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FYS 112

What is a Research Question?

Developing a research question is an essential element of the research process. It is not a statement of your research topic. The research question guides your initial information seeking process. 

Eventually, the research question will evolve into a thesis statement, which should express your informed answer to your initial question.


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Crafting a Research Question

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Start with the basics (who, what, when, where, why, & how) to get an idea of what you already know (and don't know) about your topic, why this topic matters to you, and what aspects of your topic you'd like to learn more about.


Find some background information about your topic. What is its history? What is it's social context? Has it been in the news lately? Are any aspects of your topic generating debate? Can your topic be divided into smaller topics?


Once you have a tentative research question, make sure it satisfies the following criteria:

  • ►  It asks a question that doesn't require just a yes or no answer
  • ►  It has an appropriate scope (isn't too broad or narrow)
  •   It can be answered using reliable evidence, not just personal opinions