How to formulate a good research question

Now that you are doing your own research, you need to formulate your own research question or questions to be answered. A good research question helps to:

  • guide the research process
  • construct a logical argument
  • write a literature review
  • plan thesis chapters
  • devise efficient search strategies.

Recommended reading that supports this module:

Foss, S. K., & Waters, W. J. C. (2007). Developing your itinerary: the preproposal. In S. K. Foss & W. J. C. Waters (Eds.), Destination dissertation: a traveler's guide to a done dissertation (pp. 35-46). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Difference between a research question, title, hypothesis and research focus

A research question is not the same as a thesis title, research problem, hypothesis or research focus, although they are interrelated and support one another. To further define these elements:

  • A research question summarises the significant issue your research will investigate.
  • The title consists of the topic and outcome of a research project.
  • The research problem explains the knowledge gap your research will address.
  • A hypothesis is a predicted answer to the research question that can be tested and is based on prior research.
  • A research focus specifies the scope or domain of inquiry.

A research question is clear, focused, concise, complex, arguable and doable. The research question shines a light, is a guide or compass for your research and help you to construct a logical argument.