Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of students than being asked to write a lengthy research paper or dissertation. If you are familiar with a research report, you would not only acknowledge how difficult it is to articulate and compile it, but also how significantly it affects your GPA and overall grade. That’s the reason why students not only strive to complete it, but also want to ace it to guarantee the chance of achieving good grades.
When it comes to writing such assignments, students find it really hard to even start working on it. They wrestle with thousands of ideas for days and still aren’t able to gather around one topic for research. But why?
Why is finding a research topic, so difficult? Well, this is because it’s much more complicated than the usual coursework or assignments as it implies more effort and in-depth research skills.
Students are required to come up with well-articulated research questions before diving into the dynamics of a research project. It is the most important aspect of a research project, as almost every research activity, including data collection and methodologies, revolves around it.
What is a research question?
The research question is a principal question for which the rest of your project, seeks answers. It centralizes all your research work. In simpler terms, it is the problem that you are trying to solve through different research approaches.
Drafting a research question is the most important part and probably the first thing you’re required to do, before getting on with the research project. Research questions are cyclical, meaning new questions arise as you go along answering, progressing and discovering one research question.
The phrases “research question” and “research problem” are often used for similar purposes. In research terminologies, many research questions can emerge from a single problem. The questions are made to explore and inquire about various aspects of the same problem, attempting to solve the broad research problem.
For example, why are customers reluctant to complete their online purchases? Why is online purchasing declining? Research questions are a tool to solve a specific problem.
Why are research questions important?
As we have mentioned above, research questions centralizes research activities and lead the process in a specific direction. Constructing a well-thought out research question means that you have a specific goal to study and achieve.
1. It sets the scope
The research question indicates a problem, situation and a goal, you’re striving to achieve and resolve. It narrows down the research scope and stops you from getting off track throughout the research process. Without declaring a research question at the beginning, there is a high chance of deviating from the goal and you may end up spending hours on irrelevant sources and with the results that are irrelevant from the main objective.
The research field is generally broad and vague. Research questions help you to narrow down the scope and strictly confine to the specified objective.
2. It’s the foundation of the research process
A research project is like constructing a building. The data you collect is the pillar and the hypothesis that leads to a data collection approach is the foundation. So, what’s the research question? It’s the base beneath the foundation. Hence, it’s almost everything that a research project is established on.
Without a specific question, you can’t construct a hypothesis and without a hypothesis, you don’t get a research approach. Therefore, a research question sets up the base of a research project that guides you what and how to study.
3. It links your work to the goals and actions
Declaring a research question at the beginning of the report reduces the risk of deviating from the actual goal and objectives. You would know what it is to work and study about. Research is usually carried to assess or seek answers to a relevant question, and specifying that question helps readers to understand the basis of the research report. It reduces ambiguity and leads you to accurate outcomes and results at the end of the process.
Q. What are the steps to formulate a strong research question?
A research question must include a concern or issue you’re going to work on. You must identify what exactly you are seeking answers to in this project. You must ensure whether or not, the question is answerable. There are two steps to construct a strong research question for your research.
1. Observe and analyze
Researchers are required to analyze the selected topic thoroughly. Identify the problems and concerns surrounding a specific topic and priorities which aspect needs utmost attention. For that matter, students are advised to do some initial investigation to narrow down the relevant areas that are worth investigating further.
Sometimes, a small-scale initial research is essential to better understand different dynamics and aspects of the selected topic. From the business research perspective, a small-scale assessment helps to understand the business context and its needs and ensures that the research question addresses the most critical problem.
For an accurate research question, researchers can review previously established literature, conduct informal interviews or brief discussion with the concerned business holder.
For example, a sales manager of a footwear company approaches a research team with a problem of declining sales with unknown cause. She hands them the company’s sales records, progress reports and all the relevant data that are required to conduct the research. The research team then begins to explore by asking questions within the company and relevant stakeholders to analyze the question.
2. Review the key factors and align them into one research question
Researchers are required to define and assess the influencing factors that are involved in their study. It may be economical, geographical or social factors that are causing the problem at hand.
After analyzing the concern factors, the next step is to priorities the most influencing factor and align them into a single research question. You should be able to define what answers you’re seeking from this project and what would be the expected outcomes. Research questions should be clear and precise. Vague research questions are difficult to execute, as it requires broader approaches and data samples to acquire results.
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