Characteristics of a Good Research Question

Characteristics of a Good Research QuestionThe research question is the uncertainty concerning something in the population which the researcher wishes to deal with by making measurements on his/her study subjects. There is no shortage of questions. Even as we succeed in providing good answers to some questions, we remain surrounded by others.

The challenge while looking for a research question is not a shortage of uncertainties; it is the problem of finding a crucial one that can be turned into a feasible and valid study plan.

What are the characteristics of a good research question ?

1. It needs to be well grounded in current theoretical and empirical knowledge (know the literature)

2. It sets the context of the research so enabling to determine the subject matter, the focus, what research evidence is needed so as to produce an answer, and the conclusion.

3. The question must be do-able (within the given limitations of time, money, capacities, resources) as well as be worth undertaking.

4. Good questions must be amenable to the formulation of clear hypotheses and operational definitions.

5. A researcher could have several reasons for going after a specific research question: as it will provide financial support, because it is a logical or crucial next thing in developing a career, or because getting at the truth of the issue appears fascinating. I like this last reason; it is one which grows as it is exercised and this offers the intensity of effort required to overcome the countless obstacles and frustrations of the research process. Nevertheless, it is advisable to verify the interest of a question with mentors and outside specialists prior to dedicating significant energy to creating a research plan or grant proposal that peers and funding agencies might find boring.

6. A good research question should be important in terms of theory and application (usually weighted toward one).

7. It should not attempt to address large issues. It is not a topic but is a particular question in a topic:  it needs to be specific, clear, well-defined, and to the point. It should allow you to drill down into a phenomena to better understand it, instead of remaining superficial.  Focus is essential in creating a research question. It needs to be firmly focused by the time that you are ready to proceed to developing the research methods.

8. Good research leads to new information. An investigation which simply reiterates what is previously proven is not worth the effort and cost. A question doesn’t have to be completely original. It may ask whether a earlier observation could be replicated, whether the results in one population also apply to others, or whether enhanced measurement methods can make clear the relationship between two variables. A confirmatory study is especially useful if it eliminates the flaws of earlier studies.

Watch a Video on Creating a Good Research Question

9. Good research questions demands a lot more than looking something up. It reflects an underlying tension which doesn’t merely turn on one or two missing facts. It should force you to weigh evidence and evaluate divergent views on the subject. It should enable you to create a solution that the audience find both interesting and important.

10. Good questions should be ethical. If the research poses undesirable physical risks or intrusion of privacy, the researcher should seek alternative methods to answer the question. If there is uncertainty about whether the study is ethical, you should discuss it at an initial phase with experts.

11. “Dichotomous questions” – questions with simple yes or no responses – don’t make good questions.

12. Among the characteristics of a good research question, none is more crucial than its relevance. A sensible approach to decide about relevance is to think of the different outcomes which are likely to occur and think about how each possibility may progress scientific knowledge, influence management, or guide future research.

A bad or weak research question will certainly hinder research activities as it will lead to superficial results. Avoid complexity or ambiguity in the question.


  1. james Ahenkorah says

    this article for academic use

  2. Great article, was really helpful

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