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Student Research Help - Research Question

I need to create a research question.

In some cases your professor may require you to create a research question rather than just a research topic.

A research question:

  • is a question you ask about your topic that creates the purpose and direction for your paper
  • involves an aspect of the topic you are interested in and want to know more about

Why bother to have a research question?

  • it helps you keep an open mind about your topic, and makes sure you investigate both/all sides
  • it helps you create your thesis statement--your thesis statement is the one-sentence summary of the answer to your research question

Characteristics of Research Questions

  • cannot be answered with a quick search and/or small amount of information
  • require analysis and interpretation, not just description
  • answers are not definite and are open to debate
  • often start with the words "how" or "why"

For example, the question, "How many female characters appear in the Harry Potter series?" is not a research question because it:

  • can be answered with a small amount of information: the number of female characters
  • does not require any analysis or interpretation, but rather just description: again, the number of female characters
  • is not really open to debate--most characters in the books are clearly either female or male, so there isn't much room for disagreement

The question, "How are female characters portrayed differently in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone?" is a research question because it:

  • cannot be answered with a quick search or small amount of information. To answer this question you would have to spend time comparing the two books, and you would probably need to write at least a few paragraphs to answer the question fully.
  • does require analysis or interpretation. To answer this question you would have to think about the books and come to your own conclusions about the depiction of female characters.
  • does not have a definite answer and could be open to debate. People could come to different conclusions about the answer to this question. One person might say that there is a significant difference between the two books, with women portrayed as taking a much more active and direct role in the fight against evil in Deathly Hallows. However, someone else might say that there is really no difference between the two books, since women are portrayed as intelligent and strong in both.

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