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RES104-Asking Research Questions

How do you formulate a good research question? What makes a good question?

Becky Canovan

on 8 March 2012

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Transcript of RES104-Asking Research Questions

Research Questions
the backbone of your paper or the bane of your existence?
It's the point of your paper.
In the real world, social scientists do research to answer a question or solve a problem.
Your research question is similar to that.
The question you're trying to answer!
Maybe some examples will help:
If your topic is 1950's Hollywood, your research question could be: How did blacklisting affect the livelihood of an actor?
Or you could ask: How were studios involved in the creation of propaganda films?
Or: Why was Hollywood such a hotbed for Communist activity?
So to summarize...It's a question that you can't answer in one word that drives your research.
Now, let's look at why you should care...
is a research question?
should I care about them?
do I write a good one?
First reason you should care: Your research question will help make your topic do-able for a 5-7 page paper. It helps you narrow it down.
Seriously, you can't do 1950s Hollywood justice in 5-7 pages without one!
Secondly, every one of these papers is an argument.
If the answer to your research question isn't an argument, you're not doing it right.
That's why your question can't have a one word answer.
Your question should lead you to an argument...
Let's look at an example...
Remember your thesis? That becomes the answer to your research question.
How about the weather in Seattle?
Now I can't just ask, what's the weather like in Seattle...
There's no argument there.
But I could ask, what psychological effect does Seattle's weather have on its citizens. That has some debatable answers.
I could talk about the lack of sun.
Link it to seasonal affective disorder..
Maybe connect that to crime rates...
Or even look at possible treatments.
It sets up the argument of your paper. It's your job to prove your thesis is the correct answer to the research question.
So now that we know why it's important, let's figure out how to write one...
Make sure you ask a deeper question.
Sometimes it's easier to start with a how or why question. They force you to make connections.
Or try looking at research questions as being a cause-and-effect or problem-solution model.
Let's try it together. Watch the YouTube clip. I'll provide some possible research questions. Then we'll have you try some on your own.
This clip is about the 1992 verdict in the Rodney King trial. Watch it and then, click through to see some possible research questions.
Ok...after watching that, I can come up with a few research questions.
What were the long term effects of the King trial on the criminal justice system?
How did the resulting riots affect LA economically?
Why did the verdict upset so many people?
How does this riot fit into LA's history of rioting?
What steps were taken to stem the escalating racial tensions in LA?
See, how each of those questions digs deeper and tries to connect ideas?
Each one of those could work as a research question. 5 different subjects all from the same short video.
And none are easily answered in one word and have some sort of argument to them.
It's your turn to try to come up with a research question. Don't worry, it doesn't have to be perfect; it's just practice.
Let's go back to another video. This time, you'll write the research questions and post them in the forum.
Remember a question isn't set in stone, you can always tweak it anywhere in the process, but it should give you some direction to start working towards.
You can ask lots of questions about one topic. If you're struggling to come up with a question, try looking at the topic from a different perspective.
But be realistic. Can you really find enough credible information about the supposed positive psychological effect of using those reusable shopping bags everyone is selling?
This video talks about the new immigration laws in Arizona .
Your research question is what you hope to be able to answer with your paper.
Hi, your friendly UD librarian here. I'm here to walk you through some of the basics about research questions. We're going to cover the "what," "why," and "how" of research questions.
Oh, and we'll be watching two YouTube clips, so you might want headphones if you're in a public place!
created by Becky Canovan
for Charles C. Myers Library
January 2010
Full transcript