"You have to do the research. If you don't know about something, then you ask the right people who do."
- Spike Lee (Film Director)
You’ve done the leg work, flushed out a topic, and have done tertiary research on the background of the key players and ideas on a field of study. You have enough foundation to ask a research question. A good research question is like a compass, helping you to navigate the mountains of literature that all fields possess. It’s at this point that I always like to suggest that you seek out a professor or an expert in your research field as a sounding board to discuss the merits of your question. This takes vulnerability. You are a student, who is seeking answers; our job as professors is to guide you on this journey.
Ask the Right Question
A good research question has a few key characteristics: It’s interesting, relevant, intellectual, inclusive (thinking from different perspectives), and knowledgeable. It’s not the type of question that has a single sentence as an answer, and it’s not too broad or ambiguous. It shows your academic community that you’ve put intentionality of thought behind it. A good research question is clear, focused, concise, complex and open to debate. It will take several data points, examples, and pieces of evidence to answer, which will ultimately help you formulate a thesis: an educated, argumentative answer to your research question. As you discover more information, it's perfectly fine for your research question to change.
Here’s a great handout from Duke University, with details on and examples of research questions. Now that you're armed with your research compass - the research question - you are ready to navigate the literature and venture off into the databases.
How you you get a good research question?
This vide will show you how to get a focused question and how to make a “good” question.
This video is part of a series created for students enrolled in a 291W course at NKU. -- Created using PowToon
Take it From Spike
Spike Lee (read above quote) is spot on: If you don't know, ask someone who does. College is about the exchange of ideas. An important part of exchanging ideas is knowing what questions to ask. When in doubt, ask instead of struggling.