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Prof. Gaughan - Writing & Research - English 101: Research Question

What Makes a Good Research Question?

Is it interesting?  - To you or others?

Is it debateable? - Can more than one perspective be shared?

Can it be researched? - Are there studies or data out there that you can reference?

Is it significant? - Does it have global or local importance?

Is it manageable? - Is it a big enough, or too-big question for this assignment? 

Develop a Research Question

The Research Question should be clear and focused enough to allow you to develop an argument. You shouldn't be able to answer your research question with a simple Yes or No, but discuss it from different angles. You may start out having one opinion of the topic but change your mind after conducting your research.

If you are not sure what to write about start with a broad topic and narrow it down by thinking of some of the issues associated with it. Then turn your broad topic and issue into a research question.

e.g. Misinformation:

Types of Misinformation: Propaganda, Disinformation, Fake News, Misunderstanding, Hoaxes

Narrow by Population (PEOPLE): journalists, students, parents, politicians, voters, patients, doctors

Narrow by Issue: Misinformation and social media, conspiracy theories, scientific errors, health decision making

Level of Education + Population + Issue = Research Question

Potential research questions:

How does political propaganda on social media affect voters' choices? 

How can the healthcare industry improve its messaging to the public to create better healthcare decision making? 

Go to the SEARCH STRATEGY tab to see how to break your topic down into keywords to create the most effective searches.

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Good or Bad Research Questions

Good or Bad Research Questions? 

Is there a racial bias affecting suspensions in schools?

What percentage of young people get suspended from high school each year? 

How does the demonstrated racial bias against preschoolers, middle schoolers, and high schoolers of color affect their lifetime achievement and mental heath and what can be done about the problem. 

How many New York City 5-year-olds started public Kindergarten last year?  

What are some age appropriate alternatives to suspension and expulsion? 

Suggestions for Focusing Your Research Question


POPULATION or CO-HORT: Age, Gender, Race or Ethnicity, Socio-economic status, etc. 

GEOGRAPHY: Local, Regional, National, Global; a State or City; a public or private setting; a comparison of geographies

PERIOD IN TIME: Past 5 years; before or after an event; a comparison of two time periods

A SMALL PIECE OF A LARGER PROBLEM: e.g. The effect on the environment of outdoor clothing and equipment. 


Influential Person's Theory

Brene Brown's theory of Vulnerability

Ta-Nehesi Coates on slavery reparations

See TED Talks, NYT, The Conversation for some of these influential authors

An Established Theory: 

Feminist or Queer Theory 


You can also ask yourself WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE WHEN questions. 

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