The Research Question

Choose a Question based on your topic that is neither too broad or too narrow

For example, if you choose juvenile delinquency (a topic that can be researched), you might ask the following questions:

a. What is the 1994 rate of juvenile delinquency in the U.S.?

b. What can we do to reduce juvenile delinquency in the U.S.?

c. Does education play a role in reducing juvenile delinquents' return to crime?

Once you complete your list, review your questions in order to choose a usable one that is neither too broad nor too narrow. In this case, the best research question is "c." Question "a" is too narrow, since it can be answered with a simple statistic. Question "b" is too broad; it implies that the researcher will cover many tactics for reducing juvenile delinquency that could be used throughout the country. Question "c," on the other hand, is focused enough to research in some depth.

Evaluate Your Own Research Question

Ask the following 8 questions to evaluate the quality of your research question and the ease with which you should be able to answer it:

1. Does the question deal with a topic or issue that interests me enough to spark my own thoughts and opinions?

2. Is the question easily and fully researchable?

3. What type of information do I need to answer the research question?

E.g., The research question, "What impact has deregulation had on commercial airline safety?" will obviously require certain types of information:

# statistics on airline crashes before and after

# statistics on other safety problems before and after

# information about maintenance practices before and after

# information about government safety requirements before and after

4. Is the scope of this information reasonable (e.g., can I really research 30 online writing programs developed over a span of 10 years?)

5. Given the type and scope of the information that I need, is my question too broad, too narrow, or okay?

6. What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer the research question (journals, books, Internet resources, government documents, people)?

7. Can I access these sources?

8. Given my answers to the above questions, do I have a good quality research question that I actually will be able to answer by doing research?

Source: Empire State College