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LRNR 30: Information Concepts and Research Skills: Research Question

General research guide for LRNR 30 class

Research Question

Why Research Question?

What is a research question?  A research question introduces a problem to be solved and serves as a guide for locating evidence and research.  

What is a thesis statement?  A thesis statement is a tentative answer to a research question.  Tentative in that you written research project is going to have to test your thesis and hopefully show it to be correct.  

Examples of a research question:

To what extent should the US Government have known of the risk of the New York 9/11 disaster before it happened?

Examples of a thesis statement:

There was sufficient warning of a New York 9/11-type disaster before it happened, so the US Government should have been well prepared for its occurrence.

Badke, W. (2017). Research Strategies Finding your way through the information fog, 6th Ed., p. 56-57.


Mind Mapping

Mapping Your Research Ideas

UCLA Libraries (2:52)

Topic Generator

Using the 5Ws to Develop a Research Question

New Literacies Alliance (2:57)

Takes a topic and uses the 5Ws to create a focused research question.  Ask students to consider if the question works for the assignment at hand.  Also illustrates how research questions can be narrowed or expanded with the 5Ws.  The narrator mentions the challenges of questions that are too broad or too narrow.


Keeping your research question in mind, if you can answer TRUE to the statements below, your research question is probably workable.

  1. It cannot simply be answered with a yes/no. 
  2. It has social significance/a problem associated with it.
  3. There is reliable evidence available to address it.
  4. It has appropriate scope.

Be careful about investigating questions that you think you already have the answer to.


Sleep habits

Who: college students

What: academic success

Most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics and looks at relationships between concepts. For example, sleep habits is a broad topic, but looking at the relationship between sleep habits and academic success might be a more manageable topic.

My new question might be: "How do sleep habits affect the academic success of college students?"

But how did I get there? I did have to do some pre-research to find an angle, but the W/H method helped me brainstorm possibilities to investigate. After some quick searching, I saw that there were articles related to this topic. I had to try it out before committing to this investigation. I can possibly expand my review to include how to combat poor sleep patterns.

The overall research question serves as my guide.

Scan Sources for Ideas

  • news
  • magazines
  • specialized encyclopedias
  • SIRS, Opposing Viewpoints, CQ Researcher, Issues & Controversies
  • websites