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Research 101

The steps of the research process & how to apply them.

1c. Formulate Research Questions

Craft Your Questions

Once you have selected a topic, find a question that clearly identifies what you hope to learn. With a definite question in mind, you can focus your research.

Well-crafted questions guide the systematic planning of research. Formulating your questions precisely enables you to design a study with a good chance of answering them.

Figure 1
Creating a Research Question

Note. From Creating a Research Question, by J. Ostrow, , YouTube ( Copyright by Jill Ostrow.

How to Formulate the Question

Once you have selected an initial topic, ask a question that identifies what you hope to learn.

To begin:

  1. Write down what you know or don’t know about the topic.

  2. Using the information you wrote down, develop questions you’d like to answer.

    • Use probing questions such as why? how? what if? should?

    • Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no.


  1. Ask open-ended questions.

    Yes / no questions can usually be answered quickly without leaving room for further exploration. Instead, ask questions you can effectively examine.

  2. Avoid loaded language.

    Phrase your question in a way that is value-neutral so that it does not presuppose an expected answer.

  3. Avoid over-long questions.

    An ideal research question is brief and to the point, not so broad as to be vague but not so narrow as to give you room for exploration.

From Topic to Research Question

Use tips from the document below to craft an effective question.

Figure 2
From Topic to Research Question