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Research Questions: Gateway to a Research Success

Written by David Santana
Posted: July 14, 2023
Last update date: March 22, 2024
9 min read

The research question provides vital guidance when conducting a study in a specific field. This question is your roadmap that leads you to the outcome you aim to achieve or bring to light. Hence, it’s of the utmost importance to develop a straightforward, unambiguous, and compelling research question that states what you pursue to discover.

A well-developed research question will ease the flow of your paper. Therefore, learning to write a research question or hypothesis is critical for any student or academic. It will introduce the issue you will further address through data analysis and interpretation.

More specifically, this article will cover the topics of:

  • Characteristics of the initial question
  • Types of research questions
  • How to formulate your research question properly
  • Frameworks to design your research questions
  • Tips for framing effective research questions
  • Common mistakes and exceptional research question examples.

Features of a Research Question

Developing a research question that appeals to the audience and addresses a crucial problem is far from straightforward. It takes advanced writing skills, knowledge, and hard work. So, what makes a good research question?


Ensure your research hypothesis provides the reader with enough details to grasp the purpose of your paper without needing further explanation. The outline must give specific information about the content and essence of your manuscript.

Bad example: What is the effect of exercise on the human body? (vague)

Good example: How does regular jogging impact the ability of the human body to fight off influenza?


The scope of the question should not be too broad or too narrow. In the first case, you won’t be able to address all the aspects, whereas in the second case, you might struggle to develop arguments that support your claim.

Bad example: How can social media deteriorate the human ability to communicate? (Too broad)

Good example: How has Instagram deteriorated the ability of adolescents to build meaningful relationships in the last five years?


Consider choosing an authentic topic related to your field of study. The issue you address must lead to visible societal changes and stir public interest. Also, all sources for a research paper must be reliable and credible.

Bad example: How can genetic factors impede your IT skills?

Good example: How can genetic factors impact a young female to develop hypothyroidism?


Your hypothesis must be arguable, which means potential answers trigger debate and don’t rely heavily on accepted facts. Arguments based on personal judgments are unacceptable, too. Finally, you should use quantitative and qualitative data that support your claim.

Bad example: Is pro-life or pro-choice a better approach? (Judgmental criteria)

Good example: How effective are the pro-life and pro-choice approaches for reducing stillbirth rates?


Your research question should be complex enough to stimulate rational and critical thinking. It shouldn’t refer to a gap too simple to bridge or a dilemma that can get resolved with a fast Google search.

Bad example: Why is learning a foreign language beneficial for people?

Good example: How can learning Esperanto enhance the human’s ability to master other foreign languages in senior citizens?

Open-Ended Format

Avoid close-ended questions that seek a simple yes or no answer. A strong research question should provide room for lengthy investigation and discussion.

Bad example: Can parents influence their children’s careers?

Good example: How can parents impact their children’s careers while at elementary school?

Know how to structure your paper
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double spaced (275 words/page) / single-spaced (550 words/page)
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1" margin all around
0.5" first line of a paragraph
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Types of Research Questions

Framing your research questions will depend on the objective you want to achieve. The research paper writing guide below outlines the most common types of questions you can pose for different purposes.

Descriptive Research Questions

A descriptive research question should measure the responses of the population against one or several variables measured in the preliminary research. It is the most common quantitative research question type that explains where, when, how, and why something happened.

Moreover, the research process will use data to describe a particular event or phenomenon. Such contextual research questions usually begin with “what” or “how.”

Example: What percentage of college students prefer online to offline education?

Comparative Research Questions

A comparative research question aims to find how two or more groups are different against a pre-set variable. For instance, the researcher can conduct preliminary research and compare a subject with a certain variable to another subject where the same variable is absent. These research questions can also have a compare-and-contrast format.

Example: How do metabolisms in males and females in the US compare?

Correlational Research Questions

A correlational research question describes the impact of one variable on another and is common in experimental studies. Also referred to as relationship research questions, these investigate and define trends and interactions between dependent and independent variables.

Example: What is the link between physical activity levels and depression in students aged 16-19?

Causal Research Questions

Casual or exploratory research questions aim to identify the extent and nature of the mutual relationship between two or more variables. They seek to describe whether and how each variable causes or affects an outcome. The research paper will often evaluate the cause-and-effect relationship between two scenarios.

Explanatory research questions: How does a price increase or decrease impact customer loyalty in Sweden? What causes the increase in violence and bullying levels among young adults in France?

How to Write a Research Question

Identify Your Research Topic

Ensure you choose a focused and appealing subject. However, you might need to start with a broad topic and narrow your options later. A helpful technique is to develop subtopics and qualitative research questions through brainstorming and concept mapping. Check PapersOwl for compelling academic writing ideas and topics.

Conduct Preliminary Research

Before you define your research design and the hypothesis, check the existing literature on the topic. Ideally, you would focus on several relevant academic sources. Limit the preliminary review of recently published articles and influential material. Your objective is to channel your main ideas into a clear research question by studying key debates in your field of interest.

Brainstorm Potential Research Questions

Avoid being single-minded but generate multiple ideas for investigation. Ask open-minded questions to focus on a specific research question.

Refine Your Questions

Narrow down and clarify your options. At this point, you must formulate a research question with at least two dimensions. Typically, a bad research question would be too broad or too narrow. Hence, getting things right and writing research questions that stir the public’s interest at the onset is critical.

Choose the Appropriate Research Framework

Select a suitable framework for structuring your question to ensure conciseness. You can choose from several frameworks when creating a research question. The most commonly used are explained below.

Evaluate the Feasibility and Significance

Assess the practicality and relevance of the research question. Parameters to check your hypothesis include clarity, focus, and complexity.

Refine and Finalize Your Research Question

Seek feedback and make necessary revisions. A strong research question needs fine-tuning and must be fully formulated before you start drafting. If you prefer research paper help, PapersOwl’s experts will revisit your ideas and research design and offer new insights. They might also help you with overlooked areas and make your research question clear.


Commonly Used Frameworks for Research Questions

Here are the frameworks scholars prefer to use for their qualitative and quantitative research:

PICO: This framework helps researchers to break a problem down into searchable components and is prevalent in health research and systematic reviews. Its acronym stands for Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome. Richardson et al. developed the PICO framework in 1995.

PICOT: As a variation of the PICO framework, this layout involves an extra component – Timeframe. It is ideal for questions concerning the short-term or long-term effects of interventions and emphasizes the time needed to achieve the outcome. Researchers prefer PICOT for clinical and evidence-based studies.

PICOC: Also introduced by Richardson et al., this framework includes the component Context. Typically, scholars opt for this structure when they discover issues regarding the impact of interventions in various settings or populations.

PPSE: The framework stands for Problem, Population, Setting, and Evaluation and is prevalent in education research. It typically helps answer questions about the effectiveness and efficacy of educational interventions.

DPC: The DPC framework is common in business research and is an acronym for Decision, Problem, Context, and Criteria. So, consider this structure if you’re dealing with a decision-making process.

PEO: This framework uses the term Exposure instead of Intervention in PICO. It is found in health research for questions regarding the causes of diseases or various health conditions. It is suitable for qualitative research questions.

SPICE: This framework stands for Setting, Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Evaluation and is tailored for social science research. It is appropriate for evaluating the impact of interventions on individuals, groups, or communities or the outcomes of a service or product.

SPIDER: As a newer framework, SPIDER finds use in many fields, including health, education, and social science. It means Stakeholders, Problem, Intervention, Design, Evaluation, and Results. It is an ideal tool for qualitative evidence synthesis.

Tips for Choosing a Research Question Framework

Before you collect data, you should select your exclusion criteria. The research process will also help you construct researchable questions with one or more variables.

  • Consider the goals, existing methods, and context of your research question.
  • Define the purpose and nature of your investigation efforts.
  • Consider your population or patients and their personal experiences. Can they answer your specific research questions?
  • Think about the data collection process and the available information.
  • Specify the analysis level and scope.
  • Ensure you produce knowledge for your audience.
  • Don’t hesitate to get advice from your mentor, peers, or recent literature.

Mistakes to Avoid Writing Research Question

Conducting research and writing an authentic manuscript requires advanced skills and dedication. A tiny error can drastically impact the credibility or accuracy of the entire work. Here is what to avoid:

  1. Stick to a proper structure with an introduction, methodology, data analysis, results, and conclusion. Place all parts systematically and consider diagrams and tables.
  2. Avoid complex sentences with a lack of flow. Your writing should be smooth, easy to follow, and not overly complicated.
  3. Provide the information necessary to prove and support your hypothesis. Add only data that defend your position. Exceeding the given word limit can put off the audience and lose you points.
  4. Don’t forget to give references and cite all your sources and statistics. Citations will enhance the quality and credibility of your work.
  5. Refrain from plagiarizing. Stick to paraphrasing with your words or place the wording in quotation marks. Plagiarism is punishable and can nullify your research.
  6. Don’t be informal. Use a serious, academic, and third-person tone. Scholarly articles explain things scientifically and with no abbreviations.

Examples of Research Paper Questions

Below, we list several mind-blowing research question examples to jog your existing knowledge and help you brainstorm new ideas:

  • How can listening to music improve performance in college students?
  • Can depriving teenagers aged 13-18 of their phones encourage socialization?
  • How does eco-friendly packaging give companies a competitive advantage?
  • How can alcoholism impact triage processes in English hospitals?
  • Will clinical research on human brain capacity take a new path in the future, and in what way?
  • What educational strategies appeal most to millennials and their learning style?
  • In what ways do night shifts worsen the relationship between parents and children?
  • What is the greatest benefit of solar power against wind energy?
  • New cancer treatment techniques in developing countries: A case study of Croatia
  • How can the blue economy mitigate the adverse effects of global warming?

If you’re running out of time or your writing skills need polishing, you might buy a student’s research paper online at PapersOwl. The platform can also help you frame high-quality research question examples.

Recap of the Key Points Discussed in the Article

In conclusion, we highlighted the significance of formulating a clear and compelling research question in the process of conducting a study. A well-developed research question is a roadmap, guiding researchers toward their desired outcomes and shedding light on important findings.

We discussed the key characteristics of good research questions and explored different types. Understanding these types allows you to tailor your questions to suit your objectives and research design.

Finally, the covered part of the importance of conducting preliminary research and selecting an appropriate research framework helps you formulate well-structured and impactful research questions that lay the foundation for successful studies.


What is the most effective type of research question?

The best type of research question focuses on an isolated problem that is researchable and testable. Ideally, you will use primary and secondary sources to answer it. The form will depend on the project length, the topic, the dependent variables, and the research methods used.

Which research question would be most appropriate for a four- to five-page research paper?

Pick a research question focused on a narrow-scoped field. Pick only two variables and ensure you go into enough depth to provide robust arguments and give answers. Typically, qualitative research questions that are four-to-five pages long take a week to finish.

What does your research question help to guide?

Clear research question guides involve several key steps. Above all, choose more specific areas after doing some preliminary reading. The particular topic should cover a single niche only. Finally, ensure you can provide enough arguments supported by facts and credible sources.
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