Research Questions

“Why do we ask the questions we ask?”  This takes one deeper into one’s particular research interests as one begins to draft your proposal or any other aspects of research.  The questions form the spine of the research process and help to guide the research inquiry.  

To begin with, we will explore the links between your research interests and your personal, social and theoretical contexts.  If you already have a research question, this will help to understand how your question has arisen.

Watch the following video where Sharman Wickham speaks about the three personal, social and theoretical dimensions of one’s research.  You can pause the video to make notes or to roughly draw your circles.  Take note of how the circles interact, which circle has more influence in your study.  Here is the video:

Drafting research questions

The wording of a question is very important.  Firstly pay attention to the interrogative pronouns used (who, what, where, when, how).  Avoid questions that can be easily answered with a yes or no.  These are called closed ended questions, e.g. Is smoking harmful for health?  Rather, opt for an open ended question, e.g. To what extent is smoking harmful for health?  This gives you more room and scope to explore the different aspects of harm or benefit, whereas a close ended question forecloses any possibility for discussion, and defies the very nature of scholarship which is often discursive.

You may have several research questions and chose to distinguish between the primary question and the secondary questions.  The latter help to unpack the primary question.

Suggested activities

Using Sharman’s video as a guide, reflect on your own research influences.  These would help you formulate your research questions.  Feel free to use this table as a prompt to begin to organise your thoughts.