Examples of main research questions for a dissertation

The main research question is the most important part of your dissertation. Reviewing our criteria is an easy way to determine whether your main question is good or bad.

Main research questionIs it good?Criterion
Do boys or girls have more talent related to technology and does education play a role? No. It’s actually two questions instead of one. Moreover, it’s too general and lacks well-defined concepts.Researchable and specific
What is iconoclasm? No. This descriptive question is likely too straightforward for a main question. However, it could make a good first sub-question.
What are the specific problems and characteristics of different types of stray cats (e.g., farm cats, feral cats, stray cats in urban areas)? Yes. It’s a clearly worded defining question.
Does education play a role in defining a high school’s reputation? No. It’s a limited inferential question with a simple yes/no answer.Researchable
How can World War II be explained? No. This explanatory question is not specific enough and will not lead to a concise answer.Researchable
What kind of music production workers are the most productive: classical, rock or techno music? No. It’s not specific enough and may be too broad. Which production workers? Where?Feasible and specific
How can the sexual health counseling that mental healthcare workers in Rotterdam provide to young people in district X be improved? Yes. The question is focused and clear (although it may be more appropriate for an undergraduate-level dissertation).
How can poverty among immigrants be reduced in the Netherlands? No. The issue is far too broad to be tackled in either a bachelor’s or master’s dissertation.Feasible and specific
What effect do violent films have on children’s behavior? No. The subject is again too wide and needs to be made more specific. For instance, what kind of behavior will be considered?Feasible and specific
What effect does conducting preventive alcohol checks have on the number of people who drive after drinking? Yes. It’s a straightforward evaluative question.
Will paying more attention to the early identification and remediation of reading problems in grades 3 and 4 lead to fewer below-average readers in grades 4 and 5? No. it’s a predictive question (which is appropriate), but it I too speculative. A testing question would be better here: “What effect do the early detection and remediation of reading problems in grades 3 and 4 have on reading levels in grades 4 and 5?

These types of questions are common in scientific research; however, the questions shouldn’t be too broad or impossible to answer.

In an undergraduate paper, a better testing question may be “How can the number of below-average readers be decreased in grades 4 and 5?

Feasible and specific

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Bas Swaen

Bas is co-founder of Scribbr. Bas loves to teach and is an experienced thesis writer. He tries to help students with writing clear and easy to comprehend articles about difficult topics.

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