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English - Academic Writing: Creating Good Research Questions

What is a Research Question?

Creating research questions is an important step in the research process that many students would rather skip. For one, it can be more difficult than it appears, because research questions require a shift in student thinking.

Essentially, a good research question will guide how, where and why you search for particular information. It will guide what information is most important to you. 

Your thesis will address your research question. For example, if you are looking at the general topic of income inequality, you might want to develop a question related to the minimum wage. Or perhaps you would rather examine the other end of the income spectrum to see why some have such large incomes. First:

  • Do some preliminary research in a database like Opposing Viewpoint to see what issues related to income inequality are in the news.
  • Figure out which related stories are most interesting to you.
  • Take one or several of those on a particular topic, such as CEO pay, and create some research questions that address a controversial aspect of that topic.

For example: Are there sound economic reasons why the average CEO is paid 278 times more than an average company worker?

Once you discover those arguments, then you will form an arguable statement from this question, such as:

"CEOs are in a unique position to add creative value to a company and should therefore be compensated for work at a much higher rate of pay than that of the average worker."

That statement can serve as your working thesis.


Writing Good Research Questions by Pete Caggia, Librarian

1 November 2011, Pete Caggia, Library Media Specialist, Salem, NC.