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Making Sure Your Research Question Is Clear

The development of clear research questions is the foundation of any research project, serving as the guiding light and shaping the direction and purpose of the study, making it an integral part of the research process.

  1. Identify Your Topic

Begin by thinking about areas within your own course or field that interest you. Are there any recent developments, emerging trends, or unresolved issues about which you have wondered? Spend some time brainstorming potential research topics — this is a process to be entered into later, as well; indeed, personal interest and motivation are crucial to the success of a project.

  1. Review Existing Literature

Dive headfirst into academic journals, books, conference proceedings, and reputable online sources to acquaint yourself with the existing research and scholarship in your chosen field. Scrutinize the key theories, methodologies, findings, and debates that characterize the current state of knowledge. Keep your eyes peeled for any gaps, inconsistencies, or unanswered questions in the literature that could serve as potential points of entry for your research.

  1. Narrow Down Your Focus

As you get down and dirty with the literature, start whittling down your focus to a specific research problem or question that you find intellectually stimulating and, well, deeply significant to your field of inquiry. Think long and hard about the scope, depth, and specificity of your inquiry. Ideally, you want to hit upon a research topic that makes the perfect tee-up to your own research ambitions—specific enough to feel manageable but general enough to still contribute something meaningful to the field at large.

  1. Be Realistic

Consider the feasibility of your research questions, such as whether you can access the required data, whether resources are within reach, whether you have the skills needed and whether your topic aligns with your level of knowledge. Anticipate any obstacles, constraints or ethical dilemmas that might come up using your approach and methods. Be willing to revise your research questions or take on different angles to make your study doable without losing depth and relevance.

  1. Be Clear and Specific

When wording your research questions, be as clear as possible and concise. This will both help to take your investigation in the right direction and aid to carry out a thorough analysis. Make sure you define the technical terms, variables and the relationships of variables and offer clear definitions and methodologies so your research can be replicated and be consistent from all standpoints.

  1. Use Proper Language

Tailor your language and terminology of your field. Tailored to the expectations and preferences of your audience, whether they are researchers, practitioners, policymakers, or the public. Balance technical accuracy with accessibility and avoid excessive reliance on overly complex language or professional jargon that may hinder accessibility to or understanding of your proposal. Take the time to define and explain key terms and concepts up front, as it will demonstrate that you have done your research and know how your work fits with other projects. It will also make a huge difference to how persuasive the rest of your argument is.

  1. Make sure it is relevant

Make sure that you position your research questions within the study of your discipline or the relevant fields. Present and justify your own. They must know that your topic is relevant, so state what that relevance is. You must be able to show your examiners not just that you have chosen the right, most interesting, edgy questions to research, but that those questions are Answer the Question. It is perfectly OK to work with mildly disproven or highly contested research questions; the key is to always know the status or the potential consequences of the research you propose.

  1. Consider Different Perspectives

Adopt a critical and reflective stance toward your research questions, considering multiple viewpoints, theoretical frameworks, or methodological approaches that may shed light on the phenomena under investigation. Anticipate potential biases, assumptions, or limitations inherent in your research design, and strive for intellectual honesty, humility, and openness to alternative interpretations or conclusions. Engage with diverse perspectives and interdisciplinary insights to enrich your analysis and enhance the robustness of your findings.

  1. Seek Feedback

Share your research questions with colleagues, mentors, or peers within your academic community to solicit constructive feedback, suggestions, and critiques. Embrace feedback as an opportunity for refinement, clarification, and improvement, and be receptive to diverse perspectives, insights, and suggestions for enhancement. Consider revisiting or refining your research questions based on the feedback received, prioritizing clarity, coherence, and relevance in your final formulation.


The guidelines define the identity of scholars, teachers, and writers, emphasizing the importance of crafting research questions for intellectually rigorous scholarship. Clear research questions serve as lenses through which scholars look, frames within which they work, and stones upon which they carve words and actions that advance knowledge in their fields. Mastering this art requires clarity of thought and intellectual curiosity, which the essay aims to advance in some measure.

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