scope that it can be thoroughly explored within the page limits of the research paper. It brings the common thread that weaves throughout the paper.
Concise: Clarity should be obtained in the fewest possible words. This is not the place to add unnecessary descriptors and fluff (i.e. “very”).
Complex: A true research question is not a yes/no question. It brings together a collection of ideas obtained from extensive research, without losing focus or clarity.
Arguable: It doesn’t provide a definitive answer. Rather, it presents a potential position that future studies could debate.
The format of a research question will depend on a number of factors, including the area of discipline, the proposed research design, and the anticipated analysis.
Unclear: Does loneliness cause the jitters?
Clear: What is the relationship between feelings of loneliness, as measured by the Lonely Inventory, and uncontrollable shaking?
Unfocused: What’s the best way to learn?
Focused: In what ways do different teaching styles affect recall and retention in middle schoolers?
Verbose: Can reading different books of varying genres influence a person’s performance on a test that measures familiarity and knowledge of different words?
Concise: How does exposure to words through reading novels influence a person’s language development?
Definitive: What is my favorite color?
Arguable: What is the most popular color amongst teens in America?