Having a good sense of orientation sometimes is not enough when walking in a forest you don’t know and therefore, a compass will decrease your chances of getting lost.  A compass gives cardinal directions and functions as a pointer to north.  A reliable compass is like a well-developed research question; if my topic is north, a good research question will directionally guide me with my research paper.  The right question will help structure and organize the research which could save time when writing a paper.  It is the groundwork of an effective research project, so it is worth the time to understanding what makes a good question (Royal Roads University Writing Centre, n.d.).

Amongst other qualities, a good research question is an “open-ended question” (Colorado State University Morgan Library, 2020, 1:10) that is interesting or intriguing enough to conduct research in a field of study (Laurier Library, 2017).  As a first step, it is helpful to do some brief research of the literature in the field of study to ensure that the question hasn’t been researched yet (GMU Writing Centre, n.d.).  Also, prior to investing time in researching a question, reviewing the question first with a professor will confirm if the research question is valid, or has been addressed, or answered completely (GMU Writing Centre, n.d.).

In brief, what makes a good research question?

  • It turns “facts into something meaningful” (Colorado State University Morgan Library, 2020, 0.55) and focuses the research on the selected topic.
  • It is an open-ended research question with “how” and “why” (CIRT, n.d., para 6) that may lead to various interpretations but focused to ensure the research is not too vague (CIRT, n.d.).
  • It meets the criteria of being well-defined, focused, reasonably complex, researchable and analytical rather than descriptive (Monash University, n.d.).

These are only a few points that I find useful as I begin to create my own research questions, and same as a compass, it provide the directions for what I need to accomplish in academic research.


Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching [CIRT]. (n.d.). Writing a Good Research Question. https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/develop/tutorials/question

Colorado State University Morgan Library. (2020, June 2). Developing Good Research Questions [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YHv3vFJMG0

Laurier Library. (2017, December 20). Developing a Research Question [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oJNO6PYZe4&t=25s

Monash University. (n.d.). Developing research questions. https://www.monash.edu/rlo/research-writing-assignments/understanding-the-assignment/developing-research-questions

Royal Roads University Writing Centre. (n.d.). Thesis Statements/Research Questions/Problem Statements. Retrieved from https://library.royalroads.ca/writing-centre/writing/structure/thesis-statements

Study Higher. (n.d.). Research question: The importance of your research question. https://www.studyhigher.ac.uk/our-partners/university-of-oxford/bqlq-1-2-importance-research-question/