Research Plan: Creating a Focused and Broad Research Question for a Research Paper

Last Updated: 02 Apr 2023
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Associate Level Material Appendix D Research Plan As part of your research plan, you must first draft a research question for your research paper that will guide the rest of your writing. A research question, which is more specific and focused than a general topic, is the question that your research paper will be answering. For example, if your general area of interest is social security, a possible research question might ask “How can low-income families save more money if the United States had a reformed social security plan that includes personal retirement accounts? As you develop a research question, keep in mind that you will need to research sources to support your topic. Do not pick a one-sided question that will limit your research. Instead, develop a research question that lends itself to further exploration and debate—a question for which you genuinely want to know the answer. Try to pick a research question that is neither too broad, which covers too much, or too narrow, which covers too little. It should be broad enough to be discussed in a short research paper.

What is your general topic or area of interest? What is it about your general topic of interest that interests you? What questions do you have about the topic that you would like to investigate? List them. Would any of the questions you listed about the topic make a good subject for a research paper? Pick or adapt one question and make it into a research question. Why do you think this research question will be appropriate for a research paper?

How is your research question significant or relevant to a wider community? What background information provides the preliminary grounds for your research? What are some expert or authoritative sources of information on this research question? What type of materials will you need to review for your research paper? What procedures will you follow to conduct your research? What difficulties do you anticipate in conducting your research?

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