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4. Developing Research Questions: Here's How

Because of all their influence, you might worry that research questions are very difficult to develop. Sometimes it can seem that way. But we'll help you get the hang of it and, luckily, none of us has to come up with perfect ones right off. It's more like doing a rough draft and then improving it. That's why we talk about developing research questions instead of just writing them.

 


Movie Time

 

As you view this short video on how to develop research questions, please jot down which step looks easiest to you and which step looks most difficult. We'll ask you about that later.

 

 


 

Activity

The steps shown in the video about developing a research question are listed below. Check the step you think is easiest and the step you think is hardest.

Step
Easiest
Hardest
1. Pick a topic (or consider the one assigned to you).
2. Write a narrower/smaller topic that is related to the first.
3. List some potential questions that could logically be asked in relationship to the narrow topic.
4. Pick the question that you are most interested in.
5. Change that question you're interested in so that it is more focused.

 

Activity

These are the steps to the research process:

  1. Pick a topic (or consider the one assigned to you).
  2. Write a narrower/smaller topic that is related to the first.
  3. List some potential questions that could logically be asked in relationship to the narrow topic.
  4. Pick the question that you are most interested in.
  5. Change that question you're interested in so that it is more focused.

 

Now here is a student's notebook page on which he developed a research question by following the steps. All that’s shown are his finished products as he completed each step, and they’re not in any particular order

 

notebook entry

 

 

Match each entry in the notebook to the step that produced itin the Student Notebook Activity.

 

Once you know the order of the steps, only three skills are involved in developing a research question: (1) imagining smaller/narrower topics about a larger one, (2) thinking of questions that stem from a narrow topic, and (3) focusing questions to eliminate their vagueness.  Every time you use these skills, it’s important to evaluate what you have produced - that's just part of the process of turning rough drafts into more finished products. Now for some practice on those skills....

 

Activity

For each of the topics below, type in what could be two narrower/smaller topics. Some have been done for you, as examples.

 

Topic
Narrower topic 1
More specific than the original topic?
Still related to the larger topic?
Narrower topic 2
More specific than the original topic?
Still related to the larger topic?
Persuasion Factors that are persuasive
How to avoid being persuaded
Glaciers Glacier activity in Ohio

iPad use
Andy Warhol Warhol's relationships with other people
Labor- management conflicts

When you're finished, ask yourself whether your smaller/narrower topics met these criteria (check to indicate agreement):

  • More specific than the original topic?
  • Still related to the larger topic?

What grade would you award yourself for this activity?  B   C   D   E

 

Activity

Thinking of questions that stem from a narrow topic: 

For each of the narrow topics in the left column, type in 3 research questions that are logically related to that topic. The first one is done for you as an example.  (Remember that good research questions often start with “Why” or “How” because questions that begin that way usually require more analysis.)

Narrow Topics

Possible Research Question

Possible Research Question

Possible Research Question

Investors' attitudes

Why does the U.S. stock market go up and down?

Why does seemingly “good” news sometimes send the stock market down?

How do investors' attitudes about the market change as they get more experience?

College students' use of Snapchat

Meets all criteria:

Meets all criteria:

Meets all criteria:

The character
Huckleberry Finn

Meets all criteria:

Meets all criteria:

Meets all criteria:

When you're finished, ask yourself whether your questions met these criteria (check box under your question).  Were each of your questions:

  • Logically related to the topic?
  • In question form?
  • Research questions instead of regular questions?

What grade would you award yourself for this activity?  B   C   D   E

Activity

Focusing questions to eliminate their vagueness:


The potential research questions below are not focused enough.  Identify the vagueness in each, and type in a more specific version in the far right column. We've given you some examples.

Unfocused First Drafts

Examples of More- Focused Versions

Other More-Focused Versions

Why have most electric car company start-ups failed?

Why did the Fisker company fail?

How does Twain use symbolism in his fiction?

How does Twain use the river as a symbol in Huckleberry Finn?

How has NASA benefited America?

How did the space shuttle program contribute to America?

Why do many first-time elections soon after a country overthrows a dictator result in very conservative elected leaders?

Why were conservative candidates more successful than liberal ones in Egypt's national elections in 2012?

How is music composed and performed mostly by African-Americans connected to African-American history?

How did the music produced by Motown reflect the lives of African-Americans in the 1960s and 70s?

 



It's worth remembering that reading/scanning/looking at/listening to information resources is very useful during any step of the process to develop research questions. Doing so can jog our memories, give us details that will help us focus, and help us connect disparate information - all of which will help us come up with research questions that we find interesting.

Blue Sky It!

Activity

The fourth step of the development process for research questions has you pick the one you are most interested in. We want to know what you're interested in!

 

 

Created with Padlet

 

survey

 


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