What are research questions and how do we design them?

You use questions in your daily life, perhaps without even realizing how often you ask other people about something. What time is it? What do you prefer to drink, coffee or tea? What influenced your decision to stop sweetening coffee? Is it true that today's class has been canceled? Why did you decide to study in Great Britain instead of Poland? Communicating with other people by asking questions usually does not require thinking about the rules of their design or their logic. Moreover, you probably do not make any classification or selection of these questions in your head. Asking questions is very natural, everyday way of communication that we all practice from early childhood. If you are (or plan to be) a student of one of the fields of social sciences – like criminology, political science, pedagogy, or economics – you will probably be tasked with preparing a research project at one stage of your studies. The scope of your research will vary depending on your level of study, the field of study and the requirements of the course/class. However, the essence of the activity will remain the same: it is an attempt to find an answer to a question or questions that interest you within a certain research problem(s) you have identified.

In other words, a research problem consists of a question or a series of questions relating to a research gap. We will call these questions research questions.

Development of strong research questions is the foundation for a successful research project. For a novice researcher, this task may seem quite difficult. Pupils and students are used to answering questions rather than asking them. Moreover, as you will see soon, research questions are rigorous. A strong research question is focused, specific, feasible and relevant. It seeks to improve knowledge about a given topic.

So how to start?

Let’s try to think together: Where do ideas for research questions come from?