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Improving PA through STEM

Steps for Developing a Research Question

Step 1: Pick a topic.

Step 2: Write a narrower/smaller topic that is related to the first.

Step 3: List some potential questions that could logically be asked in relation to the narrow topic.

Step 4: Pick the question that you are most interested in.

Step 5: Change the question you're interested in so it is more focused.

Step 6: Repeat as necessary.

Creating Effective Research Questions

Is your research question easily answered?

Example: How many violent crimes are committed in Pennsylvania each year?

  • Can I just look up the answer?
  • Can I just quote a source?

Takeaway: If the answer to the above questions is no, then your research question requires research to reach an answer.

Could no one feasibly disprove the answer to your research question because it seems self-evident?

Example: How important are police offices to public safety?

  • Is the answer "very"?
  • Would people respond with "duh" to your answer?

Takeaway: You should be able to able to develop a good argument (based in evidence) for your research question.

Can your research question be answered with factual evidence?

Example: Is it better to be a correctional officer in a state-run or private prison?

  • Do relevant facts exist to answer my question?
  • Is the answer subjective or biased?

Takeaway: Research questions should avoid speculation or bias.

Are there too many sources on your research question?

Example: Why is addressing recidivism important?

  • Are there so many sources that you could not feasibly look at most of them?

Takeaway: Your research question should be narrow and focused on a specific issue or theme.

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