Forming a Research Question
The chart below is intended to help jump-start your thinking about a research question. Though you may not use ideas from every column, you may wish to consider the following:
- Is there a pandemic I want to focus on?
- Do I want to consider how this pandemic specifically influenced or influences a a specific population, organization or group?
- Do I want to focus on a specific place or location? Will I need to consider multiple locations or compare locations?
- What other issues or topics do I want to address that is related to the larger idea of pandemics?
Sample Research Questions
- To what extent are masks effective against COVID-19 transmission? To what extent have they been effective in other pandemics?
- What are best practices for stimulating the economy during difficult economic times e.g. during a pandemic?
- How are the elderly impacted when their face-to-face interactions with family and friends are limited?
- What power should governments use to trace human movement in order to ensure public health and safety?
- How might student learning be impacted if K-12 schools do not reopen in fall 2020?
|Pandemic / Epidemic
||Population / Organization / Group
||Issue / Topic
Black Death/bubonic plague
Hong Kong flu
swine flu (H1N1)
SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)
Global opioid epidemic
Zoonotic pathogens & parasites, transmitted from vertebrates to humans
Family of those in nursing homes
Travel industry / event planning industry
Local government officials
Those with diabetes or heart issues, underlying health conditions
Outdoor spaces (parks)
International / Global
Health / Biology
- Stress, anxiety, mental health, psychological health
- Immune system
- Anti-viral agents
- Vaccines / vaccination
- Transmission routes
- Transmission rates
- Level of care for other health concerns
- Common comorbidity e.g. hypertension
- herd immunitu
Economics & Management
- Labor, unemployment, working from home
- Disaster risk management
- Distribution networks e.g. supplies
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing, distribution, shortages
- Public health infrastructure
- Hospital infrastructure / preparedness
- Lost income implications
- Stimulus check implications; small business loans
Behavioral & Social Responses
- Purchasing behaviors
- Technology use
- Recreational behavior
- “digital sociality”
- Communication methods
- Social distancing
- level of risk-taking
Protection & Preparation
- Re-entry plans
- Hospital practices
- Contact tracing
- Testing protocols
- Safety of X activity (visiting the dentist)
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Flattening the curve
- mitigation strategies
- Social justice
- Ethics of resource allocation (mask, ventilators) during shortages
- Visitation restrictions
- Monitoring / surveillance e.g. GPS tracking
- Internet access (equity)
- racial disparities
- Teaching methods
- Community building online
- Best practices
- Online vs. F2F
Research Tip: Use literature from the past to inform current day issues. For instance, there may not be much current literature on how school closures caused by COVID-19 are impacting student learning; YET, there is probably much research on what promotes student learning and challenges associated with summer learning gaps, socioeconomic inequities, or different levels of parental engagement due to work obligations or other factors.