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In this resource you will learn how to write research questions.You will review some example research questions, and try to write your own. R. Elmslie & O. Campbell-Thomson 2016
What are research questions?
You have already looked at purpose statements. These are quite general and tell your audience about the main direction of your project: what you did and how you did it.Now you are going to think about research questions. For the audience, research questions develop background information, but they are more specific. For you as a researcher, they help you to really focus on what you're trying to find, and from this, how best to do your research, including:
the research method you will use: a case study or survey
the instrument you will use: a questionnaire, observation, or interview
who or what you're going to sample: eg who you will interview, or what you will observe
A good project depends on writing good research questions.
In your research questions, you ask a very specific question which shows exactly what you
want to investigate. Everything you do
in your research should provide answers
to your research question. If the information you collect doesn't answer your research questions, you probably don't need it.
Example research questions
A research question often starts with words such as “what” or
“how”. For example:
factors contribute to the customers’ choice of a supermarket?
secondary school students respond to teacher’s feedback on their writing?
You should avoid writing questions that
are too broad eg What Scottish people think of the University's development plans? Are you going to ask everyone in Scotland? Can you find a sample of people which is big and accurate enough to represent the Scottish public? No, so this is a bad question.
are too narrow eg How many of the Chinese students on YRPS like to study with a group? This only gives you a number: it doesn't explain anything or show why this number is important. It will be really difficult to develop the ideas into a presentation.
you can answer with yes or no eg Do local people always use an umbrella when it rains? Too narrow again: you can't develop this into an investigation. But also - is anyone really interested in the answer?
you will find it difficult to research eg How much the University spent on correcting employee mistakes last year Do they collect this data? Will they tell you?
Now do the practice exercises.
Try the practice exercises about good and bad research questions.Remember to review the answers at the end to see the explanations.After you finish, try to write 2-3 research questions for your SIS project. Bring them to the next SIS project class.