Formulating research questions

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The role of researchers in any field of study, is to produce new knowledge either in areas where there is a lack of knowledge or by bringing a new interpretation to bear on established understandings in a particular field. In order to do this, a researcher (or a team of researchers) will pose a research question.

Beginning with a research question is important because it focuses your work and helps keep a researcher on track. A research question is just that; a question that exists in relation to a gap in what we know or understand of a particular topic. Research questions can have different forms, but the function is the same.



Consider these common research question forms:

  • Does vitamin D enhance immune system function? (does X impact on Y?)
  • Why do so few women seek a career in the construction industry? What are the main barriers to career advancement? (reason plus explanation)
  • Can nanotechnology replace traditional methods of prototyping in industry? (can X influence Y to benefit z)
  • How can AI improve interventions during disaster management efforts especially during a bushfire? (can A enhance B, especially C)

Before formulating a research question to guide your work, you should understand how premises and claims shape the questions we ask. This is because good research questions are informed by sound premises and claims.

Here is Professor James Arvanitakis speaking about the importance of formulating an effective research question.

How research questions can make or break your research project (8:36 mins)

How research questions can make or break your research project (8:36 mins) by Graduate Research School Western Sydney University (YouTube)


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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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