Research Questions Activity
This activity is worth 30 points and has three parts:
- After reading the lesson, spend some time considering potential research questions and come up with three preliminary questions you’d like to explore further. For each question, make sure to do your best to edit out vague words and other elements that might affect the scope.
- Under each question, write 2-3 sentences of self-assessment, focusing on the following:
- Why does the question interest you?
- Do you think you will be able to find enough information to research this well? Why or why not?
- Write a few sentences that explain how you rank the questions based on your self-assessment. This will give your instructor some sense of your topic preference.
Your instructor will add his/her own concerns and comments to help you refine your questions. Your work is worth30 points and will be graded on the following rubric:
Content: The student has three, strong questions.
Reflection: The self-assessment meets assignment guidelines by describing interest and researchability.
Order: The student provided a brief explanation that ranked the questions.
Broad Topic: I like rap and think that more people should listen to it.
Audience questions about the topic: Why do you like rap? What makes it worth listening to? Rap is a big genre of music—What specific kind do you like? How could you convince your audience that rap is worthwhile? Why do you think more people don’t listen to rap?
Revised topic: Rap music has a bad reputation because of how it is portrayed in the media; however,listening to artists like Snoop Dog and 2-Pac can teach people a lot about the issues affecting black youth in the inner city.
Cliché Topic: I want to write about capital punishment.
Audience questions about the topic: This seems broad- are you talking about the act of capital punishment, or this as an alternative to being in jail? What circumstances are you referring to (capital punishment in cases of murder? All crimes?)? Are you referring to a specific location (country or state)?
Revised topic: I will study the relationship between the capital crime rate in states that have imposed moratoriums on capital punishment and those states that allow capital punishment.
Refining your Question
Once you have your question and have done some initial searches to test its scope, give it some additional thought.
- Does it avoid vague words and phrases in favor of specific words?
- Does it frame the research topic with recognition of the audience and their needs?
- Does it have a sense of focus?
- Does it avoid trite, cliché, or over-done concepts in favor of a fresh approach?
- Can it be handled within the length and other project guidelines?
Moving from a Topic to a Research Question
Mike Palmquist, the author of several books on the research process, outlines the steps that will help you move from a topic to a research question. These steps include considering your readers, selecting a role, generating questions, selecting a question, refining by narrowing, and refining by searching. Take a moment to read about these steps in How to Develop a Research Question.
Palmquist also advocates framing your research question around a particular focus area. Focus areas include:
The focus areas can be examined using the following thinking processes:
The focus area you choose will impact the way you frame your research question. For example, researchers who select history as a focus area will phrase their research questions in the past tense (“Which strategies have been used to increase the use of wind power?”), while those focused on goals are written from a more futuristic perspective (“Which goals are most likely to be realized by wind power advocates?”).
The key takeaway is that there are MANY ways to frame your research question, and your question may change over time. For now, the question presents a place to start and a way to develop your research strategies.