A research problem is a specific issue or gap in existing knowledge that you aim to address in your research. You may choose to look for practical problems aimed at contributing to change, or theoretical problems aimed at expanding knowledge.
Some research will do both of these things, but usually the research problem focuses on one or the other. The type of research problem you choose depends on your broad topic of interest and the type of research you think will fit best.
The research question is one of the most important parts of your research paper, thesis or dissertation. It’s important to spend some time assessing and refining your question before you get started.
The exact form of your question will depend on a few things, such as the length of your project, the type of research you’re conducting, the topic, and the research problem. However, all research questions should be focused, specific, and relevant to a timely social or scholarly issue.
Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
Specific enough to answer thoroughly
Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly
You will usually write a single research question to guide your progress in a research paper or academic essay. Your answer then forms your thesis statement—the central assertion or position that your paper will argue for.
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Every piece of academic writing is structured by paragraphs and headings. The number, length and order of your paragraphs will depend on what you’re writing—but each paragraph must be:
Unified: all the sentences relate to one central point or idea.
Coherent: the sentences are logically organized and clearly connected.
Relevant: the paragraph supports the overall theme and purpose of the paper.
To walk you through the process of writing strong paragraphs, we’ll use an example from our interactive essay about the history of the Braille reading system. With each step, we will gradually build up the structure of a paragraph.
Writing a good research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic and advance an original argument. To convincingly communicate your ideas, you need a logical structure and a clear style that follows the conventions of academic writing.
When you’ve finished writing your paper, use this checklist to evaluate your work.
While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.