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Research Questions


How is a research question like a red wheelbarrow? No, not because it’s something your older brother promised to give you a ride in only to dump you on a cow patty; rather, it’s that so much depends upon it. Everything, in fact.

A research question is exactly what it sounds like: a question, just one sentence, that captures the essence of what you’re trying to figure out in your research. Think of it as a smart tweet with a question mark on the end.

Why is your research question so important? Because it’s the engine of your project: it drives everything you do, from the sources you search out to the methodology you employ. Ultimately, your thesis statement will directly answer your research question, and then the rest of your discussion will defend this answer.

In short, your research question is the boss of your paper or thesis. Everything you write has to report to that research question, so to speak. Everything has to further its aims. Everything has to be explicitly relevant to it. Everything has to do what it needs done.

As subject-matter experts, your professors and advisor(s) are always the go-to resource for guidance on research questions. They’re probably not going to formulate one for you, though; to help you get started, our "Constructing Research Questions" workshop will walk you through the process of selecting a rich, trenchant research question. View the video and slides here or register for the next live session: workshops are offered in the first four weeks of each quarter; you can sign up during workshop season through WCOnline. See the whole workshop list here.

Then dig into our other links for more dirt on research questions!
 

Research Questions Links

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All-Topics Index


The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at writingcenter@nps.edu if we are missing something!

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A

abbreviations

abstracts

academic writing

acronyms

active voice

apostrophes

argument

article usage

assignments, understanding them

audience

 

B

body paragraphs

brainstorming

building better sentences tips

 

C

citations

citation styles

clarity

clustering

coaching sessions, about

colons

commas, FANBOYS

commas, introductory

commas, list

commas, nonessential elements

commas, Oxford

commonly confused words 

compare-and-contrast papers 

concision

conclusions

conjunctive adverbs

coordinating conjunctions

copyright and fair use

critical thinking  

 

D

dangling modifiers

dashes

dependent marker words

double submission of coursework

drafting

 

E

edit your own work

editing – outside editors

exclamation points

executive summary

 

F

FANBOYS

FAQs

footnotes

free-writing

 

G

gerunds

grammar

group writing

 

H

hyphens

 

I

ibid.

introductions

 

J

Joining the Academic Conversation

 

L

LaTeX

library liaisons 

literature reviews 

logic and analysis 

 

M

memos

methodologies

 

N

note-taking

numbers

 

O

organization

outlining

Oxford comma

 

P

paragraph development 

parallelism

paraphrasing

parts of speech

passive voice

periods

persuasion

phrases and clauses

plagiarism, how to avoid through citations

plain language

polishing

prepositional phrases 

prepositions

pronouns

punctuation

purpose of research

 

Q

questions

quotation marks 

quoting

 

R

reading with intent

redundancies                                                                

reference software

reflection papers 

research

research questions

reverse outlining 

revising passive voice into active voice

revision

roadmaps                                            

run-on sentences 

 

S

self-citing

semi-colons

subjects, grammatical

significance

so-what?

spelling

standard essay structure

STEM/technical writing 

style

subject/verb agreement

 

T

technical writing

that vs. which

thesis writing

thesis advisors

thesis process overview

thesis process tips

thesis proposals – common elements                                                     

thesis statements

tone, professional

topic sentences 

transitions

types of papers

 

U

United States or U.S.?

 

V

verbs and verb tense

 

W

which vs. that

Why write?

writer’s block 

writing process