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Writing 101 (Webb): What are "Good" Research Questions?

Writing in the Disciplines: Psychology

Research Questions Guide Your Paper

When the scope of your paper is too big, it's hard to dig through information & to write a paper with any depth. The goal of most research papers in is to seek a possible answer to a specific question. A focused research question helps guide your paper.

Developing a Research Question

Steely Library NKU (4:33)


If you can answer TRUE to the statements below, your research question is probably workable.

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

Research questions work much better when you focus on the relationships between concepts.

Class Discussion

Let's say you're interested in how sleep affects well-being. Which of the following research questions has the best scope for a 10-page paper?

How does sleep affect well-being?: 2 votes (5%)
How does sleep affect the academic success of college students?: 37 votes (92.5%)
How does sleep affect college students?: 1 votes (2.5%)
Total Votes: 40


Do these meet the criteria for a "good" research question? Why or why not? (While research is needed to make a determination, we're taking these at face value.)

  • Group 1: How does deportation affect families?
  • Group 2: How does social media affect identity?
  • Group 3: How does mental health stigma affect the Hispanic/Latinx community?
  • Group 4: What factors shape workplace satisfaction?
  • Group 5: Why don't kids get enough sleep?
  • Group 6: Does being in a relationship affect students' work?