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Guide to the Research Process: 1b. Formulate Research Questions

This guide provides an introduction to the skills needed to conduct research, with particular reference to the field of education.

Good Research Questions

Good Research Questions are:

  • Relevant - They arise from issues raised in the literature or in practice
  • Manageable - You will have sufficient time and resources to access the data required
  • Substantial - You are not simply copying questions already addressed
  • Clear and simple - Muddled questions are likely to generate muddled data

Developing Research Questions

 “Well-crafted questions guide the systematic planning of research. Formulating your questions precisely enables you to design a study with a good chance of answering them.” (Light, Singer, Willett, By Design, 1990)

Once you have selected an initial topic, you need to find a question that clearly identifies what you hope to learnTo begin:

  • Write down what you already know or don't know about the topic.
  • Using the information you wrote down, develop questions you'd like to answer when doing your research.
    • Use probing questions such as why? how? what if? should?
    • Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no. 

Forming a Research Question