SOC234 2017 Lab1 – Thu 330

Dear SOC234 Lab,

Please respond to the following question with a reply-post of no more than 250 words:

‘What makes a good and bad research question?”

Remember that you will need to post your reply before Lab 1, and don’t forget to look at both the instructions for Tweeting and Blogging and the Lab and Lecture Guide, both up on Moodle.

Thanks and good luck, Roger.

#S234UOW17  #Lab1  #Thu330

Posted in Uncategorized.


  1. Walter discusses many factors which are a part of the development of a social research question. To create a question, one must intently think out a research plan, and as well as using clear and efficient language which states the aim of the research (Walter, 2010). A research question must cater to the writer’s needs. Using examples spoken of in Patulny’s SOC234 lecture, if the writers purpose is to research a social phenomenon (descriptive), it would be a poor research question if it were based off new ideas or social enquiry (exploratory). The question shapes the answer, and due to this, it must be thought out meticulously. As Natalier speaks of, the research question must have a clear concept, and avoid misinterpretations, or any long-complicated questions (Natalier, 2012).
    In discussing whether a research question Is good or bad, we need to consider the ethics involved. If the question does not take privacy, or harmful risks into consideration, it will be become an imperfect question.
    A good research question creates a well-planned research paper. As Walter states, a main component of good social research question, is a well-researched social question (Walter, 2010). A detailed and logical question allows the variety of topics and problems to be discusses alongside theories and sets of data, which provides new insight into certain topics. These are the foundations of an acceptable research question. Your commitment to research, effort, language, and knowledge are all contributing factors in whether your research question is a good, or bad research question.
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  2. A research question drives your study, strong questions generally lead to new knowledge and theories (Natalier, 2012). It is imperative to have the correct research question as it will become the basis and focus of your study. Walter explains that good social research lies on the foundation of a solid research question (Walter, 2010). The research question will ultimately strengthen the success of your study.
    The research question defines the research process (Natalier, 2010). To create a good research question will require clear and articulate knowledge, however will also entail the needs of creativity and imagination. Precision and planning is key in creating the ultimate question. A good research question will involve an efficient thought process as well as addressing the interests of the writer.
    Researchers should allow for narrow questions with a broader approach to answering, this will help to encourage effective research skills. Good research questions are ones with extensive consideration taken into account allowing it to be answered clear and consistently.
    To avoid a bad research question Natalier states that you should refrain from rushing as taking your time in developing a question is ideal and critical. It is also discouraged to create long and complicated research questions. A bad research question will fail to consider beyond the already established studies, focusing on already researched topics can result in poor outcomes. The differences between a good and bad study will be determined by the question asked.
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  3. Well written, empirical research stems from creating an independent and secular standpoint to view social phenomenon. The focal point, and level of understanding, of research differs depending on the type of question proposed (Walter, 2013). Research allows for exploration, understanding and description of the social world (Patulny, 2017). Therefore, research questions are a gateway for academics to better appreciate human experience.

    Research questions should state the aim of research and the key ideas being investigated (Patulny, 2017); being concise, precise and relevant to the investigated topic. Walter (2013) states a research question is a by-product of the conducted research, producing a framework for analysis and deconstruction of the information found. Ethical considerations of research must be included when formulating research. There is a need to ensure no harm comes from conducting research (Patulny, 2017); this is easily handled if minding ethical issues while developing a research question.

    By contrast, bad research questions are ambiguous and complicated (Walter, 2013). When having a broad question, it becomes difficult to refine research to the desired standpoint. Furhtermore, having a complicated question may allow the research to become lost and lead to investigating existing research, producing already gathered answers (Walter, 2013).

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    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Introduction – Social Research and Research Questions’, lecture, SOC234, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 June.

    Walter, M (2013) “The Foundations of Good Social Science Research” Chapter 1 in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective Melbourne: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-24.

  4. Research questions in regards to social studies is not as simple as asking a question to a person through the forms of questionnaires or interviews, they require extensive thought and processing to get the responses needed for the research being undertaken. When creating research questions one must read the questions you are proposing, think of the terms of concepts as well as the topics, identify the puzzles presented in existing research, identify the gaps and limitations in existing research, acknowledge the feedback presented to present and past evidence, write the questions down and talk to those whom are involved in the research. A bad research question is created when the question is rushed, and there are problems created by misconception and other issues found in the research. Long and complicated questions also make a bad research question as they are no clear and well understood. Research questions that are tied to a particular method are also examples of bad research questions alongside questions that have already been answered.
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  5. A research question is what ultimately constitutes a research project. As noted by Bordage & Dawson, the research question is the “single most important component of a study” (2003, p. 378). It forms the basis of the study; narrowing the focus, methodology and entire process utilised throughout the project.
    One aspect of achieving a ‘good’ research question is whether it is clear. As is discussed in the SOC234 Week 1 Lecture, a clear research question will not only identify the major aim of the project, but will also highlight the key concepts to be researched. Furthermore, a ‘good’ research question will also have a focused nature and will not be overly simplistic in its phrasing. Two differing examples of research questions were provided in the SOC234 Week 1 Lecture, as is detailed below:
    1. Why do men get paid higher salaries?
    2. Can the gap between men and women’s earnings in equivalent positions be examined by prejudicial attitudes amongst the senior staff of large companies?
    As can be seen, question one could be categorised as a ‘bad’ research question. This is due to the fact that it is overly simple and as a result, lacks focus and clarity. Contrastingly, question two could be defined as a ‘good’ research question. Despite being slightly more complex in its phrasing, the question is much less open-ended and as such, much more focused. To conclude, producing a quality research question is vital as Justice Panapa’s blog notes, “The research question will ultimately strengthen the success of your study”.
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    Bordage, G. and Dawson, B. (2003). Experimental study design and grant writing in eight steps and 28 questions. Medical Education, 37(4), p.378.
    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Lecture 1: Introduction’ PowerPoint Slides, SOC234, University of Wollongong, viewed 1 August 2018.

  6. Good social research questions are clear, to the point, in question form and as yet, unanswered. In the Week 1 lecture, it was said that they should state exactly what the main focus of the research is (Walters 2010, Natalier 2013, Patulny 2017). Natalier (2013) says good research questions “can be answered through studying observable and tangible things”, so that rules out researching deities and demons. Questions should be informed and justified by a literature review so you know what the gaps in knowledge are (Natalier 2013 pp. 27 & 45). They should also consider the influence of the researcher’s axiological frame and ontology, i.e. cultural assumptions (Walter 2013, p. 15).

    Bad research questions are ambiguous and too broad (Walter, M. 2013, p. 9, Natalier 2013 p. 28). When Bell & Bromnick conducted research on the topic of “adolescent egocentrism”, they had to define the central concern as being “young people’s worries and concerns about what other people think” (2003, p. 205) so that the focus of their research would be clearly understood. Ezzy (2010) gave the example of the Sociology PhD student at the University of Tasmania who was researching “What is a good life?”. Their analysis of interview data resulted in so many different aspects to what makes a good life, that it became problematic to discuss them all, so they had to narrow the focus of their research to “the role of money in the ‘good life’”.

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    Walter, M 2013, “The Foundations of Good Social Science Research” Chapter 1 in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-24

    Natalier, K 2013, “Chapter 2 – Research Design” in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p25-49

    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Introduction’, lecture, SOC234, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 July

    Bell, J.H. & Bromnick R.D. 2003, “The Social Reality of the Imaginary Audience: A Grounded Theory Approach”, Adolescence: 38: 205-19.

    Ezzy, D 2010, ‘The research process’, in M Walter (ed.), Social Research Methods, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Vic., pp. 61-86

  7. Good questions are made with several aspects. According to the lecture, a good research question is a question that has a clear aim of the research in question form and identifying the key ideas and key concepts in that the research aims to find (Patulny 2017). Further, research question is required to relate questions with empirical phenomenon. Questions that can be answered through observation is necessary (Natalier 2013, p. 27). An example of a good question is ‘Can the gap between men and women’s earnings in equivalent positions be explained by prejudicial attitudes amongst the senior staff of large companies?’. This question contains key idea (the gender wage gap) and the key concept (gender, equivalent employment, senior management and prejudicial attitudes) with an aim (to find the reason of gender wage gap) (Patulny 2017) which satisfy the criteria of a good question stated above. Therefore, a good question should contain an aim and key ideas and concepts which can be observed in an empirical way.

    On the other hand, a bad question is made with vague and imprecise words that cannot reveal the key concepts and ideas clearly. Social research uses a set of key terms and concepts. When these terms are not correctly used, setting aims and implying key concepts and ideas will not be possible (Walters 2013, p.9). Metaphysical questions such as ‘Does God exist?’ should also be avoided since it is not a answerable questions (Natalier 2013, p.27). Therefore, a bad question is a question that contains ambiguous words with unclear aims and ideas or unable to answer with empirical data.

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    Walter, M 2013, “The Foundations of Good Social Science Research” Chapter 1 in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-24

    Natalier, K 2013, “Chapter 2 – Research Design” in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p25-49

    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Introduction’, lecture, SOC234, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 July

  8. Sociological theory and social research’s purpose is to share ideas and knowledge, while similar to scientific research, social enquiry is more exploratory. The aim of contemporary sociological research is to identify, explore and detail current sociological phenomena in a way that the can be understood and explained for peer review. There is no specific recipe for a great research question, but those, which are most ideal, will have the potential to create social or societal change. Poorer sociological research questions may be those that are too broad of scope, fail to be specific with the research’s design, or pursue social facts that have already been addressed.
    Both a quantitative or qualitative research base can be suitable if applied to the appropriate study being undertaken, and projects may be semi or more highly structured dependent on the desired data type. Classical sociological investigation and historic social conclusions offer insight into structure and direction for future enquiry and for further research. Overall, a good social enquiry will have a target demographic which is not too broad or narrow, have a research goal that is established and clear within the question, be not rushed but researched well and provide new information into the field of sociology and still identify the limitations to the data being presented, picking up were others left off and leaving room for others to continue.
    Most of all, a research question shall have ethical proceedings.
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  9. Proposing a research question is not as straightforward and simple as it may first seem. The research question is the backbone of any sociological research project so it is important that it reflects the aims of the researcher. Effective empirical research is conducted when the research question takes a clear standpoint on sociological data or a sociological phenomenon (Patulny, 2017).
    The wording of the question is key in determining the data and responses that the researcher will receive. Brief open-ended questions leave too much room for interpretation and will make it more difficult for the researcher to extract the information that they are looking for. In saying that overly complicated questions can risk the true meaning of the research to get lost within the questions complexity. The most effective approach is to find balance in creating a specific yet thought evoking question, which better illustrates the aim of the research. A good research question is never simple; it can often be broken down into a series of “sub-questions”(Patulny, 2017), however it is important that the principal aim is not lost among irrelevant questions that can further confuse the research.

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    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Introduction – Social Research and Research Questions’, lecture, SOC234, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 June.

  10. When developing a research question there are a number of factors to be considered however not all research questions can be considered equal. The concept of good and bad are usually subjective however when it comes to research questions there are some clear criteria that constitute a good research question.

    Examples of a bad questions.
    How does birth impact women in society? This is a good question accept for the fact that it has been researched repeatedly and as such any information gained from the study will simply be reiterating previous knowledge and there for not adding any meaningful content to the discussion in regards to the significance of birth.

    Examples of a good questions
    From a male perspective what is the social structural significance of child rearing in eastern compared to western societies? As suggested by Douglas Ezzy (2010, pp. 65-68) this questions meets the criteria for a good question in that it Identifies the topic, Provides focus for research, provides a framework for study and even suggests a research methodology (in that it asks what is the significance, indicating a qualitative over quantitative study should be applied). The main difference to the previous question is that it offers a new approach to the research previously conducted, in that the social impacts of birth is often carried out within a feminist framework, and as such this question could offer a better understanding of the male social rolls. This is emphasized in Joanna Bell and Rachel Bromnick’s article when they discuss the significant of “a new Direction for Research” (Bell & Bromnick 2003, pp. 209–210).

    Bell, JH & Bromnick, RD 2003, ‘The social reality of the Imaginary audience: A grounded theory approach’, ADOLESCENCE, vol. 38, no. 150, pp. 205-219.

    Ezzy, D 2010, ‘The research process’, in M Walter (ed.), Social Research Methods, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Vic., pp61-86.

  11. Who we are socially, economically, culturally and even politically, underpins the questions we see, the answers we seek, the way we go about seeking those answers, and the interpretation we make. This is known as our standpoint, and it’s guided by the researchers’ social position and epistemological (theory of knowledge), axiological (theory of values) and ontological (theory of being) frameworks. However, research and especially social research is about investigating and seeking answers to the social questions that we and others ask about our social world and how the aforementioned factors influence what we research(Walter, 2013). Saying this, the primary aim of social research is to identify, investigate and to seek and understand social patterns and social meanings of ours and others lives.

    A ‘good’ research question ‘states the major focus of the research in question form, incorporating the key idea that he research seeks to investigate and/or explain, and they key concepts of the research’ (Natalier, 2017). A good research question also places boundaries on a proposal, giving it a clear and coherent direction (which is also limited in scope), it will determine which methods are appropriate, the focus of analysis, and the choices we make when writing up research. According to Bouma and Ling (2014, 14), they specify two properties of strong questions;
    1) they are limited in scope
    2) Research questions are related to empirical phenomenon which can be measured through studying observable and tangible things.

    Saying this however, you must have a strong research design so you reduce the choices and options and make a consistent and logical answer, in other words, have a topic that is broad enough to generate inquiry however narrow enough so you can answer the question. Research questions have an aim(s) which is what you want to achieve and has an aspect of importance or ‘why’ we are seeking that answer. Lastly, it can be said that a good research question is the inevitable foundation for a final successful outcome which can be empirically answerable.

    On the contrary, an example of a ‘bad’ social research question is a philosophical question such as ‘Does God Exist?’. Another example is a metaphysical question such as ‘Is terrorism ever justified?’, while both are important questions, it inevitably does not have the possibility to observe something tangible to support a theory or generate an empirical answer to such a question, suggesting that this question is an example of a ‘bad’ research question.

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    Natalier, K (2013) “Chapter 2 – Research Design” in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p25-49

    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Introduction – Social Research and Research Questions’, lecture, SOC234, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 June.

    Walter, M (2013) “The Foundations of Good Social Science Research” Chapter 1 in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p3-24

  12. Making a good research question is imperative to the success of any research project or study. A good research question generally is clear, succinct, and focuses on a (or the) key idea or concept for the study itself. As said in Lecture 1, research questions are used to illuminate the purpose of any research in question form (Patulny 2017). This is a seemingly simple, yet extremely important task that all researchers must take seriously.

    Considering that research questions are meant to be concise in nature, word choice is often a huge focus in assessing the quality of research questions. Being too general (e.g. through the use of “why?”) paradoxically makes the work of the researcher more difficult, in that the added room for interpretation could yield data or information that the researcher isn’t interested in. Furthermore, as said in Lecture 2, being too general, and using “why?” questions in questionnaires or interviews makes answering difficult for the interviewee, and shows a sort of laziness in the researcher (Patulny 2017). In this way, research questions need to be complex enough to leave room for an open-ended response, but never to general or complex to yield useless data or limit the possible data itself. It’s a fine line to be walked. As Natalier notes, researchers should take their time in developing their research questions, as developing a bad one could often derail the study entirely (2013).


    Natalier, K 2013, “Chapter 2 – Research Design” in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p25-49

    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Interview Questionnaire Design 2017’, lecture, SOC234, University of Wollongong, delivered 2 August.

    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Introduction – Social Research and Research Questions’, lecture, SOC234, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 June.

  13. Research is made to test or generate theory. A good research question begins with looking at areas of interest and further exploring what hasn’t been answered. The question should be simple but clear and relevant to the area of study. According to Walters, a good research question needs to involve a key idea and key concepts. “Research questions state the major aim of the research in question form” (Walters, 2010, p13).
    When establishing a good research question and conducting research is it important to consider ethical issues as they always exist. Certain methods must be used depending on the type of research that is to be conducted. Roger explained in the lecture that there are both quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative methods are useful when collecting and analysing data “that can be presented numerically or codified and subjected to statical testing” (Walters, 2010, p25).
    Whereas qualitative methods are used to have a deep analysis and uncover trends through human experience, thought and perception.
    A bad research question is that one that would be unclear or too broad, making it difficult to answer, “research projects are easily bogged when the topic is not translated into a clear defined research question” (Ezzy, 2010, p65). The question needs to be clear and precise and have a direct aim in order for it be accurately answered. On the other hand a question that is too narrow doesn’t leave room for an argument to be formed, rather it can be answered with a simple word, statement or statistic.

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  14. Social research questions are the most important part of any social research idea is the question which takes time to develop as its important not to rush the research question in order for it to be a question that comprehensible, also it needs to question an idea or something found in within the social norms of a individual’s daily life. Its also important to also take into account the any existing gaps and limitations when creating a social research question as some topics maybe have more limitations than others, its also important to look into current research as contradictions can be found through things such as literature reviews. when questions are being created its also important to avoid asking questions that may have already been answered.

  15. Qualitative data relies on understanding how others observe the society the live I ad the world around them therefor when conducting qualitative research it is important to formulate good research questions. This consists of writing a question that highlights the topic specifically, however not a question that limits the answers to short one word responses. bad research questions are those which are too broad or too specific, are closed ended questions, do not relate to the topic. an example of a bad research question would be, in regards to food consumption ‘do you eat chicken with a fork or your hands?’ this question limits responses to one of two options and is a very narrow slice of the food consumption topic and leaves no room from extra thought. a better question would be ‘when do you prefer to eat with your hands rather than a fork?’ or ‘what foods do you enjoy consuming using your hands?’ The anatomy of these questions is the open ended, specific to the data you wish to collect, a good question is not simple and should be able to lead onto a set of subquestions and extended thought for both the researcher and the responder. It is important to have good research questions as research without data is simply a theory.


    Patulny, R 2017, ‘Introduction – Social Research and Research Questions’, lecture, SOC234, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 June.

    Walter, M (2013) “The Foundations of Good Social Science Research” Chapter 1 in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p3-24

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  16. “The research question sits at the heart of research design” (Natalier 2013, p.25), “[guiding] the choice of methodology” (Lipowski 2008, cited in Owen 2016, p. 19); therefore, it is worth the effort to shape a so-called “good” research question, the two key attributes of which – according to Bouma and Ling (2004, cited in Natalier 2013, p. 27) – are clarity in terms of scopes and relation to empirical phenomena. This means, firstly, its focal point should be on a specific concept – not just a generic topic, e.g. “How do language barriers influence the academic life of international students at UOW?” focuses on the academic aspect of language barriers as a large topic. Secondly, the researcher must be able to study the issue through the examination of tangible things, thus moral questions, for instance, are ruled out.

    Additionally, a good question should allow room for change, naturally evolving itself. According to McIntosh et al. (2016, p. 54), as researchers become “accultured” in the new field that they are studying, their initial understanding of the matter might change radically, thus the question set out in the beginning should be adapted and refined to more efficiently accomplish their purpose. Stakeholders’ physically and mentally well-being should definitely be considered while generating the question so that the research in no ways “take advantage of the participants” (Walton 2016, p. 20).

    In contrast, a research question can be considered “bad” when it is redundant i.e. already been answered (Robson 1993, cited in Natalier 2013, p. 28), too vague e.g. “How does language barriers influence international students?” or strictly set right from the first place.


    McIntosh, R, Bartunek, JM, Bhatt, M & MacLean, D 2016, ‘I never promised you a rose garden: When research questions ought to change’, Research in organizational change and development, vol. 24, pp. 47-82.

    Natalier, K 2013, ‘Chapter 2 – Research Design’ in M Walter (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, pp. 25-49.

    Owen, D 2016, ‘Setting a research question, aim and objective’, Nurse Researcher, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 19-23.

    Walton, I 2016, ‘Ethical research’, Midwifery Matters, no. 151, pp. 18-20.

  17. Every question has a particular function in order to achieve something.
    A bad research question is close ended. Doesn’t achieve a lot. Limited. Consideration needs to be also placed on ethical constraints. Ideally a good research question will focus on a couple variables. A bad research question may also be one that has been overused. As this wont allow for new information. In contrast a good research question will focus on something in particular in order to gain some sort of goal that once answered will generally achieve something. The question needs to target a particular part of the current pool of knowledge which has yet been considered or there is inadequate information on. This allows for new information to come as a result of answering the question. The question should clearly depict key concepts significant for the social research context. Also there needs to be a link between cause and effect relationships. Primarily the question is the pathway utilised to discover something. A good question leads to the potential for good research and an interesting discovery. It also attracts interest from readers who may be intrigued to reading about the answer. All these factors need to be taken into consideration when thinking about a good research question.

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  18. What makes a good or bad research question, rests on factors that include the; context, method of questioning (whether quantitative or qualitative) and ethics, among another important features.

    The theory and research process determines whether the question will either explore or open up new social inquires, or describing a social phenomena, or explaining the social world and phenomena. These three research methods; Exploratory, Descriptive, and Explanatory, all help the shape both the depth and length of the research question.

    Theoretical Paradigms consists of the perspective of the questioning, whether that be from a Conflict perspective like Marx, and/or a Functionalist perspective, like Durkheim. As these perspectives operate to influence our methods of questioning and results of those questions, they combine to create Methodology.
    Methodology therefore creates the framework for the line of questioning and can determine what the answers and ‘facts’ may already be.

    In relation to how Methodology factors into whether a question will be good or bad, is how bias or vague the question may be. If the question refers to a society’s struggle to acknowledge and deal with multiculturalism and assimilation, it will need to represent all prejudices towards the minorities. The history and culture of that society needs to be included as well. This would have to integrate the communication with each other and with outsiders – and hence, needs to allow and encompass all contexts and perspectives involving social communications, practices, and social facts. All in all, ethics being a very key research practice to understand.

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