10 Research Question Examples to Guide your Research Project

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.

Once you’ve read our guide on how to write a research question, you can use these examples to craft your own.

 

Research question Explanation
  • What effect does social media have on your mind?
  • What effect does daily use of Twitter have on the attention span of 12-16 year-olds?
The first question is not specific enough. The second question is more researchable, using qualitative and quantitative data collection.
  • Why is there a housing crisis in the Netherlands?
  • What impact have university internationalization policies had on the availability and affordability of housing in the Netherlands?
Starting with “why” often means that your question is not focused enough: there are too many possible answers. By targeting just one specific aspect of the problem, the second question offers a clear path for research.
  • Does the US or the UK have a better healthcare system?
  • How do the US and the UK compare in health outcomes among low-income people with chronic illnesses?
The first question is too broad and subjective: there’s no clear criteria for what counts as “better.” The second question is much more researchable. It uses clearly defined terms and narrows its focus to a specific population.
  • What should political parties do about low voter turnout in the region?
  • What are the most effective communication strategies for increasing voter turnout among those under 30 living within city limits?
It is generally not feasible for academic research to answer broad normative questions. The second question is more specific, aiming to gain an understanding of possible solutions in order to make informed recommendations.
  • Has there been an increase in homelessness in San Francisco in the past ten years?
  • How have economic, political, and social factors affected patterns of homelessness in San Francisco over the past ten years?
The first question is too simple: it can be answered with a simple yes or no. The second question is more complex, requiring in-depth investigation and the development of an original argument.
  • What factors led to women gaining the right to vote in the UK in 1918?
  • How did Irish women perceive and relate to the British women’s suffrage movement?
The first question is too broad and not very original. The second question identifies an underexplored aspect of the topic that requires investigation of various primary and secondary sources to answer.
  • How can sexual health services and LGBT support services in the city be improved?
  • How can sexual health clinics in the city develop their services and communications to be more LGBT-inclusive?
The first question is not focused enough: it tries to address two different practical problems (the quality of sexual health services and LGBT support services). Even though the two issues are related, it’s not clear how the research will bring them together. The second integrates the two problems into one focused, specific question.
  • Where do the majority of immigrants to Germany come from?
  • What are the similarities and differences in the experiences of recent Syrian immigrants in Berlin?
The first question is too simple, asking for a straightforward fact that can be easily found online. The second is a more complex question that requires data collection and detailed discussion to answer.
  • How is race represented in Shakespeare’s Othello?
  • How have modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s Othello dealt with the theme of racism through casting, staging, and allusion to contemporary events?
The first question is not original or relevant — it would be very difficult to contribute anything new. The second question takes a specific angle to make an original argument, and has more relevance to current social concerns and debates.
  • How can drunk driving be prevented?
  • What effect do different legal approaches have on the number of people who drive after drinking in European countries?
The first question asks for a ready-made solution, and is not focused or researchable. The second question is a clearer comparative question, but note that it may not be practically feasible. For a smaller research project or thesis, it could be narrowed down further to focus on the effectiveness of drunk driving laws in just one or two countries.

Note that the design of your research question can depend on what method you are pursuing. Here are a few options for qualitative, quantitative, and stastical research questions.

Type of research Example question
Qualitative research question
  • What are the experiences of the parents of children with Down syndrome enrolled in public preschools in the city?
  • What are the perceptions of night-shift oncology nurses at the local hospital?
Quantitative research question
  • What is the demographic makeup of South Korea in 2020 compared to 2010?
  • How has the average sea level changed on the Norwegian coast over the 25 years?
Statistical research question
  • Is there a significant relationship between ice cream consumption and drowning deaths at the local freshwater lake?
  • Is there a significant relationship between salary and mental well-being on a scale of 1 to 5 of employees at the local shoe company?

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Shona McCombes

Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.