How to Write Research Questions (With Examples and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 5, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing a research topic is integral to the research process as it guides your work and establishes a point of focus. Understanding the characteristics of a successful research question can help you generate fresh ideas and discover new methods for your industry. In this article, we define research questions, discuss why it's important to know how to devise them, list steps on how to write research questions, explore how to develop research skills, and provide tips on highlighting these skills during your job search.

What is a research question?

A research question is the central focus of an investigation and is the first part of a research project. This establishes the foundation for the investigation. It addresses a problem or question the researcher intends to solve with their study.

Individuals use research questions for experimental, qualitative, and observational research investigations. To address their chosen topic, researchers perform studies and evaluate data. When planning a research topic, there are several elements you can include. The FINER model can guide you in defining a compelling research question:

  • Feasible: Ensure the question is within your abilities and resources to examine and collect accurate data.

  • Interesting: Choose a fascinating topic to interest peers who review your project.

  • Novel: Ensure your project provides new and valuable insights and helps confirm existing research.

  • Ethical: Choose a question that review boards and authorities can approve and ensure that the recruitment and participation of individuals follow informed consent rules.

  • Relevant: Choose a question that relates to your field or specialization.

Related: 7 Research Methods in Psychology (Importance and Types)

Why is it important to know how to write research questions?

Knowing how to write research questions is important because they influence the development and results of a study. Your question establishes the study you're conducting and allows you to set precise goals. They also identify the exact problem you're addressing and determine which outcomes are important for readers to learn about. This helps you divide the research into achievable phases.

How to write research questions

You can take the following steps to write a research question:

1. Select a general topic

First, select a broad subject for your research question. For example, you might choose 1920s literature or the impact of technology on a specific industry. Selecting a topic you're eager to learn more about can make conducting research interesting.

Related: Meaning of Empirical Research (Methods, Types, and Examples)

2. Perform preliminary research

To narrow your focus, examine previous research on your topic. Occasionally, you may discover an article that motivates you to investigate an unexplored aspect of your subject. For example, if you notice that an article on youth social groups doesn't discuss how they influence a young person's work ethic, you can conduct further research.

3. Consider your audience

Consider your audience when deciding on a topic. For example, the audience for university papers is typically academic. Identifying your audience helps you streamline your study and focus on topics that are important to that audience.

Related: What Is Causal Research? (With Benefits, Examples, and Tips)

4. Generate possible questions

Begin by asking how and why questions with open-ended answers about your broad subject to narrow your focus. Identify gaps in your issue to develop a valuable research project. You might also consider problematization. This involves questioning other researchers' assumptions or drawing from your own experiences to address problems in your sector.

5. Review and construct your questions

Once you have some questions to consider, evaluate them to see if they're effective. Use the FINER model to determine whether each question meets all the research question criteria. You can use one of two frameworks to structure your question. Both frameworks can help you include important information in your question and choose a focus for your studies. The first is the PICOT framework, which stands for:

  • population or problem

  • intervention or indicator under study

  • comparison group

  • outcome of interest

  • timeframe of the study

The second framework you could use is PEO, which stands for:

  • population under study

  • exposure to pre-existing conditions

  • outcome of interest

Research question examples

The following are some example research questions to help you draft your own:

  • What effect does playing video games daily have on the engagement levels of people under 16 years old?

  • What are the long-term effects on the environment of using bamboo toothbrushes in place of plastic toothbrushes?

  • How does divorce affect students' performances in standardized tests?

  • What educational strategies encourage safe driving in young adults?

  • How does listening to music while you work affect your overall performance?

  • How does visiting grandchildren improve the quality of life of older people?

  • How impactful is it for children under two years old to have a friend?

  • What makes a grocery store easy for shoppers to navigate?

  • How does restricting electronic usage encourage socialization in teenagers?

  • What techniques can teachers use to engage students in a virtual classroom?

  • What factors affect homelessness in major cities?

  • What genetic factors can predict whether someone might develop hypothyroidism?

  • How has the rise of streaming services changed how individuals watch television shows?

  • How can consumers address privacy issues with online stores?

  • How does working a night shift affect a parent's relationship with their child?

  • How does daily exercise impact the stress levels of university students?

  • What factors have influenced companies to use eco-friendly packaging for their orders?

Related: Research Question Examples (With Types and Definitions)

How to develop research skills

You typically use research skills in various aspects of life, such as during your education or as part of your job. The following are steps on how to develop your ability to conduct research:

1. Create an outline

When starting a research assignment, create an outline to guide your investigation. Your outline can contain a strategy for investigating your question and collecting the data you require to reach a conclusion. Consider how you might divide your research project into manageable sections and estimate when you might complete each of them.

2. Identify your sources

The internet has made it easier to find information, though it's vital to ensure the source is reliable. It is essential to understand how to locate credible sources and evaluate information to assess its validity. To ensure you can collect reliable information, try to find its original source to confirm its trustworthiness.

Related: What Is a Research Problem? (With Steps and Types)

3. Become familiar with advanced search methods

Many search engines allow you to specify the kind of content you're seeking. You can use the advanced search settings to customize search results when conducting research online. This often helps researchers find information from trustworthy sources more efficiently.

4. Practise

Developing your research skills by practising them is crucial. You can improve your research abilities by generating modest, beneficial research projects. For example, if you're planning a trip, you could practise researching activities, hotel rates, and transportation options. You can also practise researching details about various roles and businesses when searching for a job.

Tips for highlighting research skills

Companies in many fields value research abilities, so promoting these skills at various stages of your job search is beneficial. Here are some ways to emphasize your research abilities during your job search:

Research skills for your resume and cover letter

When reading a candidate's resume and cover letter, companies search for specific keywords relating to research-related abilities. For example, they may favour candidates with attention to detail, time management, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and project management. You can show these skills in your resume by including these keywords in your professional summary and work experience sections. You might also consider creating a dedicated section to list your skills.

Research skills for the job interview

Being well-prepared for your job interview is the first step in demonstrating that you can acquire and evaluate pertinent information. Showcase your research abilities by mentioning the information you acquired when responding to the interviewer's queries. This demonstrates that you can find and analyze information, communicate it, and present it.

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