Abstract | Introduction | Literature Review | Research question | Materials & Methods | Results | Discussion | Conclusion

In this blog, we will see how to construct and present the research question in your research paper. We will also look at other components that make up the final paragraph of the introduction section of your paper.

1. What is a research question in a research paper?

research question

The research questions are normally the aims and objectives of your work. The research question pinpoints exactly what it is you want to find out in your work. You can have a single research question or multiple research questions in your paper depending on the complexity of your research. Generally, it is a good idea to keep the number of research questions to less than four.

2. Research question examples

Let’s look at some examples of research questions. The research question is normally one of the major components of the final paragraph of the introduction section. We will look at the examples of the entire final paragraph of the introduction along with the research questions to put things into perspective.

2.1. Example #1 (Health sciences research paper)

Here is an example from a health sciences research paper. The passage starts with the research gap. The authors are saying that there is a need for a better understanding of the relationship between social media and mental health. Then, the authors explain the aims of their research and elaborate on what methodology they will be using to achieve their aims. The authors say that they will be using online surveys and face-to-face interviews to collect data to answer their research question. The passage flows very well and the author nicely lays out the research gap, the study aims, and the plan of action.

The effects of social media usage on mental health are poorly documented in the literature as research papers on the topic give contradictory conclusions. The present study aims to improve our understanding of the effects of social media usage on mental health. The data were collected from a variety of age-group over a period of two years in a structured manner. The methods of data collection involved online surveys and face-to-face interviews.

_ Research gap _ Research question _ _ Method summary

2.2. Example #2 (Hypothesis-driven research paper)

Here is a slightly different variant of the previous example. Here, the authors have formulated the research question in the form of a hypothesis. Same as before, the authors are establishing the research gap in the first statement. In the next couple of statements, they are defining a specific hypothesis that they will be testing in the paper. In this case, they are testing the link between social media and mental health. And in the final statement, they are explaining the research methodology they will be employing to either prove or disprove the hypothesis. This is a pretty good example to follow if your research work is hypothesis-driven.

Past research suggests that while social media use is correlated with levels of anxiety and depression, the evidence so far is limited [1-2]. Therefore, building on previous discussion, Hypothesis 1 proposes: The levels of anxiety and depression will be lower among those who use social media platforms less frequently compared to those who use social media more frequently. This hypothesis (H1) is tested in this study through surveys and face-to-face interviews.

_ Research gap _ Research question (Hypothesis) _ Method summary

2.3. Example #3 (Computer sciences research paper)

Here is an example from a computer sciences research paper. The authors establish the research gap by saying that there aren’t many papers on the topic of stock price prediction. Then, they explain what they are proposing.  They are proposing a new method called the ‘Hybrid prediction model’. Then, they are providing a brief breakdown of their method by explaining how their method functions.  They are saying that in their approach they are combining multiple methods in a structured way to improve the overall prediction accuracy of stock prices.

Only a few papers have addressed the problem of accurately predicting stock prices. In this paper, we propose a method, called the Hybrid Prediction Method that combines a selection of existing methods in a structured way to improve on the results obtained by using any single method alone. This paper is organized as follows: In Section 2, we introduce the Hybrid Analysis. Section 3 presents a number of experiments and results, and these results are discussed in Section 6. Section 7 concludes the paper.

_ Research gap _ Research question _ Paper outline

Finally, they finish off the section by providing the outline of the paper. Please note, providing the paper outline is optional. It depends on your personal preference and journal requirements.  This passage is a typical format you will see in engineering research papers that propose a new method to solve a particular problem.

2.4. Example #4 (Psychology research paper)

Here is an example from a psychology research paper. In the first line, the authors clearly state the research question, and the methodology they will be using to address it. The authors aim to test the impact of background music on the listener’s ability to remember words. They will be addressing this by performing a series of experiments in which observers will be shown words on the computer screen while playing different types of background music. Then, they are finishing off the section with a very brief summary of the results. This is a good idea because it will provide readers with a rough idea of what to expect from the rest of the paper.

In two experiments, we tested whether the presence of background music had an effect on memory recall. More precisely, we examined whether the type of music, either classical or pop, had an impact on the ability of people to remember a list of words. Observers viewed a list of words on a computer screen and listened to either classical or pop music in the background. The results of this study indicate significant differences between classical and pop music in terms of their effects on memory recall and cognition.

_ _ Research questions _ Methods summary _ Results summary

3. Frequently Asked Questions

  • You have to design your research question in such a way that it is focused and is not too broad.
  • Your research question should not be too simple.
  • Your research question should be reasonably complex and there should be scope for you to conduct research.
  • It should be reasonably original and should not have been answered before.

Your research question should align with your research gap and the problem statement. The research question should logically follow the problem statement and research gap you established in the previous sections of your paper. If your research objectives are misaligned with your problem statement and research gap, then reviewers will reject your paper. So make sure they are all tightly aligned with each other.

Look at the first example. We are saying that we are going to study the impact of social media on young people. The research question is too broad. As you can see there is no clear direction, and the study attempts to take on too much.

The research aims to find out the impact of social media on young people.

Bad research question (Too broad)

Now, look at the second example. It is much more focused. We are very specific about our research questions.  We are saying that we are attempting to measure the average time spent by teenagers on social media. And, we are also trying to understand the exact nature of their interactions on social media. We will be using an online questionnaire to answer the questions and we will be choosing participants from England and Scotland. This is a good research question, because it clearly defines what you have set out to do and how you plan to achieve it.

The research aims to estimate the average time spent by 18-24 year-olds on social media, and investigate the nature of interactions and conversations they have on social media. We attempt to answer these questions by conducting an online questionnaire survey in England and Scotland.

Good research question (Very specific and focussed)

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