Crafting your research question Adapted from the Writing Center at George Mason University
What is a research question?A research question is a clear, focused, concise, complex and arguable question around which you center your research. You should ask a question about an issue that you are genuinely curious about.
Developing a research question• Choose an interesting general topic.• Do some preliminary research on your general topic.• Consider your audience.• Start asking questions.
Evaluate your question.• Is your research question clear?• Is your research question focused?• Is your research question complex?
Unclear• Unclear: How has doping ruined sports for Americans?• How can you make this a better research question?
Clear • Unclear: How has doping ruined sports forThe unclear version of this Americans?question doesnt address specific • Clear: How doperformance-enhancing drugs, nor Americans reconciledoes it specify specific sports ortime periods. It also assumes that their love of baseballdoping has ruined sports for heroes with theAmericans and that this is proven disappointment ofand/or accepted. The clearerversion specifies a drug (steroids) dethroning due toa sport (baseball) a specific person steroid use? A look intoand case (Mark McGwire) and the case of Markdeletes an assumption. A strongresearch question should never McGwire.leave room for ambiguity orinterpretation.
Unfocused• How has advertising evolved in America?• How can you make this a better research question?
Focused • Unfocused:How has advertising evolvedThe unfocused research in America?question is so broad that it • Focused: How didcouldn’t be adequately the Volkswagonanswered in a book-lengthpiece, let alone a standard "Lemon" advertisingcollege-level paper. The campaignfocused version narrows revolutionizedown to a specific adcampaign (the Volkswagon advertising in 1960s"Lemon") and a specific time America?period (the 1960s). When indoubt, make a researchquestion as narrow andfocused as possible.
Too Simple• Too simple: What kinds of recreational drugs have been popular with teenagers from the 1990 to the present?• How can you make this a better research question?
Appropriately Complex • Too simple:What kinds of recreational drugs have been popular withThe simple version of this questioncan be looked up online and teenagers from theanswered in a few factual 1990 to the present?sentences; it leaves no room foranalysis. The more complex • Appropriately Complex:version is thought provoking and From the 1990s to therequires both significant present, how has theinvestigation and evaluation from rise of prescriptionthe writer. As a general rule ofthumb, if a quick Google search drug abuse amongcan answer a research question, teenagers changed theit’s likely not very effective. approach to drug abuse prevention programs in the U.S.?
Peer Review• Take a few minutes to write several possible research questions.• Review and evaluate in research groups.
Homework• Create a profile for the Ning network, http://history12seminar2012- 13.ning.com/• Read chapters 1-2 of the Turabian guide.• On your Ning blog, write your first reflection for week one. See instructions on the blog.
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