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Writing About Writing (WAW) for WRI 1/10

Library resources and perspectives for Writing about Writing (WAW)

Forming a Research Question

Forming a Research Question

  • By asking a research question, you are keeping an open mind about what the research may reveal. 
  • As you develop a research question, consider these criteria.
  • If you have an existing research question, see if your question is TRUE for these five criteria.  If so, then your research question is probably workable. 
thought bubble question


Your research question ...

  1. is not easily answered with a simple yes or no; open for more investigation. 
It requires explanation and will contribute to a broader field of research.
  1. uses the language of the field (or eventually does!). 
It is important to identify how other scholars are discussing your area of inquiry.
  1. poses a genuine question of personal interest.
It will hold your interest; you do not hold a pre-determined answer.
  1. can be answered with reliable evidence.
It is re-searchable.  Others have already been contributing to this conversation.
  1. has appropriate scope.
It is not too narrow, nor too broad; it does not leave you with too much or too little information. 

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

Consider the previous criteria when crafting a research question.  You may also want to ask yourself the following questions to think about what elements you may want to explore in your research question.

  • Is there a place or setting of interest?
  • Is there a population of interest?
  • Is there a type of writing or genre of interest?
  • Is there is topic you want to explore?
college professional journalists technical writing drafting
Hispanic serving institution (HSI) first-generation students academic writing composing
timed writing scientists social communications (e.g. texts, Tweets) revising / revision
workplace unskilled high school student business reports editing
elementary school basic writer personal writing writing process
personal environment graduate student scientific article writer's block
writing environment Latino college students news self reflection
humanities course experienced adult writers creative writing self-efficacy
first-year college composition course veteran lab reports confidence
  ESL writer grant proposal motivation
  bilingual or multilingual   reading habits / writing habits



Look at each research question below.  Does each question meet the criteria? What are their strengths or weaknesses? Note: You may have to do some pre-search to determine if the scope is appropriate.


Research Question A: How can incoming freshmen students better improve their writing?

Research Question B: How do bilingual or multilingual speakers approach creative writing in contrast to undergraduate native speakers?

Research Question C: How do advanced writers construct their writing environment to fully engage in the writing process?

In Groups:

Research Question D: What writing processes do college students employ when crafting personal communications?

Research Question E: What rhetorical moves do opinion writers make most often in order to communicate with their readers?

Research Question F: How do college students transfer their writing knowledge and processes from writing classes to other non-writing focused classes in their discipline?

Research Question G: What is the role of self-efficacy in college students’ successful transition to academic writing?

Research Question H: How do undergraduates incorporate evidence into their academic writing?

Research Question I: How does someone overcome writer’s block?

Research Question J: What strategies can be employed to prepare and motivate basic writers to move from editing to revision?