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The Research Question in the Sciences

This guide will help you formulate a quality research question when dealing with topics in the sciences.

Research Questions that are too narrow in focus.

A research question is too narrow if you are unable to find enough information that addresses that question.  It is possible that the question has been asked so few times that no quality findings have ever been reported on the question or the question has never been tested to begin with.

To broaden the question, 

  • Expand the number of subjects in your study.  Rather than focus on one species of animal, one specific type of mineral, or one species of plant, focus your question on a group of similar fishes  i.e. "minnows" vs. "bluntnose minnows," "sulfides" vs. "chalcopyrite" or group of plants, i.e. "cedar trees" vs. "eastern red cedar" trees.
  • Expand the geographic region of the study.  If you can't locate information on the nesting habits of eastern bluebirds in Johnson County, Missouri, focus on the nesting habits of eastern bluebirds in the state of Missouri, or the Missouri valley.
  • Expand the timespan of the study.  Instead of studying the population trends of goblin sharks during the Halocene epoch, study their population trends during the Quaternary period.
  • Use the research that you have conducted on the topic that you have found to be too narrow to brainstorm similar, yet broader, topics.

Conduct the research yourself!

If you have developed a viable research question and are unable to find articles or other academic matieral that addresses that question, then it may be up to you to do the research yourself!  Your research question will guide the research that is needed and  conducted.  You could be an important contributor who adds to the vast, and growing body of scientific knowledge.