5 Steps to Creating an Effective Research Question


A good research question is really like a lighthouse. It’s essentially a guide your research paper. It pinpoints exactly what you want to find out and gives your work a clear purpose and focus.

Here are five steps to develop a strong research question.

  1. Choose a broad topic: go with a topic that sparks your interest, since you’ll be spending quite some time with it. For me, I’m thinking maybe something about social media.

  2. Do some preliminary reading about the topic: Okay, so I’ve read a lot of newspaper writing about how social media negatively impacts high school students’ academic performances, and they also happen to be one of the most active age groups on social media.

  3. Narrowed down to a specific niche: This way, you can make sure the research is within a feasible scope instead of something too broad to achieve in a given timeframe. Since academic performance is too broad, let me narrow it down to attention span.

  4. Identify research problem: So we have already established that other lessons are one of the most active age groups on social media platforms, but only a scarce amount of research has been done on the effect of social media has on the younger generations’ attention span. So this will be my research problem.

  5. Write your research question: turning your research problem into a question, and it sounds something like “what effect does daily use of Twitter have on the attention span of people in the age group of 16 to 20?”. Since this is a descriptive research, the research question is also descriptive. But there are also other kinds of research questions.

    It all depends on the type of research you’ll do, for example, comparative research, descriptive research, or correlational. Research.

    Now we have a research question, but how do you know if it’s good or not? Here’s a checklist for you.
    A good research question should be focused

    1. It should be researchable: that means the answer to your question can be found by collecting empirical data or through existing literature. In our case, we can go for a quantitative approach like using eye tracking or mouse tracking to measure the attention span.

    2. It needs to be feasible: So is it doable within a certain timeframe? Do you have access to the data you need? Or the right kind of respondents? It really depends on your situation. Before this research question, it will fit more into the timeframe of longer project. So it wouldn’t be feasible for an assignment you have to hand in by the end of the month.

    3. Be specific: All the terms are used in the research question should have clear meanings. Notice how I don’t use often but daily, and instead of using adolescence, I use a specific age group.

    4. The research question should also be complex enough: If the research question can be answered with yes or no or with easily found facts, then it’s not complex enough.

      Last but not least, make sure a problem is relevant to your field of study or society. Well, social media is pretty much all we use now. So that’s definitely relevant to society. It also targets a currently unanswered question and contribute knowledge that future research can build on.

      Now keep in mind, in a research paper or essay, you usually only write one research question before a bigger project. You can also develop multiple research questions around the same problem.

      For example, I can also ask “Does infinite scroll function on Twitter contribute to the effect on attention span”.

      Follow the steps and checklists and you end up with a research question as a solid foundation for your research. Make sure you also check out our articles on writing the literature review and the methodology section.