Characteristics of good research questions.

August 31, 2019

Developing a good research question is the foundation of a successful research project, so it is worth spending time and effort in understanding what makes a good question.

1. The question should be feasible: it can be investigated without an undue amount of time, energy, or money. A researcher could have several reasons for going after a specific research question: as it will provide financial support because it is a logical or crucial next thing in developing a career, or because getting at the truth of the issue appears fascinating. I like this last reason; it is one which grows as it is exercised and this offers the intensity of effort required to overcome the countless obstacles and frustrations of the research process. Nevertheless, it is advisable to verify the interest of a question with mentors and outside specialists prior to dedicating significant energy to creating a research plan or grant proposal that peers and funding agencies might find boring.

2. The question should be clear: most people would agree as to what the keywords in the question mean.

3. The question is significant: is the question worth investigating in terms of time needed, the energy required, the effect on or for subjects.

4. Good questions should be ethical. If the research poses undesirable physical risks or intrusion of privacy, the researcher should seek alternative methods to answer the question. If there is uncertainty about whether the study is ethical, you should discuss it at an initial phase with experts.

5. Among the characteristics of a good research question, none is more crucial than its relevance. A sensible approach to decide about relevance is to think of the different outcomes which are likely to occur and think about how each possibility may progress scientific knowledge, influence management, or guide future research.

6. Good research leads to new information. An investigation that simply reiterates what is previously proven is not worth the effort and cost. A question doesn’t have to be completely original. It may ask whether an earlier observation could be replicated, whether the results in one population also apply to others, or whether enhanced measurement methods can make clear the relationship between two variables. A confirmatory study is especially useful if it eliminates the flaws of earlier studies.

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