What makes a good research question? You don’t need mutant powers to answer this question.

Thinking about what constitutes a good research question is an exciting thing. Some researchers may find it a daunting task, overthinking it until they are asking too many questions and cannot focus on one exact direction. In contrast, others could find it easy enough and say that the title of this blog entry is good enough and that unto itself makes a good research question. Done. Maybe that’s too easy.

Coming from the Anthropological qualitative world, I somehow ended up working in technology, more specifically, engineering and computer science for the last 16 years. There, research focuses on studying natural phenomena, leading to the creation of new ways to build, grow and develop complex machines and devices, which I have often broken down for students as “building a better mousetrap.” I have not ever completed a significant research project, but after our readings and my own experience, I feel I have a pretty good understanding of how to craft a response to this question.

Therefore, for myself, a good research question for me can be broken down into four parts:

1) Is the work original? Has it been done before? Now in some cases, secondary research stems from the initial principal investigations of research questions asked previously. For me, I want to study certain things in my professional career and standing on the shoulders of giants is not one of them. Being original and having some intrinsic value to me is essential.

2) Be specific and have a plan. At least have an end goal in mind. I have done work that involved various Learning Management Systems investigations in the past, where the research goal changed so often that we required a Project Management Professional to step in and guide the team’s research goal. What was our original research questions

3) Is it worth doing? Perhaps this relates to my thoughts on originality and being specific. Still, I cannot help think that just because one can formulate a research question, doesn’t mean it is worth investigating. Will this research allow us to collect meaningful data and subjectify it to a particular research paradigm?

4) Is the research question ethically sound? An essential piece of any research involving humans, usually requires the researcher to submit an ethics request to their host institution, and it appears that Royal Roads is no different. I know the research I eventually will lead to will likely require such steps, as the students I work with would be the main focus of study.

I am sure throughout the course and future readings, I will continue to add to this, and perhaps I will need to keep this thread open. I would be interested in reading what others think makes a good research question. 


3 thoughts on “What makes a good research question? You don’t need mutant powers to answer this question.

  1. I like the fact that you said the research question should be original. I know there is reason to repeat an existing research project to verify its validity, most new research should be original and synthesize something new – something never done before. I did a practicum for my B.Tech at BCIT and the key was to make it innovative, something that was unique. I see research the same way.

  2. Great thoughts, Ash. I also appreciate your comment on the need for originality, and it got me thinking about individual goals. You said that standing on the shoulders of giants is far from a professional goal, but at the same time I’m sure there are those who would thrive on doing research that slightly deviates on previous work. We need all kinds of research, and we definitely need those who want to forge new trails. I also like how you said it should be worth doing. I can think of a lot of original ideas that are definitely not worth doing. Balance is so important.

  3. Great article Ash. I like your “original” ideas (I laughed to myself there). I can tell you like the qualitative approach by your point on being specific. I wonder how you would approach research that is not grounded. How would you explore it? How would you know if you found what you are looking for? I too am more familiar with the quantitative approach, but as educators I find much of what we are doing is exploring the field looking for different related phenomenons that are rarely universal truths and more truths for a specific subset or group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.