According to The Craft of Research (2016), a research question is more than a practical problem or something with a yes/no answer. A research question helps you learn more about something you don't already know and it needs to be significant enough to interest your readers.
In a research paper, you develop a unique question and then synthesize scholarly and primary sources into a paper that supports your argument about the topic.
These 6 journalistic question words can help you narrow your focus from a broad topic to a specific question.
Who: Are you interested in a specific group of people? Can your topic be narrowed by gender, sex, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status or something else? Are there any key figures related to your topic?
What: What are the issues surrounding your topic? Are there subtopics? In looking at background information, did you notice any gaps or questions that seemed unanswered?
Where: Can your topic be narrowed down to a geographic location? Warning: Don't get too narrow here. You might not be able to find enough information on a town or state.
When: Is your topic current or historical? Is it confined to a specific time period? Was there a causative event that led your topic to become an area of study?
Why: Why are you interested in this topic? Why should others be interested?
How: What kinds of information do you need? Primary sources, statistics? What is your methodology?
Source: Booth, Wayne C., et al. 2016. The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Thanks also to IUPUI University Library for allowing reuse of their graphic under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.
Created by Bronwen K. Maxson for educational purposes.