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How do I develop a research question? Descriptive Transcript

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How do I develop a research question? Once you've selected a topic, you're ready to develop your research question. This video will help. How do I develop a research question? Title slide
What makes a good research question? Good research questions typically have four characteristics. First, they are analytical, which means the question should require analysis to arrive at an answer rather than a simple description. Second, they are focused. You should be able to answer the question within the guidelines of your assignment. If the question is too broad, you will not be able to answer it fully or completely within assignment limits. Third, they are complex. Questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no will often not be complex enough for you to base an entire project on. Finally, they should be researchable. Some questions cannot be answered by current research or academic sources. You will want to make sure there are enough sources available to answer your question.
  • Analytical
  • Focused
  • Complex
  • Researchable
 
  • Topic: handwashing or hand sanitizer use by healthcare personnel in U.S. hospitals
  • Who: Health care personnel
  • What: handwashing or hand sanitizer use
  • Where: United States Hospitals
The first step in developing a research question is choosing a topic that interests you. For more in-depth help. Choosing a topic, visit the How do I choose a research topic tutorial accessible via the Research Tutorials link on the library website. Screen capture demonstrates navigating to the How do I choose a research topic tutorial on the library website.
Once you have your initial topic idea, you can continue to focus it by using the four Ws. Who, what, when and where. Most topics will not use all four. They are just a tool to get you thinking about the dimensions of your research topic.  
Using these four W's, we can brainstorm possible research questions. Our first attempt is what are the guidelines for handwashing or hand sanitizer use by health care personnel in U.S. hospitals? This question fails the analytics check. This question would not require any analysis to answer. Rather, it could be answered with a simple description of the guidelines. what are the guidelines for handwashing or hand sanitizer use by health care personnel in U.S. hospitals?
Analytical is crossed off checklist
Our second attempt is do health care personnel in U.S. hospitals wash their hands or use hand sanitizer? This research question fails the complexity check. This question could be answered by a yes or no and therefore would probably not provide enough material on which to write an entire paper. Do health care personnel in U.S. hospitals wash their hands or use hand sanitizer?
Complex is crossed off checklist
Our third attempt is what impact does handwashing or hand sanitizer use by health care personnel have on cross-infection rates in U.S. hospitals? This question seems to check most of the items on our list. It is focused, analytical and complex. To check whether it is research able we will want to do some additional background research. What impact does handwashing or hand sanitizer use by health care personnel have on cross-infection rates in U.S. hospitals?
Analytical, Focused and Complex are checked on checklist. Researchable is circled.
Once you have a question in mind, continue to look for additional sources of information. These sources will help you better understand your topic and can help you further refine your research question. As you're researching keep in mind your assignment requirements. Do you need books, articles, data? You will want to make sure you can find enough of the required types of sources to answer your research question.  
You may want to begin searching in databases specific to your subject area to find the most tailored results. You can find a list of the best databases for your subject area by clicking on the Research Guides link on the library website. Browse the list of guides to find one that is appropriate for your topic. Then look for a list of key databases on the Guide homepage. These will be some of the best places to start your research. Screen capture demonstrates navigating to the nursing research guide from the library homepage
As you continue your searching evaluate your results. As you learn more about your topic, you may want to revise your research question. For example, during your research, you may find more studies about nurses hand hygiene as highlighted here in our sample search. You may choose to focus on nurses specifically instead of health care personnel broadly. Snapshot of search results list. Many results include the terms hand hygiene.
As you continue exploring your research question. Check frequently. Are you describing a topic, offering opinions or asking a question? If your assignment requires you to ask and answer a research question, don't let yourself get sidetracked.
Need help? Ask a librarian at library.northeastern.edu/ask Closing Slide: Ask a Librarian library.northeastern.edu/ask