SOC234 2017 Lab1 – Wed 1330 Rm 17-106

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.

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Posted in Uncategorized.


  1. Developing a good research question can be incredibly difficult and consist of many obstacles, but is essential in order to improve the overall quality of the research. There are numerous factors which can impact upon whether a research question is considered good or bad. A good research question acts as a reflection of the researcher’s general thinking on the matter and also aims at addressing any gaps in sociological research.

    A good research question is clear, succinct and provides an opportunity for discussion and multiple perspectives on the particular research topic. A good research question should lay out basic logic, including the identification of the topic and using knowledge to support the relevance of the question. The question should be written in a way that the specific problem to be answered is presented urgently, and that answers are needed in response to the original research question (Merriam and Tisdell, 2015). A bad research question would be one that reads unclearly and is difficult to comprehend. This diminishing factor would reduce the overall quality of the research if even the main question is not clear and cannot be accurately understood by most. Gaps in knowledge within the research question can reduce the quality of the question itself, ultimately making a bad research question.

    There are many components which contribute to whether a research question is considered bad or good. However, it is essential to aim to develop a good research question in order to improve the overall quality of the research.

    Merriam, S. and Tisdell, E. (2015). Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation. 4th ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp.78-80.

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  2. In research, having the right question is essential as it affects the information and responses you receive, and whether they were useful in understanding more about the focus topic. A researcher may choose open-ended or closed-ended questions, which will directly impact the type of responses that are collected (Bryman 2016 p. 244). An open-ended question means a respondent may answer in any way they like whether it’s a few words or a paragraph, whereas a closed-ended question has a selection of answers to choose from (Bryman 2016 p. 244).

    Research questions that aren’t ideal are ones that are vague and very broad as respondents may find this hard to answer and thus results won’t be accurate (Ezzy 2010 p.65) or may even give misleading information. Along with this, when research questions have so many perspectives or ‘potential answers’ this can cause a massive amount of work to be done by the researcher when they only wanted to focus on one perspective for example but this wasn’t understood.

    On the other hand, good research questions are ones that have a clear focus (Ezzy 2010 p. 66), are appropriate in length (lengthy questions may confuse responders), aren’t biased or leading responders to answer a certain way, don’t ask multiple questions in one (also causing confusion) and use the appropriate language for the audience you will be focusing on (Bryman 2016 p.253), for example, if the group of people you are focusing on have no academic knowledge or education, it is probably best not to use complex terms which causes misunderstanding.

    Bryman, A 2016, ‘Asking questions’, Social Research Methods, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 243-265

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

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  3. Research questions are an essential element that contribute towards social research projects, studies or literature reviews. Research questions are all about the research conducted and must contain all the relevant information about what is being discussed and undertaken by the researcher. Thus, research questions in essence need to be clear, concise and feasible in order to achieve the standard that would entail a good research question. Overall they guide the research process and allow the construction of a logical argument.

    Research questions need to focus on the study conducted and has the ability to determine the methodology of the project, research questions also can guide all the stages of inquiry, analysis and reporting (Biddix 2002). Good research questions stick to the exact study not implications or judgements and they avoid the use of the word prove, significant or significance thus wording is an important element to the correct structure of a research question.

    On the other hand bad research questions entail those that can take on too much or too little with one question, be too simple, disorganised, poorly generated or vague.

    Overall, research questions must be exploratory and descriptive in order to be effectively answered for the purpose of research and discovery on the topic. Without a research problem and a hypothesis there can be no research question.

    Biddix, P. Writing Research Questions, Research Rundowns (2002)

  4. According to Patulny’s (2017) SOC234 lecture, ‘the function of research is to generate or test theory’, and for it to be used effectively within a research paper, the foundation of the paper must be well thought out. Centralising the paper around the research question can contribute to this. A question enables the writer to present an assortment of topics and data, and is a way to help examine a piece of the real world (Walter 2013). Thus, Walter (2013) states, for a thorough examination, a good research question must clearly give purpose to the writer.

    With an aim, this will prevent future over complications within the writing piece (Natalier 2012). Additionally, it will ensure readers are able to process information smoothly, and prevent misinterpretations (Krueckeberg 2011). However, there are such things like bad research questions, which lacks in these factors. These should be avoided as they cause an inconsistent form of writing. Which in result, will lead to a re-asking of the same question.

    It should also be kept in mind that research questions should not be questions that have already been answered. A question should be something worth finding, and not too simple. In other terms, the question should be on a topic where one must use in-depth methods of research, such as the application of qualitative and quantitative techniques (Krueckeberg, 2013).

    Overall, it is evident that a promising research question needs a lot of thought. Research is required to assist one to immerse into specific topics. Therefore, a research paper should have a well-defined aim.

    Natalier, K (2013) “Chapter 2 – Research Design” in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods, 3rd Edition. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, pp. 25-49.

    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.

    Krueckeberg, J (2011) “Forming a good research question out of an initial research topic”, NHDNH 11, .

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  5. A good research question cannot be answered simply or in a few words. It should guide the study through a path of discovery, presenting opposing sides of an argument to reach a conclusion. The topic needs to be important and interesting to you. It is crucial to eliminate vagueness and be clear and concise so that the object of interest is correctly answered (Walliman, 2011). To develop a good research question, it must be possible to draw conclusions from it as the main goal of the question is to develop understanding and reveal answers (Walliman, 2011). The main features of a good research question include narrow, in depth questions of where, how and when. To create a good research question, you need to make sure that the question you are asking is concludable, researchable and has previous research to refer to throughout your answer (Walliman, 2011). However, it should not be a repeat of previous work (Walliman, 2011). There needs to be enough information to incorporate multiple sources and provide different views. If a research topic does not provide this, it is classified as a bad research topic. This is due to the bias surrounding an opinion based argument into their work. Developing a bad research question can lead to invalid results and may become inconsistent with previous research. Therefore, when a good research question is developed, it improves the quality and flow of the research, enabling it to be more valid and educational.

    Walliman, NR 2011, [electronic resource] : Research methods the basics / Nicholas Walliman, London ; New York : Routledge, 2011.

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  6. Creating a good research question is highly significant in the quest for a successful and meaningful study. Its purpose is to outline the aim of the research and in doing so, provide the framework for the subsequent elements. As Natalier explains, a good question can drive the study, it determines ‘the methods used, the focus of the analysis and the choices made when writing up the research’ (p. 26, 2013).

    A good question is unambiguous and specific, enabling the researcher to understand which data is required to answer the question and how to obtain such data (Punch, 2008). It should be founded on prior knowledge, theory or practice so that it can expand one’s knowledge and lead to further understandings (Whitley & Kite, 2013). Additionally, a good question isn’t too simple, it should have the ability to be broken down into many questions, while still not becoming too complicated (Patulny, 2017). On the other hand, bad questions are often unclear, too general or vague, preventing the researcher from making the subsequent decisions necessary to complete the study (Ezzy, 2010). They may also be fall under metaphysical questions, that aren’t able to be answered through observations (Boyma & Line, 2004, cited in Natalier, 2013).

    To conclude, a good question has importance, in that the information gained from answering the question is significant and makes the investment into the project worthwhile (Whitley & Kite, 2013). It is focussed, but most importantly it can facilitate the achievement of meaningful research.

    Ezzy, D 2010, ‘The Research Process’, in M Walter (ed.), Social Research Methods, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, Victoria, pp. 61-86

    Natalier, K (2013) “Chapter 2 – Research Design” in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods: An Australian Perspective Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p. 25-49.

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

    Punch, KF 2008, ‘Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches’, in Earle, S & Letherby, G (eds), The Sociology of Healthcare: A Reader for Health Professionals, 3rd Edition, New York, Palgrave Macmillian.

    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

    Whitley, BE & Kite, MJ 2013, Principles of Research in Behavioural Science, 3rd Edition, New York, Routledge.

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  7. Creating a good research question can be rather difficult, however is the first critical step in the research process, the research question when established will guide and assist the formation of a logical argument. A good research question is clear and concise; As Walters states a research question focuses on the major aim, signifying key elements and concepts in which the research seeks to investigate. Another main element in formulating a good research question involves ethical consideration; being constantly aware of ethical issues is paramount for all researches. Likewise, Ezzy (2010) suggests clearly identifying the research question will take the research further then the topic of interest not only. By doing so, this illuminates many issues arising later within the research.

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

    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

  8. Good research questions are difficult to create, and take careful planning and thought. As highlighted by Kristin Natalier, a high quality question is very important as “the research question shapes every other component of the project” and is required to achieve a successful result, and not end in the culmination of perhaps interesting, but useless information.

    A quality research question should be well researched, thought out, clear, concise and not ambiguous, in order to attain focused results on the intended study. This notion of uncomplicated questions is further illustrated by Bouma and Ling (2003:14), who note two properties of good research questions “first, they are limited in scope. No one project can address every dimension of a topic. Second, research questions… can be answered through studying observable and tangible things”.

    A bad research question is one that is over complicated and without a clear aim, and can include a question that has already been asked previously, such as one that is “ignorant of previous studies in your field”. Bad research questions are also those that have been hastily created and speculative on the aim of the actual question, which will lead to nothing but poor results.

    In conclusion, a good research question must be succinct and time must be taken to ensure it’s quality, and correct language for it’s intended audience. Vague and overcomplicated questions will not result in a successful outcome.

    Natalier, K (2013) “Chapter 2 – Research Design” in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods, 3nd Edition. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p25-49

    Walter, M (2013) “The Foundations of Good Social Science Research” Chapter 1 in Walter, Maggie (ed.) (2013) Social Research Methods, 3nd Edition. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, p3-24

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  9. A research question, whether bad or good, presents a foundation for which the research must be based. Thus, it is extremely important that a good question is presented in order to ensure that the research that follows is adequate.

    A good and clear research question, according to Walters (2010), “states the major aim of the research in question form, specifying the key idea that the research seeks to investigate and/or explain and identifying the key concepts of research”. Other primary components of good social research should include an important social question that is relevant, a well thought-out and theoretically informed research plan, the use of appropriate research methods applied rigorously, analysis and interpretation of data that is valid, and a broad dissemination of both primary and secondary results and findings (Walters 2010). A good research question is researchable and requires multiple sources of information, both qualitative and quantitative, to answer sufficiently. It should, however, be manageable in terms of research and time. A good research question should be debatable, narrow and significant.

    A bad research question is not clear and broadly covers the scope of the research topic (Walters 2010). There are ethical concerns in all research. Bad research questions and practices do not consider ethics. This may include the lack of anonymity, privacy and safety. Bad research questions are generally simple and can sometimes be based purely around opinion.

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  10. What defines a good research question is its relevance to a current social issue, and its ability to provide new knowledge. The research topic should be one that intrigues the researcher, and one that can contribute to the body of existing knowledge surrounding that particular topic. The question should achieve its aim through clear investigating of the key concepts and its ideas (Walter, 2010). Findings from research should be used to promote further research to achieve an even deeper understanding on a topic and its relevant societal factors that affect it. It can help bring to the surface issues that can arise or that have yet to be investigated. The use of relevant theoretical frameworks that make the research process clear in its findings, also contribute to what makes a research question effective and accurate (Ezzy, 2010).

    Bad research questions can lack a sense of specificity. They may propose a question that is broad, and does not measure for a succinct relationship between specific concepts, but rather leaves a large number of possible answers open. It is important when proposing a research question that it clearly identifies an issue and a measurable cause, so a relationship between can be distinctly drawn from the research. A bad question could lack the ability to provide new information drawn from previous research on specific issues, thus failing to advance the knowledge of social issues.

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  11. A strong research question is one that is clearly defined, which allows for the exploration of a particular topic through defined concepts and a theoretical framework. The defining of key concepts allows the researcher to analysis a particular topic and develops specific ideas and answers (Walters, 2013). This allows the researcher to develop a clear and logical research focus. A bad research question is one that is not clearly defined, does not address what the research is about and allows the researcher to explore topics that are not relevant to one’s research. A key example is of a bad research question is ‘what is the role of man?’ This is a poor research question as it does not provide a clearly defined logic or focus as to what the research is concerned with. Does it want to examine the role of man in workplace, domestic space, urbanisation or how it impacts women’s position in a society? It allows the researcher to drift without purpose.
    Whilst a better question would be, ‘What are the norms that dictate a man’s role in modern Australian society in the context of domestic space?’ There is a clear definition of inquiry as to what the researcher is interested in examining. The use of concepts allows for the researcher to analyse a particular topic through subsections of analysis. Such as examining cultural practices, norms, structures in society in the context of men’s behaviour in domestic spaces allows for the effective guiding of a piece of research (Natalier, 2013).
    A good research question is one that is researchable, but also relevant to society and allows for a greater understanding and its results have the ability to be applied within a context of society, as the piece of research is useful for a society.
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  12. A good research question needs to be representative of the hypothesis, theoretical paradigm (when applicable) and purposeful in its intent to test a theory. This is substantiated by Patulny’s (2017) SOC234 lecture, ‘the function of research is to generate or test theory.’

    In the realm of social science, ‘good social science research is based on a sound understanding of the scientific method, the specific complexities of studying the social realm, and the key interrelationship between data and theory’ (Walter 2013). This further highlights the need for a good research question to be grounded in an understanding of the topic matter, as well as the overall purpose of the hypothesis.

    As Walter (2013) summarises in his first chapter of Social Research Methods, ‘social research,’ (and thereby social research questions), ‘is about investigating the social questions we have about our social world.’ To be a good research question, one needs to be able to tackle the before mentioned factors with a variety of social study methods, combined with a clear and concise understanding of the topic of choice. Thus, to avoid a bad research question, a writer must display clear direction and purpose within their question and related thesis.

    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.

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