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3. Developing Research Questions: What Good Are They?

Whether you’re developing research questions for your personal life, your work for an employer, or for academic purposes, the process always forces you to figure out exactly:

For academic purposes, you may have to develop research questions to carry out both large and small assignments.  A smaller assignment may be to do research for a class discussion or to, say, write a blog post for a class; larger assignments may have you conduct research and then report it with a lab report, poster, term paper, article, thesis, or dissertation.   

For large projects, the research question (or questions) you develop will define or at least heavily influence:


Your topic, in that research questions effectively narrow the topic you’ve first chosen or been assigned by your instructor
What, if any, hypotheses you test
Which information resources are relevant to your project
Which research methods are appropriate
What claims you can make or conclusions you can come to as a result of your research, including what thesis statement and/or Results section you should write for a term paper or other report


Don’t Make These Mistakes

Sometimes students inexperienced at working with research questions confuse them with the search statements they will type into the search box of a search engine or database when looking for resources for their project. Or, they confuse research questions with the thesis statement they will write when they report their research.


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Complete Quick Quiz 1 to see if you can determine when a research question is developed.



Label elements correctly in the Research Question Matchup.


Despite how strong their influence is on the rest of the researcher’s tasks, research questions don't often appear in a report of the research. Nonetheless, you can usually figure out what the researcher's research questions were by reading the title and some of the report.

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Take a look at this article (OSU only) and determine what the students' research question was.


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