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Research question: Introduction

Part of the Information Literacy Portal

Infoclip: Research question

Source: Steely Library NKU

Introduction: Research Question

Developing a good research question can sometimes be the most difficult part of the research process. Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment. When in doubt, consult with your instructor.

Understand your assignment


  • Have you been assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources?
  • How much time do you have to conduct your research?
  • Is currency of information important?

Different types of questions

In your research you will have to deal with both simple and complex questions.

Usually you use the following three types of questions:

  • Factual questions, you can easily find them. You are looking for a clear answer. A good source of information is very important.
    • Example: What was the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the Netherlands in 2016?
  • Orientative questions, questions that should give you a broader picture of your subject
    • Example: You want to investigate what effect the use of smartphones has in traffic.
      Possible orientating questions can then be:
      - What is already known about smartphones in relation to traffic?
      - What has been in the news about smartphone usage in traffic over the last three months?
  • Research questions, more complex questions that are usually divided into sub-questions.
    This requires a structured approach to achieve a good result.
    • Example: What is the influence of the refugee problem on the popularity of tourist destinations?

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