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What is a good research question?

Every good research project answers a question that observes a few rules. This presentation introduces you to the following three rules.

Rule No. 1: Be focused.
Rule No. 2: Don’t be too obvious.
Rule No. 3: Use clear language.

If you understand and follow these rules you should come up with a good research question. You will improve your question even further if you follow these vital steps:

Step No. 1: Get to know your broad topic area.
Step No. 2: Look for open questions and missing links in the current literature on your topic.
Step No. 3: Once you know where the gaps in research are, define the question that will help to provide the answer that will fill the one you want to examine.

Watching this video you come across an exemplary research question deemed to be good but not optimal: ‘Is the mental wellbeing of 13- to 16-year-olds decreased depending on whether their self-reported best friend owns the latest iPhone?’

Try to think of another example with a ‘directed’ hypothesis (e.g., ‘Does daily smartphone usage increase the wellbeing…’). Then try to find an example with a comparative vs. a non-comparative question (e.g., ‘Does daily smartphone usage lead to more stress if the five closest friends have smartphones, compared to if they have none?’). Maybe you want to take notes of your examples – they can be quite helpful if you need to find your own research question.


University of Basel