Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
COVID-19 Library Dashboard
Get the latest information on the status of library services and space.
 Ask a Question

Writing 10 (Alonso): Research Questions

College Reading & Composition

Research Questions

Ask a question of interest.

By asking a research question, you are keeping an open mind about what the research may reveal.  See if your question is TRUE for these five criteria.  If so, then your research question is probably workable. 

  1. It cannot simply be answered with a yes/no. 
  2. It has a problem associated with it.
  3. It has social significance.
  4. There is reliable evidence available to address it.
  5. It has appropriate scope.

Together: You will have to do some preliminary research to really discover if all of these statements are TRUE for your proposed research question.


Try it Out


Look at each research question below.  Can you answer TRUE for statements #1-3?  Do you think you could answer TRUE for #4-5 even though we haven't done any research yet?

Research Question A: Is America's prison system effective in lowering crime rates? 

Research Question B: Is democracy the most effective political system?

Research Question C:  Why are UC Merced's graduation rates so low compared to other universities?

Research Question D: What will it take to open our eyes to the detriments of mental illness?

5WH Method: Ask who, what, when, where, why and how?

  • Who are the major figures associated with the topic? (e.g., Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, students, kittens)
  • What is the description of the topic? What is happening?
  • Where does the topic operate? (e.g., Eastern Europe, basal ganglia, California)
  • When is the timeframe for this topic? This can often be combined with “where” (e.g., Jurassic Era, antebellum American South, 21st-century inner-city Chicago)
  • Why is this significant to others in the field? Why is this happening?
  • How can your topic be tested? How do you describe the relationship between your concepts?

Questions to Refine your Topic