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Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples

Published on October 26, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 21, 2023.

A research question pinpoints exactly what you want to find out in your work. A good research question is essential to guide your research paper , dissertation , or thesis .

All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

Writing Strong Research Questions

Table of contents

How to write a research question, what makes a strong research question, using sub-questions to strengthen your main research question, research questions quiz, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research questions.

You can follow these steps to develop a strong research question:

  • Choose your topic
  • Do some preliminary reading about the current state of the field
  • Narrow your focus to a specific niche
  • Identify the research problem that you will address

The way you frame your question depends on what your research aims to achieve. The table below shows some examples of how you might formulate questions for different purposes.

Using your research problem to develop your research question

Note that while most research questions can be answered with various types of research , the way you frame your question should help determine your choices.

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study skills research questions

Research questions anchor your whole project, so it’s important to spend some time refining them. The criteria below can help you evaluate the strength of your research question.

Focused and researchable

Feasible and specific, complex and arguable, relevant and original.

Chances are that your main research question likely can’t be answered all at once. That’s why sub-questions are important: they allow you to answer your main question in a step-by-step manner.

Good sub-questions should be:

  • Less complex than the main question
  • Focused only on 1 type of research
  • Presented in a logical order

Here are a few examples of descriptive and framing questions:

  • Descriptive: According to current government arguments, how should a European bank tax be implemented?
  • Descriptive: Which countries have a bank tax/levy on financial transactions?
  • Framing: How should a bank tax/levy on financial transactions look at a European level?

Keep in mind that sub-questions are by no means mandatory. They should only be asked if you need the findings to answer your main question. If your main question is simple enough to stand on its own, it’s okay to skip the sub-question part. As a rule of thumb, the more complex your subject, the more sub-questions you’ll need.

Try to limit yourself to 4 or 5 sub-questions, maximum. If you feel you need more than this, it may be indication that your main research question is not sufficiently specific. In this case, it’s is better to revisit your problem statement and try to tighten your main question up.

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

As you cannot possibly read every source related to your topic, it’s important to evaluate sources to assess their relevance. Use preliminary evaluation to determine whether a source is worth examining in more depth.

This involves:

  • Reading abstracts , prefaces, introductions , and conclusions
  • Looking at the table of contents to determine the scope of the work
  • Consulting the index for key terms or the names of important scholars

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (“ x affects y because …”).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses . In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

Writing Strong Research Questions

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

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How to Develop a Good Research Question? — Types & Examples

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Cecilia is living through a tough situation in her research life. Figuring out where to begin, how to start her research study, and how to pose the right question for her research quest, is driving her insane. Well, questions, if not asked correctly, have a tendency to spiral us!

Image Source: https://phdcomics.com/

Questions lead everyone to answers. Research is a quest to find answers. Not the vague questions that Cecilia means to answer, but definitely more focused questions that define your research. Therefore, asking appropriate question becomes an important matter of discussion.

A well begun research process requires a strong research question. It directs the research investigation and provides a clear goal to focus on. Understanding the characteristics of comprising a good research question will generate new ideas and help you discover new methods in research.

In this article, we are aiming to help researchers understand what is a research question and how to write one with examples.

Table of Contents

What Is a Research Question?

A good research question defines your study and helps you seek an answer to your research. Moreover, a clear research question guides the research paper or thesis to define exactly what you want to find out, giving your work its objective. Learning to write a research question is the beginning to any thesis, dissertation , or research paper. Furthermore, the question addresses issues or problems which is answered through analysis and interpretation of data.

Why Is a Research Question Important?

A strong research question guides the design of a study. Moreover, it helps determine the type of research and identify specific objectives. Research questions state the specific issue you are addressing and focus on outcomes of the research for individuals to learn. Therefore, it helps break up the study into easy steps to complete the objectives and answer the initial question.

Types of Research Questions

Research questions can be categorized into different types, depending on the type of research you want to undergo. Furthermore, knowing the type of research will help a researcher determine the best type of research question to use.

1. Qualitative Research Question

Qualitative questions concern broad areas or more specific areas of research. However, unlike quantitative questions, qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional and more flexible. Qualitative research question focus on discovering, explaining, elucidating, and exploring.

i. Exploratory Questions

This form of question looks to understand something without influencing the results. The objective of exploratory questions is to learn more about a topic without attributing bias or preconceived notions to it.

Research Question Example: Asking how a chemical is used or perceptions around a certain topic.

ii. Predictive Questions

Predictive research questions are defined as survey questions that automatically predict the best possible response options based on text of the question. Moreover, these questions seek to understand the intent or future outcome surrounding a topic.

Research Question Example: Asking why a consumer behaves in a certain way or chooses a certain option over other.

iii. Interpretive Questions

This type of research question allows the study of people in the natural setting. The questions help understand how a group makes sense of shared experiences with regards to various phenomena. These studies gather feedback on a group’s behavior without affecting the outcome.

Research Question Example: How do you feel about AI assisting publishing process in your research?

2. Quantitative Research Question

Quantitative questions prove or disprove a researcher’s hypothesis through descriptions, comparisons, and relationships. These questions are beneficial when choosing a research topic or when posing follow-up questions that garner more information.

i. Descriptive Questions

It is the most basic type of quantitative research question and it seeks to explain when, where, why, or how something occurred. Moreover, they use data and statistics to describe an event or phenomenon.

Research Question Example: How many generations of genes influence a future generation?

ii. Comparative Questions

Sometimes it’s beneficial to compare one occurrence with another. Therefore, comparative questions are helpful when studying groups with dependent variables.

Example: Do men and women have comparable metabolisms?

iii. Relationship-Based Questions

This type of research question answers influence of one variable on another. Therefore, experimental studies use this type of research questions are majorly.

Example: How is drought condition affect a region’s probability for wildfires.  

How to Write a Good Research Question?

good research question

1. Select a Topic

The first step towards writing a good research question is to choose a broad topic of research. You could choose a research topic that interests you, because the complete research will progress further from the research question. Therefore, make sure to choose a topic that you are passionate about, to make your research study more enjoyable.

2. Conduct Preliminary Research

After finalizing the topic, read and know about what research studies are conducted in the field so far. Furthermore, this will help you find articles that talk about the topics that are yet to be explored. You could explore the topics that the earlier research has not studied.

3. Consider Your Audience

The most important aspect of writing a good research question is to find out if there is audience interested to know the answer to the question you are proposing. Moreover, determining your audience will assist you in refining your research question, and focus on aspects that relate to defined groups.

4. Generate Potential Questions

The best way to generate potential questions is to ask open ended questions. Questioning broader topics will allow you to narrow down to specific questions. Identifying the gaps in literature could also give you topics to write the research question. Moreover, you could also challenge the existing assumptions or use personal experiences to redefine issues in research.

5. Review Your Questions

Once you have listed few of your questions, evaluate them to find out if they are effective research questions. Moreover while reviewing, go through the finer details of the question and its probable outcome, and find out if the question meets the research question criteria.

6. Construct Your Research Question

There are two frameworks to construct your research question. The first one being PICOT framework , which stands for:

  • Population or problem
  • Intervention or indicator being studied
  • Comparison group
  • Outcome of interest
  • Time frame of the study.

The second framework is PEO , which stands for:

  • Population being studied
  • Exposure to preexisting conditions
  • Outcome of interest.

Research Question Examples

  • How might the discovery of a genetic basis for alcoholism impact triage processes in medical facilities?
  • How do ecological systems respond to chronic anthropological disturbance?
  • What are demographic consequences of ecological interactions?
  • What roles do fungi play in wildfire recovery?
  • How do feedbacks reinforce patterns of genetic divergence on the landscape?
  • What educational strategies help encourage safe driving in young adults?
  • What makes a grocery store easy for shoppers to navigate?
  • What genetic factors predict if someone will develop hypothyroidism?
  • Does contemporary evolution along the gradients of global change alter ecosystems function?

How did you write your first research question ? What were the steps you followed to create a strong research question? Do write to us or comment below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Research questions guide the focus and direction of a research study. Here are common types of research questions: 1. Qualitative research question: Qualitative questions concern broad areas or more specific areas of research. However, unlike quantitative questions, qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional and more flexible. Different types of qualitative research questions are: i. Exploratory questions ii. Predictive questions iii. Interpretive questions 2. Quantitative Research Question: Quantitative questions prove or disprove a researcher’s hypothesis through descriptions, comparisons, and relationships. These questions are beneficial when choosing a research topic or when posing follow-up questions that garner more information. Different types of quantitative research questions are: i. Descriptive questions ii. Comparative questions iii. Relationship-based questions

Qualitative research questions aim to explore the richness and depth of participants' experiences and perspectives. They should guide your research and allow for in-depth exploration of the phenomenon under investigation. After identifying the research topic and the purpose of your research: • Begin with Broad Inquiry: Start with a general research question that captures the main focus of your study. This question should be open-ended and allow for exploration. • Break Down the Main Question: Identify specific aspects or dimensions related to the main research question that you want to investigate. • Formulate Sub-questions: Create sub-questions that delve deeper into each specific aspect or dimension identified in the previous step. • Ensure Open-endedness: Make sure your research questions are open-ended and allow for varied responses and perspectives. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Encourage participants to share their experiences, opinions, and perceptions in their own words. • Refine and Review: Review your research questions to ensure they align with your research purpose, topic, and objectives. Seek feedback from your research advisor or peers to refine and improve your research questions.

Developing research questions requires careful consideration of the research topic, objectives, and the type of study you intend to conduct. Here are the steps to help you develop effective research questions: 1. Select a Topic 2. Conduct Preliminary Research 3. Consider Your Audience 4. Generate Potential Questions 5. Review Your Questions 6. Construct Your Research Question Based on PICOT or PEO Framework

There are two frameworks to construct your research question. The first one being PICOT framework, which stands for: • Population or problem • Intervention or indicator being studied • Comparison group • Outcome of interest • Time frame of the study The second framework is PEO, which stands for: • Population being studied • Exposure to preexisting conditions • Outcome of interest

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When should AI tools be used in university labs?

Trends in Medicine

3 steps to designing effective research questions and study methods.

Lab with patient records and a microscope

Every day, scientists conduct important research that brings real value to the medical field. And the most impactful efforts typically begin with a clear question that will add a new perspective to the current knowledge that exists, as well as a well-designed study format, explains Jamie Robertson, PhD, MPH, director of Innovation in Surgical Education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, associate director of Harvard Medical School’s  Global Clinical Scholars Research Training  program and co-director for the  Foundations of Clinical Research  program. 

For instance, perhaps you notice that your patients who go running regularly have lower blood pressure than their counterparts. But, is running directly related to reduced hypertension rates, or could these patients also be making other lifestyle choices that are impacting the equation? Fully understanding the relationship can be valuable to help you provide good advice to your other patients to help them control or prevent hypertension. Yet in order to find out the connection, you’ll need to come up with a solid research question and conduct a study that will help you to understand whether running is related to blood pressure.  

Step 1: Develop a Targeted Question 

To develop a meaningful research question, it’s important to narrow your interest to a very specific area.  

“Often people get excited and want to study a big topic,” Robertson says. This could be something like the factors related to hypertension among adults of all ages. “But you can actually do your best work when you have a concise and focused question,” she points out. Narrow in on a specific subset of the population and make sure that what you want to answer is complex and not too obvious. An example might be looking at the impact that running three times a week has on the blood pressure levels of middle-age patients with no other confounding health factors. 

She points out that when you develop such a question, it’s important that you make sure that the data you seek to collect will be adding a new perspective, rather than just repeating information that already exists.  

“Think about why a medical student or resident should care about your research. It should not be something that they can already find in the medical literature or that they can answer just using common sense,” she adds. 

Step 2: Include the Right Elements 

Once you have an idea of what you want to tackle in your research, Robertson suggests using a method called PICO to flesh out the research question and all the nuances involved and determine how best to go about answering it.

Each letter of PICO stands for a different topic area, she says.  

P=Population: Who are the people being studied?  In this case, it might be runners between the ages of 35 and 55 in good health. 

I=Intervention: What is the action that you want to explore?  This could be the impact of running on hypertension. 

C=Control: What is the other group that you will use in order to compare your results?  You could use a group of people in the same age range with similar health status overall but who do not run.

O=Outcome: What are the results?  This would be the blood pressure levels.  

Using this method to define all of the elements can be essential in helping you focus your efforts and determine how to tackle the research study most effectively. 

Step 3: Explore Study Design Formats 

The next step is selecting the study format you want to use to gather your data. “People often ask me what the best study design is to use for their work. But there is no one right answer,” Robertson says. “We tend to think randomized clinical trials have the highest level of evidence. But that is not the right study design in all cases, and it may not even be ethical, or feasible, or cost effective, in some situations,” she stresses. Therefore, you’ll want to explore different options to see what fits best for your circumstances.  

Here are some common study designs that you might want to consider, along with ideas of how each one might work to answer the question about running and hypertension: 

Randomized control trial:  If you want to determine the relationship between running and blood pressure, using a randomized clinical trial can minimize the confounding factors and provide level 1 evidence while controlling bias. Yet, this method will be expensive to perform and will require an extended study period. There is also the question of whether participants will be compliant over the long term—in this case, continuing to run three times a week.  

Prospective cohort study:  A prospective cohort study would enable you to follow one group that runs and one group that does not and see how their blood pressure responds. No intervention would be needed. The drawbacks with this method, however, include that it takes a long time to see the results, and it would be hard to know if the runners will continue to run over time. Non-compliance would negate the results. 

Case control study:  “For this type of study, I’d go into the records and find patients diagnosed with hypertension and patients who don’t have it. I would pick groups with details that match except for this diagnosis. Then, I would look back and see their exposure to running,” she says. You could interview participants and find out how many times they ran five years ago, and also look for their exercise data using fitness tracking apps to get this information. The key is that for a case control study, you will select participants based on their diagnoses or health status and then look at their exercise history to see if patterns exist. 

Retro study:  “For a retro study, I would look at fitness records from 10 years ago [perhaps from a fitness tracker or app] and divide participants into two groups—those who ran three times a week and those who did not run. Then, I would go forward in time to the present and see if they now have hypertension,” she says. 

Prospective case control study:  Another less common option is a prospective case control study: “In this case, you would wait for people to get the disease or outcome of interest and then enroll them in your study. So, I would hang out in my clinic and wait for people to be diagnosed and then enroll them instead of getting them from the medical records,” she says. 

Contributing to the Field 

Robertson points out that when you consider all of these aspects to help you design and implement research studies to answer well thought out and informative questions, you can help to advance your research career in exciting directions, while also adding a significant body of knowledge to the field that may lead to improved outcomes.

Written by Lisa D. Ellis

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Research questions, hypotheses and objectives

Patricia farrugia.

* Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, the

Bradley A. Petrisor

† Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and the

Forough Farrokhyar

‡ Departments of Surgery and

§ Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont

Mohit Bhandari

There is an increasing familiarity with the principles of evidence-based medicine in the surgical community. As surgeons become more aware of the hierarchy of evidence, grades of recommendations and the principles of critical appraisal, they develop an increasing familiarity with research design. Surgeons and clinicians are looking more and more to the literature and clinical trials to guide their practice; as such, it is becoming a responsibility of the clinical research community to attempt to answer questions that are not only well thought out but also clinically relevant. The development of the research question, including a supportive hypothesis and objectives, is a necessary key step in producing clinically relevant results to be used in evidence-based practice. A well-defined and specific research question is more likely to help guide us in making decisions about study design and population and subsequently what data will be collected and analyzed. 1

Objectives of this article

In this article, we discuss important considerations in the development of a research question and hypothesis and in defining objectives for research. By the end of this article, the reader will be able to appreciate the significance of constructing a good research question and developing hypotheses and research objectives for the successful design of a research study. The following article is divided into 3 sections: research question, research hypothesis and research objectives.

Research question

Interest in a particular topic usually begins the research process, but it is the familiarity with the subject that helps define an appropriate research question for a study. 1 Questions then arise out of a perceived knowledge deficit within a subject area or field of study. 2 Indeed, Haynes suggests that it is important to know “where the boundary between current knowledge and ignorance lies.” 1 The challenge in developing an appropriate research question is in determining which clinical uncertainties could or should be studied and also rationalizing the need for their investigation.

Increasing one’s knowledge about the subject of interest can be accomplished in many ways. Appropriate methods include systematically searching the literature, in-depth interviews and focus groups with patients (and proxies) and interviews with experts in the field. In addition, awareness of current trends and technological advances can assist with the development of research questions. 2 It is imperative to understand what has been studied about a topic to date in order to further the knowledge that has been previously gathered on a topic. Indeed, some granting institutions (e.g., Canadian Institute for Health Research) encourage applicants to conduct a systematic review of the available evidence if a recent review does not already exist and preferably a pilot or feasibility study before applying for a grant for a full trial.

In-depth knowledge about a subject may generate a number of questions. It then becomes necessary to ask whether these questions can be answered through one study or if more than one study needed. 1 Additional research questions can be developed, but several basic principles should be taken into consideration. 1 All questions, primary and secondary, should be developed at the beginning and planning stages of a study. Any additional questions should never compromise the primary question because it is the primary research question that forms the basis of the hypothesis and study objectives. It must be kept in mind that within the scope of one study, the presence of a number of research questions will affect and potentially increase the complexity of both the study design and subsequent statistical analyses, not to mention the actual feasibility of answering every question. 1 A sensible strategy is to establish a single primary research question around which to focus the study plan. 3 In a study, the primary research question should be clearly stated at the end of the introduction of the grant proposal, and it usually specifies the population to be studied, the intervention to be implemented and other circumstantial factors. 4

Hulley and colleagues 2 have suggested the use of the FINER criteria in the development of a good research question ( Box 1 ). The FINER criteria highlight useful points that may increase the chances of developing a successful research project. A good research question should specify the population of interest, be of interest to the scientific community and potentially to the public, have clinical relevance and further current knowledge in the field (and of course be compliant with the standards of ethical boards and national research standards).

FINER criteria for a good research question

Adapted with permission from Wolters Kluwer Health. 2

Whereas the FINER criteria outline the important aspects of the question in general, a useful format to use in the development of a specific research question is the PICO format — consider the population (P) of interest, the intervention (I) being studied, the comparison (C) group (or to what is the intervention being compared) and the outcome of interest (O). 3 , 5 , 6 Often timing (T) is added to PICO ( Box 2 ) — that is, “Over what time frame will the study take place?” 1 The PICOT approach helps generate a question that aids in constructing the framework of the study and subsequently in protocol development by alluding to the inclusion and exclusion criteria and identifying the groups of patients to be included. Knowing the specific population of interest, intervention (and comparator) and outcome of interest may also help the researcher identify an appropriate outcome measurement tool. 7 The more defined the population of interest, and thus the more stringent the inclusion and exclusion criteria, the greater the effect on the interpretation and subsequent applicability and generalizability of the research findings. 1 , 2 A restricted study population (and exclusion criteria) may limit bias and increase the internal validity of the study; however, this approach will limit external validity of the study and, thus, the generalizability of the findings to the practical clinical setting. Conversely, a broadly defined study population and inclusion criteria may be representative of practical clinical practice but may increase bias and reduce the internal validity of the study.

PICOT criteria 1

A poorly devised research question may affect the choice of study design, potentially lead to futile situations and, thus, hamper the chance of determining anything of clinical significance, which will then affect the potential for publication. Without devoting appropriate resources to developing the research question, the quality of the study and subsequent results may be compromised. During the initial stages of any research study, it is therefore imperative to formulate a research question that is both clinically relevant and answerable.

Research hypothesis

The primary research question should be driven by the hypothesis rather than the data. 1 , 2 That is, the research question and hypothesis should be developed before the start of the study. This sounds intuitive; however, if we take, for example, a database of information, it is potentially possible to perform multiple statistical comparisons of groups within the database to find a statistically significant association. This could then lead one to work backward from the data and develop the “question.” This is counterintuitive to the process because the question is asked specifically to then find the answer, thus collecting data along the way (i.e., in a prospective manner). Multiple statistical testing of associations from data previously collected could potentially lead to spuriously positive findings of association through chance alone. 2 Therefore, a good hypothesis must be based on a good research question at the start of a trial and, indeed, drive data collection for the study.

The research or clinical hypothesis is developed from the research question and then the main elements of the study — sampling strategy, intervention (if applicable), comparison and outcome variables — are summarized in a form that establishes the basis for testing, statistical and ultimately clinical significance. 3 For example, in a research study comparing computer-assisted acetabular component insertion versus freehand acetabular component placement in patients in need of total hip arthroplasty, the experimental group would be computer-assisted insertion and the control/conventional group would be free-hand placement. The investigative team would first state a research hypothesis. This could be expressed as a single outcome (e.g., computer-assisted acetabular component placement leads to improved functional outcome) or potentially as a complex/composite outcome; that is, more than one outcome (e.g., computer-assisted acetabular component placement leads to both improved radiographic cup placement and improved functional outcome).

However, when formally testing statistical significance, the hypothesis should be stated as a “null” hypothesis. 2 The purpose of hypothesis testing is to make an inference about the population of interest on the basis of a random sample taken from that population. The null hypothesis for the preceding research hypothesis then would be that there is no difference in mean functional outcome between the computer-assisted insertion and free-hand placement techniques. After forming the null hypothesis, the researchers would form an alternate hypothesis stating the nature of the difference, if it should appear. The alternate hypothesis would be that there is a difference in mean functional outcome between these techniques. At the end of the study, the null hypothesis is then tested statistically. If the findings of the study are not statistically significant (i.e., there is no difference in functional outcome between the groups in a statistical sense), we cannot reject the null hypothesis, whereas if the findings were significant, we can reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternate hypothesis (i.e., there is a difference in mean functional outcome between the study groups), errors in testing notwithstanding. In other words, hypothesis testing confirms or refutes the statement that the observed findings did not occur by chance alone but rather occurred because there was a true difference in outcomes between these surgical procedures. The concept of statistical hypothesis testing is complex, and the details are beyond the scope of this article.

Another important concept inherent in hypothesis testing is whether the hypotheses will be 1-sided or 2-sided. A 2-sided hypothesis states that there is a difference between the experimental group and the control group, but it does not specify in advance the expected direction of the difference. For example, we asked whether there is there an improvement in outcomes with computer-assisted surgery or whether the outcomes worse with computer-assisted surgery. We presented a 2-sided test in the above example because we did not specify the direction of the difference. A 1-sided hypothesis states a specific direction (e.g., there is an improvement in outcomes with computer-assisted surgery). A 2-sided hypothesis should be used unless there is a good justification for using a 1-sided hypothesis. As Bland and Atlman 8 stated, “One-sided hypothesis testing should never be used as a device to make a conventionally nonsignificant difference significant.”

The research hypothesis should be stated at the beginning of the study to guide the objectives for research. Whereas the investigators may state the hypothesis as being 1-sided (there is an improvement with treatment), the study and investigators must adhere to the concept of clinical equipoise. According to this principle, a clinical (or surgical) trial is ethical only if the expert community is uncertain about the relative therapeutic merits of the experimental and control groups being evaluated. 9 It means there must exist an honest and professional disagreement among expert clinicians about the preferred treatment. 9

Designing a research hypothesis is supported by a good research question and will influence the type of research design for the study. Acting on the principles of appropriate hypothesis development, the study can then confidently proceed to the development of the research objective.

Research objective

The primary objective should be coupled with the hypothesis of the study. Study objectives define the specific aims of the study and should be clearly stated in the introduction of the research protocol. 7 From our previous example and using the investigative hypothesis that there is a difference in functional outcomes between computer-assisted acetabular component placement and free-hand placement, the primary objective can be stated as follows: this study will compare the functional outcomes of computer-assisted acetabular component insertion versus free-hand placement in patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty. Note that the study objective is an active statement about how the study is going to answer the specific research question. Objectives can (and often do) state exactly which outcome measures are going to be used within their statements. They are important because they not only help guide the development of the protocol and design of study but also play a role in sample size calculations and determining the power of the study. 7 These concepts will be discussed in other articles in this series.

From the surgeon’s point of view, it is important for the study objectives to be focused on outcomes that are important to patients and clinically relevant. For example, the most methodologically sound randomized controlled trial comparing 2 techniques of distal radial fixation would have little or no clinical impact if the primary objective was to determine the effect of treatment A as compared to treatment B on intraoperative fluoroscopy time. However, if the objective was to determine the effect of treatment A as compared to treatment B on patient functional outcome at 1 year, this would have a much more significant impact on clinical decision-making. Second, more meaningful surgeon–patient discussions could ensue, incorporating patient values and preferences with the results from this study. 6 , 7 It is the precise objective and what the investigator is trying to measure that is of clinical relevance in the practical setting.

The following is an example from the literature about the relation between the research question, hypothesis and study objectives:

Study: Warden SJ, Metcalf BR, Kiss ZS, et al. Low-intensity pulsed ultrasound for chronic patellar tendinopathy: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Rheumatology 2008;47:467–71.

Research question: How does low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) compare with a placebo device in managing the symptoms of skeletally mature patients with patellar tendinopathy?

Research hypothesis: Pain levels are reduced in patients who receive daily active-LIPUS (treatment) for 12 weeks compared with individuals who receive inactive-LIPUS (placebo).

Objective: To investigate the clinical efficacy of LIPUS in the management of patellar tendinopathy symptoms.

The development of the research question is the most important aspect of a research project. A research project can fail if the objectives and hypothesis are poorly focused and underdeveloped. Useful tips for surgical researchers are provided in Box 3 . Designing and developing an appropriate and relevant research question, hypothesis and objectives can be a difficult task. The critical appraisal of the research question used in a study is vital to the application of the findings to clinical practice. Focusing resources, time and dedication to these 3 very important tasks will help to guide a successful research project, influence interpretation of the results and affect future publication efforts.

Tips for developing research questions, hypotheses and objectives for research studies

  • Perform a systematic literature review (if one has not been done) to increase knowledge and familiarity with the topic and to assist with research development.
  • Learn about current trends and technological advances on the topic.
  • Seek careful input from experts, mentors, colleagues and collaborators to refine your research question as this will aid in developing the research question and guide the research study.
  • Use the FINER criteria in the development of the research question.
  • Ensure that the research question follows PICOT format.
  • Develop a research hypothesis from the research question.
  • Develop clear and well-defined primary and secondary (if needed) objectives.
  • Ensure that the research question and objectives are answerable, feasible and clinically relevant.

FINER = feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, relevant; PICOT = population (patients), intervention (for intervention studies only), comparison group, outcome of interest, time.

Competing interests: No funding was received in preparation of this paper. Dr. Bhandari was funded, in part, by a Canada Research Chair, McMaster University.

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Research Skills for Students

  • The Research Question
  • Books and reference works
  • Journals and journal articles
  • Law - key reference sources
  • Scholarly, Popular, and Professional Sources
  • Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources
  • Sources and Information Needs
  • Creating a Search Strategy
  • Databases by function
  • Databases by subject or discipline
  • Databases by provider
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Current Opinion in Cell Biology
  • Academic Integrity
  • Using Endnote
  • Library Workshops & Tutorials
  • Master the University of Galway Library Catalogue

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Introduction

  • The Purpose of a Research Question
  • Narrowing Your Topic
  • Regular Questions VS Research Questions

Both professional researchers and successful student researchers develop research questions. That’s because research questions are more than handy tools; they are essential to the research process. By defining exactly what the researcher is trying to find out, these questions influence most of the rest of the steps taken to conduct the research. That’s true even if the research is not for academic purposes but for other areas of our lives.

For instance, if you’re seeking information about a health problem in order to learn whether you have anything to worry about, research questions will make it possible for you to more effectively decide whether to seek medical help–and how quickly.

Or, if you’re researching a potential employer, having developed and used research questions will mean you’re able to more confidently decide whether to apply for an internship or job there. The confidence you’ll have when making such decisions will come from knowing that the information they’re based on was gathered by conscious thought rather than serendipity and whim.

Red bird indicating self-assessment exercise.

For many students, having to start with a research question is the biggest difference between how they did research in secondary school and how they are required to carry out their college research projects.

It’s a process of working from the outside in: you start with the world of all possible topics (or your assigned topic) and narrow down until you’ve focused your interest enough to be able to tell precisely what you want to find out, instead of only what you want to “write about.”

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All Possible Topics  – You’ll need to narrow your topic in order to do research effectively. Without specific areas of focus, it will be hard to even know where to begin.

Assigned Topics  – Ideas about a narrower topic can come from anywhere. Often, a narrower topic boils down to deciding what’s interesting to you. One way to get ideas is to read background information in a source like Wikipedia.

Topic Narrowed by Initial Exploration  – It’s wise to do some more reading about that narrower topic to a) learn more about it and b) learn specialized terms used by professionals and scholars who study it.

Topic Narrowed to Research Question(s)  – A research question defines exactly what you are trying to find out. It will influence most of the steps you take to conduct the research.

  • Narrowing your topic quiz Test your topic narrowing skills!

Are research questions any different from most of the questions for which we seek information?

See how they’re different by looking over the examples of both kinds below.

EXAMPLES:  Regular vs. Research Questions

Regular Question:  What can I do about my insomnia?

Research Question:  How do flights more than 16 hours long affect the reflexes of commercial jet pilots?

Regular Question:  What is Mers?

Research Question:  How could decision making about whether to declare a pandemic be improved?

Regular Question:  Does MLA style recommend the use of generic male pronouns intended to refer to both males and females?

Research Question:  How do age, gender, IQ, and socioeconomic status affect whether students interpret generic male pronouns as referring to both males and females?

Developing a Research Question

The Influence of a Research Question

  • Watch this Video

For academic purposes, you may have to develop research questions to carry out both large and small assignments. A smaller assignment may be to do research for a class discussion or to, say, write a blog post for a class; larger assignments may have you conduct research and then report it in a lab report, poster, term paper, or article. For large projects, the research question (or questions) you develop will define or at least heavily influence:

  • Your  topic , in that research questions effectively narrow the topic you’ve first chosen or been assigned by your instructor.
  • What, if any,  hypotheses  you test.
  • Which  information sources  are relevant to your project.
  • Which  research methods  are appropriate.
  • What  claims  you can make or  conclusions  you can come to as a result of your research, including what  thesis statement  you should write for a term paper or what  results section  you should write about the data you collected in your own science or social science study

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Influence on a Thesis

Within an essay, poster, or term paper, the thesis is the researcher’s answer to the research question(s). So as you develop research questions, you are effectively specifying what any thesis in your project will be about. While perhaps many research questions could have come from your original topic, your question states exactly which one(s) your thesis will be answering.

For example

A topic that starts out as “desert symbiosis” could eventually lead to a research question that is “how does the diversity of bacteria in the gut of the Sonoran Desert termite contribute to the termite’s survival?” In turn, the researcher’s thesis will answer that particular research question instead of the numerous other questions that could have come from the desert symbiosis topic. Developing research questions is all part of a process that leads to greater and greater specificity for your project.

TIP: Don’t Make These Mistakes

Sometimes students inexperienced at working with research questions confuse them with the search statements they will type into the search box of a search engine or database when looking for sources for their project. Or, they confuse research questions with the thesis statement they will write when they report their research.

Red bird indicating self-assessment activity.

The steps for developing a research question, listed below, can help you organize your thoughts.

Step 1: Pick a topic (or consider the one assigned to you).

Step 2: Write a narrower/smaller topic that is related to the first.

Step 3: List some potential questions that could logically be asked in relation to the narrow topic.

Step 4: Pick the question that you are most interested in.

Step 5: Change that question you’re interested in so that it is more focused.

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MOVIE:  Developing Research Questions

As you view this short video on how to develop research questions, think about the steps. Which step do you think is easiest? Which do you think is hardest?

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  • The Correct Way to Do Your Research: 5 Tips for Students

Mastering the art of research is a fundamental skill that underpins academic success across all disciplines. Whether you’re embarking on a simple essay or delving into a complex thesis, the ability to conduct thorough and effective research is invaluable. Yet, many students find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available, struggling to sift through data, discern credible sources, and organize their findings cohesively. This challenge underscores the need for a structured approach to research, one that simplifies the process while enhancing the quality of the outcomes.

Recognizing the critical role research plays in academic achievement, this article aims to demystify the process, offering five key tips to guide students toward more productive and less stressful research experiences. These strategies are designed to not only streamline your research process but also improve the caliber of your work, potentially transforming the daunting task of starting to dissertation writing help into a more manageable and even enjoyable endeavor. By applying these tips, students can develop a robust framework for research that supports academic growth and fosters confidence in their ability to tackle complex topics.

Tip 1: Define Your Research Question Clearly

A well-defined research question is the cornerstone of any successful research endeavor. It guides the direction of your study, helping to focus your efforts on finding relevant information. Start by identifying the main topic or issue you wish to explore, then narrow it down to a specific question that is both clear and concise. This question should be specific enough to provide direction but broad enough to allow for comprehensive exploration. Examples of effective research questions include “What impact does daily technology use have on teenagers’ social skills?” or “How do renewable energy sources affect global economic policies?”

Tip 2: Use Reliable Sources

The credibility of your research largely depends on the sources you choose. To ensure your work is grounded in reliable information, prioritize sources that are peer-reviewed, such as academic journals, books published by reputable publishers, and websites with authoritative domain extensions (e.g., .edu, .gov). Utilize academic databases like JSTOR, PubMed, and Google Scholar to find scholarly articles. Additionally, learning to assess the author’s credentials, the publication date and the presence of citations can help you determine the reliability of your sources.

Tip 3: Organize Your Research Efficiently

An organized research process is key to managing the wealth of information you’ll encounter. Digital tools and software, such as citation management software like Zotero or EndNote, can be incredibly helpful for keeping track of sources, notes, and bibliographies. Creating a structured outline early on, based on your preliminary findings, can guide your research and writing process, ensuring that you cover all necessary aspects of your topic systematically. This approach not only saves time but also helps maintain a clear focus throughout your project.

Tip 4: Take Effective Notes

Effective note-taking is crucial for capturing important information and ideas from your sources. Develop a system that works for you, whether it’s digital note-taking apps, traditional notebooks, or annotated bibliographies. Focus on summarizing key points in your own words, which aids comprehension and helps avoid unintentional plagiarism. Be sure to record bibliographic details for each source, making it easier to cite them correctly in your work. Highlighting or color-coding can also be useful for categorizing notes by theme or relevance.

By adhering to these foundational tips, students can enhance their research skills, leading to more insightful, well-supported academic papers. The next steps will delve into evaluating and synthesizing information, rounding out the comprehensive guide to conducting effective research.

Tip 5: Evaluate and Synthesize Information

Critical evaluation is essential to differentiate between information that genuinely supports your research question and data that is irrelevant or biased. Assess each source’s purpose, its context, and the evidence it presents. Look for patterns and relationships between the information gathered from various sources. Synthesizing this information involves integrating ideas from multiple sources to construct a comprehensive understanding of your topic. This step is crucial for developing a well-argued thesis or research paper that reflects a deep understanding of the subject matter.

Incorporating Feedback and Revising

Once you’ve drafted your research paper, seeking feedback is a valuable step in refining your work. Share your draft with peers, mentors, or educators who can offer constructive criticism. Be open to suggestions and willing to revise your work based on this feedback. This iterative process of writing, receiving feedback, and revising helps enhance the clarity, coherence, and overall impact of your research.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical research practices are fundamental to maintaining the integrity of your academic work. This includes properly citing all sources to avoid plagiarism, ensuring the confidentiality and privacy of any participants if conducting original research, and being honest about the limitations of your study. Understanding and adhering to these ethical guidelines is crucial for building trust and credibility in your academic endeavors.

The Role of Technology in Research

Technology plays an increasingly significant role in the research process. From digital libraries and academic databases to specialized research software and plagiarism detection tools, leveraging technology can streamline the research process, enhance the quality of your work, and ensure its originality. Familiarize yourself with the technological tools available in your field of study to take full advantage of these resources.

Mastering the art of research is a journey that involves continuous learning, practice, and refinement. By defining clear research questions, utilizing reliable sources, organizing your research efficiently, taking effective notes, and critically evaluating and synthesizing information, you can elevate the quality of your academic work. Remember, incorporating feedback, adhering to ethical guidelines, and leveraging technology are also key components of successful research. For students seeking additional support, turning to the best paper writing service can provide guidance and assistance in navigating the complexities of academic writing and research. Ultimately, developing strong research skills is an investment in your academic success and a valuable asset in your future career.

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Research Question Examples 🧑🏻‍🏫

25+ Practical Examples & Ideas To Help You Get Started 

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | October 2023

A well-crafted research question (or set of questions) sets the stage for a robust study and meaningful insights.  But, if you’re new to research, it’s not always clear what exactly constitutes a good research question. In this post, we’ll provide you with clear examples of quality research questions across various disciplines, so that you can approach your research project with confidence!

Research Question Examples

  • Psychology research questions
  • Business research questions
  • Education research questions
  • Healthcare research questions
  • Computer science research questions

Examples: Psychology

Let’s start by looking at some examples of research questions that you might encounter within the discipline of psychology.

How does sleep quality affect academic performance in university students?

This question is specific to a population (university students) and looks at a direct relationship between sleep and academic performance, both of which are quantifiable and measurable variables.

What factors contribute to the onset of anxiety disorders in adolescents?

The question narrows down the age group and focuses on identifying multiple contributing factors. There are various ways in which it could be approached from a methodological standpoint, including both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Do mindfulness techniques improve emotional well-being?

This is a focused research question aiming to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific intervention.

How does early childhood trauma impact adult relationships?

This research question targets a clear cause-and-effect relationship over a long timescale, making it focused but comprehensive.

Is there a correlation between screen time and depression in teenagers?

This research question focuses on an in-demand current issue and a specific demographic, allowing for a focused investigation. The key variables are clearly stated within the question and can be measured and analysed (i.e., high feasibility).

Free Webinar: How To Find A Dissertation Research Topic

Examples: Business/Management

Next, let’s look at some examples of well-articulated research questions within the business and management realm.

How do leadership styles impact employee retention?

This is an example of a strong research question because it directly looks at the effect of one variable (leadership styles) on another (employee retention), allowing from a strongly aligned methodological approach.

What role does corporate social responsibility play in consumer choice?

Current and precise, this research question can reveal how social concerns are influencing buying behaviour by way of a qualitative exploration.

Does remote work increase or decrease productivity in tech companies?

Focused on a particular industry and a hot topic, this research question could yield timely, actionable insights that would have high practical value in the real world.

How do economic downturns affect small businesses in the homebuilding industry?

Vital for policy-making, this highly specific research question aims to uncover the challenges faced by small businesses within a certain industry.

Which employee benefits have the greatest impact on job satisfaction?

By being straightforward and specific, answering this research question could provide tangible insights to employers.

Examples: Education

Next, let’s look at some potential research questions within the education, training and development domain.

How does class size affect students’ academic performance in primary schools?

This example research question targets two clearly defined variables, which can be measured and analysed relatively easily.

Do online courses result in better retention of material than traditional courses?

Timely, specific and focused, answering this research question can help inform educational policy and personal choices about learning formats.

What impact do US public school lunches have on student health?

Targeting a specific, well-defined context, the research could lead to direct changes in public health policies.

To what degree does parental involvement improve academic outcomes in secondary education in the Midwest?

This research question focuses on a specific context (secondary education in the Midwest) and has clearly defined constructs.

What are the negative effects of standardised tests on student learning within Oklahoma primary schools?

This research question has a clear focus (negative outcomes) and is narrowed into a very specific context.

Need a helping hand?

study skills research questions

Examples: Healthcare

Shifting to a different field, let’s look at some examples of research questions within the healthcare space.

What are the most effective treatments for chronic back pain amongst UK senior males?

Specific and solution-oriented, this research question focuses on clear variables and a well-defined context (senior males within the UK).

How do different healthcare policies affect patient satisfaction in public hospitals in South Africa?

This question is has clearly defined variables and is narrowly focused in terms of context.

Which factors contribute to obesity rates in urban areas within California?

This question is focused yet broad, aiming to reveal several contributing factors for targeted interventions.

Does telemedicine provide the same perceived quality of care as in-person visits for diabetes patients?

Ideal for a qualitative study, this research question explores a single construct (perceived quality of care) within a well-defined sample (diabetes patients).

Which lifestyle factors have the greatest affect on the risk of heart disease?

This research question aims to uncover modifiable factors, offering preventive health recommendations.

Research topic evaluator

Examples: Computer Science

Last but certainly not least, let’s look at a few examples of research questions within the computer science world.

What are the perceived risks of cloud-based storage systems?

Highly relevant in our digital age, this research question would align well with a qualitative interview approach to better understand what users feel the key risks of cloud storage are.

Which factors affect the energy efficiency of data centres in Ohio?

With a clear focus, this research question lays a firm foundation for a quantitative study.

How do TikTok algorithms impact user behaviour amongst new graduates?

While this research question is more open-ended, it could form the basis for a qualitative investigation.

What are the perceived risk and benefits of open-source software software within the web design industry?

Practical and straightforward, the results could guide both developers and end-users in their choices.

Remember, these are just examples…

In this post, we’ve tried to provide a wide range of research question examples to help you get a feel for what research questions look like in practice. That said, it’s important to remember that these are just examples and don’t necessarily equate to good research topics . If you’re still trying to find a topic, check out our topic megalist for inspiration.

study skills research questions

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Federation University Study Skills

Designing a research question

There are a number of steps to take in designing a research question:

  • Finding a topic
  • Researching the topic and finding a theme
  • Narrowing down
  • Turning your narrow sub-topic into a question
  • Testing and refining your question

1. Finding a topic

The first step before arriving at a good research question is to think about a general topic area. It should be an area that is interesting to you obviously, and interesting to anyone likely to assess your research proposal .  If they are unlikely to find your topic interesting, they probably won’t respond well to the research question.

To do this, it’s good to think in terms of “hot”, “luke-warm” and “cold” topics (Davies, 2022).

  • Hot topics are at the cutting edge of research. Hundreds, if not thousands of publications are produced daily around the world in these areas—media articles too. Research grants are widely available. Examples include the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine development, cancer research, the impact of climate change on weather patterns, ‘green’ energy, driverless cars, carbon capture and storage, etc.
  • Luke-warm topics: These are topical but less “hot”. They might be regularly discussed in the scholarly literature, but not on a daily basis. The impact of deforestation on the habitat of fruit bats is an example. It’s important (especially to ecologists) but hardly cutting edge.
  • Cold topics have had their day. They might have been important decades ago, but they hardly rate a mention in scholarship these days, and certainly don’t feature in the media. The Marxist revolution in Cuba or St Anselm’s third version of the ontological argument for God’s existence are examples. There’s nothing wrong with cold topics, but they appeal to a very narrow sectional interest groups.

“Hot topics” are great as they will ensure your research has currency and will potentially lead to spin-off research projects and possible future funding down the track. However, topics don’t remain “hot”—what it “hot” now might be cold or luke-warm by the time you have finished your research project. Another disadvantage is the vast quantity of publications you will have to keep abreast of on a daily basis. Finally, a hot topic also means difficulties in finding a good research question as other researchers may have ‘beaten you to it’, or it might be a question that has been ‘done to death’. As they are “hot” topics—with many scholars around the world working on them—there is also the problem that by the time your have finished your thesis, others may have ‘pipped you at the post’, i.e., made the same original contribution that you intended to make.

“Luke-warm” topics have a reduced range of scholarly papers being published regularly so it is easier to become familiar, and possibly to cultivate expertise, in the area. Something “warm” can later become “hot” too, and if you choose wisely you might be at the vanguard of a promising and developing new area later on. This is obviously a good thing.

“Cold topics” have been debated and discussed for decades (if not centuries). Interest in these area has lapsed for all except for specialists in the field. There is little recent research on these areas, and in pursuing them your work will lack currency. It is not unknown for a “cold” topic to re-emerge as a warm topic however (e.g., the 18th century Gallian idea of faculty psychology re-emerged into modularity of brain functions in late-20th century cognitive science) but you’d need to be pretty confident you were onto something that had the potential to be of contemporary interest to other scholars. 

In general, luke-warm topics are a better bet, but hot topics are good too—with reservations. Find one, then move to step 2.

2. Researching the topic area and finding a theme

Spend several weeks reading in your topic area. Make sure you read periodical articles as well as scholarly books, and book chapters.  You will start to notice regular themes emerging. These are sub-topics within the main topic area. You may like to do a mind map of these themes. Here is one on intelligence in the discipline of psychology:

study skills research questions

Now try to choose a sub-topic or theme within your chosen research area. It’s a good idea to let your emotional reaction to these themes guide you here. Which arouses your intellectual passions? Which theme has been a topic of discussion with other colleagues? Which one do you read most about—because it sparks something in you?

Alternatively, your choice might be guided by a problem area . This is an area of scholarship where the literature exposes a persistent research problem. An example might be the increasing rates of autism in children and the causes of this. Statistics show that this condition is on the rise, and there is no satisfactory explanation for it.

Whether you rely on your emotional response to a topic, or are guided by a research problem , remember that, if you are doing a PhD you will be working on the the topic for many years. It has to be something that fascinates you. You might decide, for example that ‘savant syndrome’ is your narrow field of interest. From this, you move to the third stage.

3. Narrowing down

Now that you have found a sub-area or theme within a topic of interest you need to narrow down further. It’s insufficient to construct a research question such as What is savant syndrome? That’s far too broad. To develop a more refined question, you need to read more about the specific area and narrow down the sub-topic ever further. It has to be as narrow and specialised as possible without losing your interest. For example:

study skills research questions

This step is essential for developing a research question, which is the next step.

4. Turning your narrow sub-topic into a question

The task now is to create a question that will simultaneously be broad enough to allow for sustained scholarship in the area, and yet not so wide as to lead to spill-over into adjacent related areas. If there is spill-over it might make the focus of your question unclear. You don’t want to start researching other types of savant syndrome, or other brain disfunctions. This would result in a loss of focus. Avoiding this problem means refining and testing your question.

Open, not closed: The question should also be “open”, not “closed”, i.e., not lead to a superficial ‘yes/no’ response, but rather open-up opportunities for debate and reflection. For example:

  • Is there left hemisphere disfunction in middle-aged autistic females?

is a closed question. The more detailed question:

  • Is there statistically significant rates of left hemisphere disfunction in middle-aged autistic females and does this correlate with evidence of savant syndrome?

while a better question is still a closed question. The answers they foster are ‘yes/no’ answers. But things might not be so unsubtle. It might be a matter of balance: In some cases there might be a statistically significant rate, but in other circumstances there might not be. By asking a closed question you are effectively closing down the debate.

Getting the right question starter: Asking questions in such a way already limits the range of the study that you undertake and closes down opportunities for analysis. Instead, use an “open” question that uses question-starters like:

  • How … Why … Is… and To what extent ….

For example:

  • To what extent do statistically significant rates of left hemisphere disfunction occur in middle-aged autistic females and does this correlate with evidence of savant syndrome?  

This opens the issue up to permit discussion and debate. How it is answered becomes a matter of degree. To take another example:

  • Should the constitution be changed so that the President of the US can serve more than two terms?  

That’s a closed question. A subtler question might be:

  • To what extent is there merit in amending the US constitution to admit of changes to presidential term limits?   

Which question is likely to lead to fruitful discussion and debate? Clearly, it is the “open” question.

Here are some alternative question types and research question formulations you might like to consider.

5. Testing and refining your question

Testing and refining: You should not rest with your first iteration of a question however. It needs to be assessed by scholars in your field of study who know the area.

This is where your colleagues come in. Shop your question around with your colleagues in departmental seminars and get their opinion.

  • Is the question clear?
  • Is it interesting?
  • Is it sufficiently focussed?
  • Is it complex and subtle enough?
  • Is it researchable ? (Can research actually be done on the topic?)
  • Is there likely to be sufficient, current literature in the area? (insufficient literature might mean a “cold” topic; too much literature might mean the field is overdone).

You are now in the position to begin your deep dive into the literature and to start on your Literature review.

References and further reading

  • Cougle, B. (2012). Psychology, Chapter 11. Intelligence. https://www.mindmeister.com/80682022/psychology-ch-11-intelligence
  • Davies, M. (2022). Study skills for international postgraduates. Bloomsbury.
  • McCombes, S. (2021). Developing strong research questions. Criteria and examples. https://www.scribbr.com/research-process/research-questions/

For a downloadable helpsheet, see Designing and Research Question. See also:

  • Abstracts, Structured Abstracts and Executive Summaries
  • The Introduction and the research gap
  • Writing a Literature Review
  • Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and Meta-analyses
  • Writing a Scoping Review or Systematic Review
  • The Methodology, Methods and Procedure Sections
  • The Results section
  • Presenting data
  • The Discussion Section

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Expert Commentary

Eight questions to ask when interpreting academic studies: A primer for media

Scholarly research is a great source for rigorous, unbiased information, but making judgments about its quality can be difficult. Here are some important questions to ask when reading studies.

NIH scientists (niams.nih.gov)

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Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License .

by Justin Feldman and John Wihbey, The Journalist's Resource March 26, 2015

This <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org/home/interpreting-academic-studies-primer-media/">article</a> first appeared on <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org">The Journalist's Resource</a> and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.<img src="https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/cropped-jr-favicon-150x150.png" style="width:1em;height:1em;margin-left:10px;">

Reading scholarly studies can help journalists integrate rigorous, unbiased sources of information into their reporting. These studies are typically carried out by professors and professional researchers — at universities, think tanks and government institutions — and are published through a peer-review process in which those familiar with the study area ensure that there are no major flaws.

Even for people who carry out research, however, interpreting scientific (and social science) studies and making judgments about their quality can be difficult tasks. In a now-famous article, Stanford professor John Ioannidis argues that “ most published research findings are false ” due to inherent limitations in how researchers design studies. (Health and medical studies can be particularly attractive to media, but be aware that there is a long history of faulty findings .) Occasionally, too, studies can be the product of outright fraud: A 1998 study falsely linking vaccines and autism is now perhaps the canonical example, as it spurred widespread and long-lasting societal damage . Journalists should also always examine the funding sources behind the study, which are frequently declared at the study’s conclusion.

Before journalists write about research and speak with authors, they should be able to both interpret a study’s results generally and understand the appropriate degree of skepticism that a given study’s findings warrant. This requires data literacy , some familiarity with statistical terms and a basic knowledge of hypothesis testing and construction of theories .

Journalists should also be well aware that most academic research contains careful qualifications about findings. The common complaint from scientists and social scientists is that news media tend to pump up findings and hype studies through catchy headlines, distorting public understanding. But landmark studies sometimes do no more than tighten the margin of error around a given measurement — not inherently flashy, but intriguing to an audience if explained with rich context and clear presentation.

Here are some important questions to ask when reading a scientific study:

1. What are the researchers’ hypotheses?

A hypothesis is a research question that a study seeks to answer. Sometimes researchers state their hypotheses explicitly, but more often their research questions are implicit. Hypotheses are testable assertions usually involving the relationship between two variables. In a study of smoking and lung cancer, the hypothesis might be that smokers develop lung cancer at a higher rate than non-smokers over a five-year period.

It is also important to note that there are formal definitions of null and alternative hypotheses for use with statistical analysis.

2. What are the independent and dependent variables?

Independent variables are factors that influence particular outcomes. Dependent variables are measures of the outcomes themselves. In the study assessing the relationship between smoking and lung cancer, smoking is the independent variable because the researcher assumes it predicts lung cancer, the dependent variable. (Some fields use related terms such as “exposure” and “outcome.”)

Pay particular attention to how the researchers define all of the variables — there can be quite a bit of nuance in the definitions. Also look at the methods by which the researchers measure the variables. Generally speaking, a variable measured using a subject’s response to a survey question is less trustworthy than one measured through more objective means — reviewing laboratory findings in their medical records, for example.

3. What is the unit of analysis?

For most studies involving human subjects, the individual person is the unit of analysis. However, studies are sometimes interested in a different level of analysis that makes comparisons between classrooms, hospitals, schools or states, for example, rather than between individuals.

4. How well does the study design address causation?

Most studies identify correlations or associations between variables, but typically the ultimate goal is to determine causation . Certain study designs are more useful than others for the purpose of determining causation.

At the most basic level, studies can be placed into one of two categories: experimental and observational . In experimental studies, the researchers decide who is exposed to the independent variable and who is not. In observational studies, the researchers do not have any control over who is exposed to the independent variable — instead they make comparisons between groups that are already different from one another. In nearly all cases, experimental studies provide stronger evidence than observational studies.

Here are descriptions of some of the most common study designs, presented along with their respective values for inferring causation:

  • Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), also known as clinical trials, are experimental studies that are considered the “gold standard” in research. Out of all study designs, they have the most value for determining causation although they do have limitations. In an RCT, researchers randomly divide subjects into at least two groups: One that receives a treatment, and the other — the control group — that receives either no treatment or a simulated version of the treatment called a placebo . The independent variable in these experiments is whether or not the subject receives the real treatment. Ideally an RCT should be double-blind — the participants should not know to which treatment group they have been assigned, nor should the study staff know. This arrangement helps to avoid bias. Researchers commonly use RCTs to meet regulatory requirements, such as evaluating pharmaceuticals for the Food and Drug Administration. Due to issues of cost, logistics and ethics, RCTs are fairly uncommon for other purposes. Example: “ Short-Term Soy Isoflavone Intervention in Patients with Localized Prostate Cancer ”
  • Longitudinal studies , like RCTs, follow the same subjects over a given time period. Unlike in RCTs, they are observational. Researchers do not assign the independent variable in longitudinal studies — they instead observe what happens in the real world. A longitudinal study might compare the risk for heart disease among one group of people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution to the risk of heart disease among another group exposed to low levels of air pollution. The problem is that, because there is no random assignment, the groups may differ from one another in other important ways and, as a result, we cannot completely isolate the effects of air pollution. These differences result in confounding and other forms of bias. For that reason, longitudinal studies have less validity for inferring causation than RCTs and other experimental study designs. Longitudinal studies have more validity than other kinds of observational studies, however. Example: “ Mood after Moderate and Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: A Prospective Cohort Study ”
  • Case-control studies are technically a type of longitudinal study, but they are unique enough to discuss separately. Common in public health and medical research, case-control studies begin with a group of people who have already developed a particular disease and compare them to a similar but disease-free group recruited by the researchers. These studies are more likely to suffer from bias than other longitudinal studies for two reasons. First, they are always retrospective , meaning they collect data about independent variables years after the exposures of interest occurred — sometimes even after the subject has died. Second, the group of disease-free people is very likely to differ from the group that developed the disease, creating a substantial risk for confounding. Example: “ Risk Factors for Preeclampsia in Women from Colombia ”.
  • Cross-sectional studies are a kind of observational study that measure both dependent and independent variables at a single point in time. Although researchers may administer the same cross-sectional survey every few years, they do not follow the same subjects over time. An important part of determining causation is establishing that the independent variable occurred for a given subject before the dependent variable occurred. But because they do not measure the variables over time, cross-sectional studies cannot determine that a hypothesized cause precedes its effect, so the design is limited to making inferences about correlations rather than causation. Example : “ Physical Predictors of Cognitive Performance in Healthy Older Adults ”
  • Ecological studies are observational studies that are similar to cross-sectional studies except that they measure at least one variable on the group-level rather that the subject-level. For example, an ecological study may look at the relationship between individuals’ meat consumption and their incidence of colon cancer. But rather than using individual-level data, the study relies on national cancer rates and national averages for meat consumption. While it might seem that higher meat consumption is linked to a higher risk of cancer, there is no way to know if the individuals eating more meat within a country are the same people who are more likely to develop cancer. This means that ecological studies are not only inadequate for inferring causation, they are also inadequate for establishing a correlation. As a consequence, they should be regarded with strong skepticism. Example: “ A Multi-country Ecological Study of Cancer Incidence Rates in 2008 with Respect to Various Risk-Modifying Factors ”
  • Systematic reviews are surveys of existing studies on a given topic. Investigators specify inclusion and exclusion criteria to weed out studies that are either irrelevant to their research question or poorly designed. Using keywords, they systematically search research databases, present the findings of the studies they include and draw conclusions based on their consideration of the findings. Assuming that the review includes only well-designed studies, systematic reviews are more useful for inferring causation than any single well-designed study. Example: “ Enablers and Barriers to Large-Scale Uptake of Improved Solid Fuel Stoves. ” For a sense of how systematic reviews are interpreted and used by researchers in the field, see “How to Read a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis and Apply the Results to Patient Care,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA.)
  • Meta-analyses are similar to systematic reviews but use the original data from all included studies to create a new analysis. As a result, a meta-analysis is able to draw conclusions that are more meaningful than a systematic review. Again, a meta-analysis is more useful for inferring causation than any single study, assuming that all studies are well-designed. Example: “ Occupational Exposure to Asbestos and Ovarian Cancer ”

5. What are the study’s results?

There are several aspects involved in understanding a study’s results:

  • Understand whether or not the study found statistically significant relationships between the dependent and independent variables. If the relationship is statistically significant, it means that any difference observed between groups is unlikely to be due to random chance. P-values help researchers to decide whether observed differences are simply due to chance or represent a true difference between groups.
  • If the relationship is statistically significant, it is then important to determine the effect size , which is the size of the difference observed between the groups. Subjects enrolled in a weight loss program may have experienced a statistically significant reduction in weight compared to those in a control group, but is that difference one ounce, one pound or ten pounds? There are myriad ways in which studies present effect sizes — such obscure terms as regression coefficients, odds ratios, and population attributable fractions may come into play. Unfortunately, research articles sometimes fail to interpret effect sizes in words. In these cases, it may be best to consult an expert to help develop a plain-English interpretation.
  • Even if there is a statistically significant difference between comparison groups, this does not mean the effect size is meaningful. A weight loss program that leads to a total weight reduction of one ounce on average or a policy that saves one life out of a billion may not be meaningful. Again, consulting an expert in the field can help to determine how meaningful an effect size is, a determination that is ultimately a subjective judgment call.

6. How generalizable are the results?

Study results are useful because they help us make inferences about the relationship between independent and dependent variables among a larger population. The subjects enrolled in the study must be similar to those in the larger population, however, in order to generalize the findings. Even a perfectly designed study may be of limited value when its results cannot be generalized. It is important to pay attention to the composition of the study sample. If the unit of analysis is the individual, important factors to consider regarding the group’s composition include age, race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. While some samples are deliberately constructed to be representative of a country or region, most are not.

7. What limitations do the authors note?

Within a research article, authors often state some of the study’s limitations explicitly. This information can be very helpful in determining the strength of the evidence presented in the study.

8. What conclusions do similar studies draw?

With some notable exceptions, a single study is unlikely to fundamentally change what is already known about the research question it addresses. It is important to compare a new study’s findings to existing studies that address similar research questions, particularly systematic reviews or meta-analyses if available.

Further: One hidden form of bias that is easily missed is what’s called “selecting on the dependent variable,” which is the research practice of focusing on only those areas where there are effects and ignoring ones where there are not. This can lead to exaggerated conclusions (and thereby false media narratives). For example, it is tempting to say that “science has become polarized,” as survey data suggest significant differences in public opinion on issues such as climate change, vaccinations and nuclear power. However, on most scientific issues, there is almost no public debate or controversy . Additionally, the reality of “publication bias” — academic journals have traditionally been more interested in publishing studies that show effects, rather than no effects — can create a biased incentive structure that distorts larger truths.

For an updated overview, see a 2014 paper by Stanford’s John Ioannidis, “How to Make More Published Research True.”

Keywords: training

About the Authors

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Justin Feldman

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John Wihbey

Research and study skills

Our research and study skills support programme provides learners with access to a range of activities and resources to excel in their research assignment.

Extended project qualification

The extended project qualification (EPQ) is an independent research project undertaken by students in post-16 education. It’s a great way for students to develop their academic research skills, prepare for university study and can often make a difference to their application success. 

A variety of online resources can also be accessed by students, in their own time, on our digital hub .

We offer a range of activities to support students, and teachers delivering the taught skills element of the EPQ. All our sessions are interactive, requiring an element of class participation – this can be facilitated by us in person, or online.

The following workshops are listed in order of Beginning (B), Middle (M) and End (E) to illustrate the provision of support available to your students through their EPQ journey. If you would like to book an activity, please email the education outreach team at [email protected] .

Choosing a topic and writing a research question (B)

Duration: 60 minutes

This workshop focuses on selecting a topic for the EPQ and writing a research question. We help students identify their topic and plan their research around an appropriate EPQ question. This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for those at the beginning of their EPQ journey.

Critical thinking (B)

Duration:  60 minutes  

This workshop introduces students to critical thinking and explores some of the skills students need to develop their critical thinking. Students will analyse a wide variety of sources and learn to think critically about the information presented to them. This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for those at the beginning of their EPQ journey.  

Starting to research (B)

This session gives an overview of academic research and provides students with a basic framework to support them on their research project journey. Students will follow a case study and develop ideas around a topic to strengthen their understanding of research skills in relation to their own work.  This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for those at the beginning of their EPQ journey.

Note making for the EPQ (B)

This workshop explores academic note making and the different techniques that can be used. Students will reflect on their note making abilities and develop their understanding of how to create meaningful notes.  This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for those at the beginning of their EPQ journey.

Time and project management (B)

This workshop introduces students to the basic frameworks which support time and project management. Students will learn the skills needed to manage their time more effectively and productively, whilst developing an awareness of health, safety and risk management. Students will also explore the importance of communication skills to help them develop an understanding of using appropriate language and tone when working with others. This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for those at the beginning of their EPQ journey.

Research ethics and methodologies (M)

Duration: 60 minutes 

This workshop introduces students to the principles of ethics and the research methods to inform their EPQ projects. Students will engage with different research methodologies – including those which are most common in university level study – and be guided through the ethical considerations when undertaking a research project.  This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for those in the middle of their EPQ journey.

Academic writing (M)

Duration : 60 minutes  

This workshop explores academic writing and the different writing stages involved when undertaking an independent research project. Students will reflect on their research question and develop their skills around understanding the key elements of composing an essay, including editing and proofreading. This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for those in the middle of their EPQ journey.  

Referencing and plagiarism (M)

Duration: 60 minutes   

This session explores referencing and the different styles students may encounter while researching their topic. Students will consider what it means to plagiarise the work of themselves – or others – and learn how to avoid doing so. This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for students in the middle of their EPQ journey.  

How to read an online journal (M)

This workshop helps students to start navigating the world of online journals. Students will explore what online journals are, why they are useful, the challenges they can create, and how to overcome these to successfully use them in their own EPQ. A fully interactive workshop with guided activities which will help students practice their newfound skills. 

Presentation skills (E)

Duration: 60 minutes  

This workshop introduces students to the different skills needed to deliver a strong presentation at the end of their research project. Students will reflect on their research and develop ideas for their presentation such as a PowerPoint or poster. This workshop is designed to build students’ confidence and prepare them for the final stage of their EPQ. This workshop uses interactive elements to incorporate into the student’s production log and is most appropriate for those at the end of their EPQ journey. 

Exam study skills

Our range of interactive exam skills workshops are designed to support the development of students’ study skills for exam success. Our programme provides tools and techniques for students to prepare for exams and supports the student journey from further education to university study. The following sessions are listed in order of how they can support the academic lifecycle from Year 11 onwards.

Note making for revision

We explore the skills required to make good notes and the different techniques students can use when revising. Students will reflect on their note making abilities and develop their skills around understanding the importance of making effective notes for revision. This workshop uses interactive elements for students to discuss note making scenarios and reflect on their approaches.

Managing your study time

This workshop explores the skills required to manage independent study time. Students will learn the skills required to manage their time effectively and productively, and consider on how they would manage competing pressures and obstacles. This workshop uses interactive elements for students to discuss time management scenarios and reflect on their decision making processes. 

Managing exam anxiety

This session explores anxiety within the context of exams and is designed to normalise exam nerves by helping students understand where their exam anxiety stems from and what they can do to help manage it in the lead up to exams. This workshop also considers student mental health/wellbeing and provides advice on where students can get support if they are struggling.

Preparing and revising for exams

This workshop is designed to equip students with effective tools and techniques for revision and exam preparation. We explore time management, the different strategies that can be used for revision and methods to avoid/manage distractions. This interactive workshop requires participation from students and is best suited to delivery via Mentimeter, or by working with small groups. 

Understanding the question and writing and essay

This session is designed to support students in their understanding of a question and how to approach writing an essay. The skills covered in this workshop are applicable to both exam-based and coursework-based questions. Students will develop their skills around breaking down an essay question, understanding instructional verbs and writing within the parameters set in the question. The workshop guides students through a basic essay framework and provides tips on how to develop an academic writing structure, form a conclusion and incorporate evidence into an essay.

New online course: skills to succeed at university

We have created a new online course to help students transition to higher education smoothly. Designed to be flexible so students can learn at a time and pace that best suits them, the course covers essential academic skills such as essay writing and independent learning. 

Current students who came to the University through different routes – after completing a BTEC, A-levels or as mature students – also provide first-hand advice on how to start and thrive at university. 

Interested students can  register on the skills to succeed at university course via the FutureLearn platform .

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Black History Month for Kids: Google Slides, Resources, and More!

Ultimate Study Skills Guide: Tips, Tricks, and Strategies for Every Grade

Because they really do need to learn how to learn.

WeAreTeachers study skills guide.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that study skills are life skills. Taking good notes, creating a focused workspace, managing distractions, making plans—any and all of these are skills people of all ages use every single day. Taking time to teach good study skills up front can equip students to succeed in school and beyond.

We’ve broken down many of the top study skills students need, including examples by grade level. Remember that there are a lot of different ways to study successfully. Offer students options and help them find the strategies that work best for them.

Study Spaces

Organization and time management study skills, learning styles, taking and using notes, effective reading study skills, completing assignments, test taking, finding help.

Study spaces.

Choosing the right place to study is the first step to good study skills. Teach students to consider these elements.

Choose Your Space

For some students, this means a dedicated study space like a desk in their room. Others may prefer to curl up in a chair with a lap desk or work at a table in a common space. Whichever they choose, it should be an area that’s dedicated to study while they’re using it.

Homework desk in child's bedroom with supplies they can use to build study skills

Source: organizeandarrangeit/Instagram

  • Elementary School: Many students begin doing homework on the dining room or kitchen table, where parents can supervise. As students get older, encourage them to explore other spaces too, especially those where they can work independently.
  • Middle School: By this age, kids will probably need a dedicated study space of their own, where they can keep supplies and works-in-progress. If that’s not possible, create a bin or box where they can store stuff while they’re not using it, then pull it out when it’s time to study.
  • High School: Older students should be able to carve out a study space pretty much anywhere, since that’s something they’ll need to be able to do in the working world too. As long as they’re able to concentrate and get their work done, don’t be too picky about where they choose to do it.

Make Yourself Comfortable

“Comfortable” looks different for every person, so don’t assume all kids need to be sitting at a desk to work well. At the same time, they shouldn’t be so comfortable that they’ll fall asleep!

  • Elementary School: When kids are doing independent reading, let them choose any spot they like. For other work, make sure they have a sturdy writing surface, like a table or lap desk. Ensure they have enough light to see what they’re doing, and teach them good posture if they’re sitting in a chair so they don’t develop stiff muscles.
  • Middle and High School: Show them how to adjust the font size on screens so they’re not squinting to read. Encourage them to use blue light filters if they’re spending a lot of time on computers.

Manage Distractions

Learning to concentrate while ignoring distractions is a key life skill, and one that we all need to develop. Some students will have no trouble tuning things out, while others are going to need a lot of help with this one.

  • Elementary School: Kids at this age are very easily distracted, so their study space should be as calm as possible. If a quiet room isn’t available, they might need noise-canceling headphones or even a white-noise machine to help them concentrate. Muting the TV isn’t enough—be sure it’s off completely. Remind friends and siblings to leave kids alone while they’re working.
  • Middle School: These kids are old enough to recognize distractions but might still have trouble handling them. Encourage them to turn off phones and electronics (although some students are fine listening to music while they work). Students at this age are old enough to politely ask friends or family not to interrupt them while they work.
  • High School: By this time, students know that the world is full of distractions and you can’t quiet them all. But you can teach them to mute their phone and messaging notifications, close all unnecessary windows on their laptops, and be firm about letting others know they need to be left alone to study.

Gather Your Supplies

One way to eliminate distractions is to ensure you have everything you need in place before you start. This includes books, notes, office supplies, and more. All kids should have water and some healthy snacks on hand too.

Study skills supplies caddy

Source: jugglingactmama/Instagram

  • Elementary School: Having a dedicated, well-stocked study space makes it much easier for kids to settle down to their work. Keep a supply of sharpened pencils, glue sticks, scissors, markers, and other items in a nearby drawer or a bin they can grab when they’re ready to get started.
  • Middle School: Students this age likely keep just about everything they need in their backpacks, so they’ll want it nearby when they study. Remind them to restock their supplies once a week (including sharpening pencils in advance).
  • High School: Depending on the assignment, these students may not need a lot of physical supplies, but they should still gather any books, notes, laptops, pens and highlighters, etc., they need before they settle in for a study session.

Organization and time management study skills.

These two study skills are also vital life skills, so the sooner kids learn them, the better. They’ll be grateful later in life!

Use a Homework Planner

As soon as kids starting having any kind of homework, they need a planner. For younger students, this could be a daily take-home folder, while older kids will need a more sophisticated system. Either way, use it consistently so it becomes a habit.

  • Elementary School: Take-home folders are perfect for organizing worksheets and other assignments. Put unfinished work on the left and finished work on the right. Use sticky notes on the worksheets or the front of the folder to write reminders about what needs to be done, including any due dates. Parents of younger students can review these folders each day, while upper elementary kids should mostly be able to keep track of things on their own.

Green homework folder with cutout hand that says Left at Home and Right Back to School

Source: Busy Classroom

  • Middle School: Use a planner notebook that includes calendars to help keep track of long-term assignments, with pages for daily notes and to-do lists. Teach students to make notes in them during class or immediately after, and start every study session by reviewing any current assignments and their due dates.

Example of a weekly middle school planner filled out by a student to build their study skills

Source: Starts at Eight

  • High School: Kids can continue using paper planners, or transition to online calendars or apps. Show them how to set useful reminders online, so things don’t slip through the cracks.

Example of high school planner filled out on a wooden table with pen and sticky notes

Source: LP Tutoring

Create a Daily Study Plan

When kids sit down to tackle the day’s work, encourage them to begin by making a plan. Assess what needs to be done, estimate the amount of time it will take, and decide what to do first.

Sample homework study plan with times.

Source: Beyond Booksmart

  • Elementary School: Parents and young kids should sit down together to look over the day’s assignments and talk about what to work on first. Some students might like to get easy tasks out of the way before settling in to harder ones, while others prefer to handle more difficult things first. Help them find the method that works best for them.
  • Middle School and High School: This age brings a higher amount of homework, so students should always start by determining how much time they’ll need to complete it. Let them experiment a bit—do they work best by completely finishing one assignment before moving on to the next, or do they like to do a little bit of each and take some breaks in between? Over time, they’ll find the methods they like best.

Chose the Best Study Time

Kids’ days are often jam-packed with activities, leaving homework and studying to get squeezed in whenever it fits. Take time to find out what time of day kids are at their best, and prioritize that time for study. For instance, if a student seems to learn better if they do their homework right after school, try to choose extracurriculars that meet in the evenings or weekends instead. Some students might even prefer to get up early in the morning and work, and that’s OK too as long as they’re getting enough sleep.

  • Elementary School: Let kids try doing their homework at different times throughout the day, and see if there are times when they’re better at concentrating. If so, teach them to schedule their schoolwork during those times, and make extracurricular choices for them accordingly.
  • Middle and High School: Students probably know by now when they work best, but busy schedules can make that more difficult to accommodate. Remind them to try to make smart choices and to tackle schoolwork when they’re feeling as fresh and alert as possible.

Keep Materials Neat and Organized

Some adults thrive in messy work spaces, and that’s OK. But kids should make an effort to keep their spaces and materials organized so they have fewer excuses for not getting things done.

Teen boy practicing study skills on computer at his organized desk.

Source: mywallpro/Instagram

  • Elementary School: In early grades, parents should help kids go through their backpack each night, cleaning out trash and restocking supplies. Help them set up an organization system using the different pockets. Show them how to use different-color folders and notebooks for each subject, and clean out every folder regularly. Set the backpack by the front door each night so it’s ready to go in the morning. Upper grade students should gradually do some or all of these things on their own.
  • Middle School: Transition to entirely managing backpacks and study spaces on their own. Parents might check in once a week or at the beginning of a school quarter to see if students need some assistance getting organized.
  • High School: In addition to managing their physical study materials, ensure kids at this age know how to keep things organized online. Show them how to use files and folders, where to back things up, and how to manage their email and message inboxes. Encourage them to set aside a regular time to make sure everything is in order, and make improvements as needed.

Take Breaks

Students need both physical and mental brain breaks while they study! Remind kids to get up and move around regularly, rest their eyes, and give their brain a break for a few minutes every so often.

  • Elementary School: Younger students should be able to work for about 15-20 minutes before taking a break, with upper grades going as long as 30 minutes. They usually won’t need reminders to take breaks, but they might need some help keeping those breaks to no more than 10 minutes or so.
  • Middle School: These kids can work 30-45 minutes at a time and should learn to recognize the signs of needing a break on their own. When they start to get very fidgety, feel a headache coming on, squint while they’re reading, or feel hungry or thirsty, it’s time for a short break. Teach them to set a timer to know when the break is over and they need to get back to work.
  • High School: By now, students can work an hour at a time but should be encouraged to take regular breaks all the same. In fact, just like adults, they should aim to get up and move for at least 5 minutes every hour. Physical activity like stretching, yoga, or even dancing to music will help refresh them so they can get back down to it. If they have trouble remembering to take breaks, have them set a timer to remind them.

Learning styles.

All students use different learning methods to retain and understand the same information. Some like written words, some prefer to hear it and talk about it. Others need to do something with their hands or see images and diagrams. These are known as learning styles. While it’s important not to pigeonhole students into any one style, kids should be aware of any strengths they have and use them to create strong study skills.

Visual-See It Auditory-Hear/Say It Read/Write-It Kinesthetic-Do It (Learning Styles)

Source:  Nnenna Walters

Know Your Style

There are four generally accepted styles: visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic (movement). You can learn more about them here. It’s worth taking time to understand which (if any) style appeals to a student more.

  • Elementary School: Most kids are exposed to a wide array of learning activities, strategies, and methods here and will slowly form preferences. If parents or teachers notice that kids aren’t learning well using one method (e.g., flash cards to learn math facts), have students try activities from different styles instead (like videos or songs).
  • Middle School: At this age, students should have some idea of which study methods fit their learning styles. They should continue to experiment, especially in subjects where they struggle to master the material.
  • High School: Kids in these grades who still don’t understand how they learn best may benefit from taking the VARK questionnaire . It will point them in the right direction and help them find the best study methods.

Choose Appropriate Study Materials

Here are some examples of study materials and activities that appeal to different learning styles, no matter the age or grade level.

nonfiction anchor charts

Source: Elementary Shenanigans

  • Visual: Diagrams; charts; graphs; maps; videos with or without sound; photos and other images; graphic organizers and sketchnotes
  • Auditory: Lectures; audiobooks; videos with sound; music and songs; text-to-speech translation; discussion and debate; teaching others
  • Read/Write: Reading textbooks, articles, and handouts; watching video with subtitles turned on; using speech-to-text translation and transcripts; making lists; writing answers to questions
  • Kinesthetic: Hands-on practice; educational craft projects; experiments and demonstrations; trial and error; moving and playing games while learning

Taking and using notes.

Study after study have shown the importance of actively taking notes rather than passively reading a handout later on. The act of writing engages different parts of the brain, forging new pathways that help students retain information in long-term memory. Taking good notes and using them properly are study skills every student needs to master.

Learn Different Note-Taking Strategies

There are a variety of good strategies, like outlines, the Cornell Method, sketchnotes, and more. There’s no one best method; it often depends on the material and the learner.

Page demonstrating the Cornell method of note taking (Note Taking Strategies)

Source:  Think Insights

  • Elementary School: Actively teach kids how to take notes in a variety of styles. Learn about seven top note-taking strategies here , and share them with your students. Teachers can start with handouts and graphic organizers but should slowly transition to more independent methods.
  • Middle School: Students should be mastering the skill of taking their own notes, choosing a style that works best for them. They may need reminders of key points to capture but should now be able to isolate the important info.
  • High School: Note-taking should be automatic by now, and many students will have developed preferred styles. Teachers should not insist on a specific note-taking strategy, but should ensure kids are capturing the information they need.

Organize and Review

Taking notes is just one part of the process. Students with good study skills also know how to use them effectively.

Example of how to use colored tabs or flags to organize notes and build study skills.

Source: The Mad Scientist

  • Elementary School: Help students keep all notes from one subject or project in one notebook or folder. Show them how to place them in an order that makes sense, and use tabs, tables of contents, or other organizational methods. Encourage them to review each day’s notes when they go home at night, to reinforce the learning.
  • Middle School: Students in these grades might want to reorganize their notes on their own when they get home, re-copying them or even typing them into a computer. They should be able to use effective organization strategies, to find the notes they need later on during a study session.
  • High School: Students should plan to spend time after every class going over that day’s notes, reviewing and reinforcing what they learned. They should be able to rely heavily on their own notes when reviewing for a test or completing a project.

Effective reading study skills.

“Read chapter three for homework tonight.” Sounds simple enough, right? But there’s a big difference between skimming the material and actually learning from it. Here are the study skills students need to learn while they read.

Highlighting

Everybody loves a handful of colorful highlighters, but using them effectively is a study skill all on its own. Kids can highlight both texts and their own notes.

Notebook page highlighted in yellow and green

Source: cozmic_mae/Instagram

  • Elementary School: Read material with students, showing them how to highlight key words and phrases instead of whole blocks of text. Show them color-coding strategies for organizing the information. Give them practice passages specifically for learning these skills.
  • Middle School: Introduce students to online highlighting tools, since many of the texts they’ll be reading are digital. If necessary, they can print out reading material to highlight physically instead.
  • High School: Kids should be pretty expert at highlighting by now, but watch for students who are still highlighting whole blocks without really knowing why, and show them the fundamentals.

Rereading and Taking Notes

In a lot of cases, reading something once simply isn’t enough. All students should learn to reread materials, using that time to highlight and take notes.

Sample pages in student notebook with notes about volcanos to use to develop study skills

Source: SERC

  • Elementary School: Reread passages together, pointing out key words, phrases, and ideas. Make notes while reading, both in the text and on separate paper. Try to complete review questions without referring to the text.
  • Middle School: Students will know they’ve read thoroughly when they can complete review questions without looking back. Show students how to write their own review questions as they study (the Cornell Method of Note-Taking is perfect for this) so they’ll know they truly understand the material.
  • High School: Continue to reinforce good reading study skills by giving students review questions to complete or asking them to make an outline or sketchnotes to sum up what they’ve learned.

Kids need to learn how to thoroughly complete an assignment, whether it’s a worksheet, an essay, or a term-long research project. These are the study skills they should know.

Understand the Assignment

Having a clear understanding of what’s being asked is so important. Otherwise, kids might wind up doing the wrong work, then having to tackle it all over again.

  • Elementary School: Show kids how to carefully read directions at the beginning. Have them repeat back what they’re expected to do, and make notes if they need reminders. Teachers should provide instructions in writing whenever possible and make them clear and simple.
  • Middle School: Encourage students to ask questions about assignments up front, or throughout if necessary. Continue to ensure they fully understand the directions before they start, especially when there are multiple steps.
  • High School: By now, students should be able to make their own notes about expectations and can handle a series of more complicated steps. They should make a habit of reviewing all that information before they begin work.

Make a Plan

Once they know the expectations, students should plan how they’ll do the work.

  • Elementary School: Help students evaluate the assignment and decide which parts they’ll do first. This is also a good time to estimate how long the work will take.
  • Middle School: Encourage kids to think about how they like to approach assignments. Do they like doing easy problems first, then circling back around to harder stuff? Do they sometimes get stuck and frustrated? If so, how can they get “unstuck” and continue to make progress?
  • High School: Many high school assignments are more complex, and students will need to lay out the steps to take. For instance, a research project might require choosing a topic, getting approval, starting research, planning a presentation, and giving the presentation, with multiple sub-steps in each. This all feels more manageable when you have a plan in place first.

Save Your Work

Such a basic study skill, and so extremely important!

  • Elementary School: Help students ensure all assignments go back into the appropriate folders and all folders make it into their backpack when they’re done. Don’t leave things lying around where they can get lost.
  • Middle and High School: In addition to keeping physical papers in order, be sure kids know how to save files online, including backing up their work. Many programs save automatically, but that’s not always the case. Show them how to keep backed-up files on an external drive or in the cloud, in case their hardware fails.

Review and Revise

Finishing the last problem on the page or typing the final word on a paper doesn’t mean you’re done. Good study skills means going back to review your work and make revisions.

English essay with revisions in colored pen made by student.

Source: EnglishWritingTeacher.com

  • Elementary School: Parents and younger kids should go back over completed homework together to make sure it’s complete and correct. Perform math problems “backwards” to see if the answers make sense. As kids get older, parents should remind them to review and check their answers on their own.
  • Middle School: Students should regularly remember to check their answers before turning in an assignment. Advise them to make sure they’ve done everything they’ve been asked to, to the best of their ability.
  • High School: Reviewing and revising should be automatic now. Writing assignments should include plans for multiple revisions. Teach students to use spell-check and grammar-check programs as needed, and encourage them to read their writing out loud to hear how it sounds.

Test taking.

Some kids naturally do well on tests, but others freeze up and forget everything they’ve learned . Fortunately, test-taking study skills are something kids can learn over time.

Test taking skills anchor chart to build study skills.

Source: Tammy DeShaw/The Owl Teacher

Review the Material

Kids should develop a variety of strategies for reviewing for a test, including review questions, flash cards, discussions, looking over notes, and more. It’s also important to follow a regular study schedule on any subject, instead of leaving all the review to the last minute.

  • Elementary School: Whenever possible, adults should work with kids to help them study. Make flash cards, talk over the material together, sing spelling word songs—model good study skills for them to help them learn.
  • Middle School: Help students continue to use a variety of review strategies. Teachers can provide review questions, set up study groups, and create online materials for them to use, just to name a few.
  • High School: Kids should be coordinating their own review by now, whether independently or in groups. Make sure they know how to contact you if they have questions while they’re studying.

Get Rest and Eat Well

At any age, feeling your best is key to acing a test. Discourage students from staying up late to cram, and see that they have healthy meals and snacks on the day of the test. If they’re allowed, be sure they have bottled water on hand to stay hydrated before and during the test itself.

Tackle Easy Questions First

This one is especially important for students who have difficulty managing their time, or those who get incredibly nervous about tests. Focus on showing what you know, and build confidence as you go along.

  • Elementary School: Teach kids to look over the entire test first so they can see what they’ll be expected to do. Tell them to ask questions right away if they have any. On the second run-through, they should answer any questions or problems they’re certain about. Finally, they can go back and handle more challenging questions, one at a time. In younger grades, practice this skill by using guided test-taking sessions.
  • Middle School: Before a test, remind students of the process. Have them look the whole thing over first, and ask if anyone has any general questions before they begin. Monitor kids as they complete the test, and nudge along any who seem stuck on one particular question or section.
  • High School: By now, kids should have the process down pat, but teachers should be aware of nervous test-takers and quietly remind them to focus on what they know.

Watch the Time

It’s a simple skill but a valuable one. Get kids used to glancing at the clock, but not obsessing over how much time is left.

  • Elementary School: Tell kids how much time they have up front. Offer reminders several times, especially toward the end, but don’t do it in a way that amps up anxiety.
  • Middle School: Make time expectations clear up front, and remind students once or twice of the remaining time as they work. Students should be glancing at the clock occasionally as they work; at the end of every page or section is a good rule of thumb. If they feel like they’re running out of time, remind them to use the “easy questions first” strategy.
  • High School: Older students should be able to look over a test and compare it to the amount of time they have, so they know they’re working at the right pace. Teachers can offer a reminder halfway through and five minutes before the end.

Review Before Submitting

Just like with assignments, students should try to make time to review test answers before they turn it in. (And to make sure they put their names on their paper!)

  • Elementary School: Actively ask students who are turning in their papers to go back to their seats and review their answers first. Build in a little extra test time so every student has a chance to review their work.
  • Middle School: Remind students to review their work before submitting it when you pass out the tests. Offer additional reminders to those who regularly turn in work that needed another look.
  • High School: Students should remember to build in time to look things over at the end as they start taking the test. The five-minute reminder toward the end is their cue to look over what they’ve done.

Finding help.

Even when you have terrific study skills, sometimes you need some assistance. Asking for help when you need it is something everyone needs to be able to do. While kids can’t expect adults to walk them through every step of the process, they should feel free to reach out for guidance when they need it.

Know How and When To Contact Teachers

Help students keep contact information handy and know the appropriate ways to contact their teachers as needed.

Teacher contact cards on desk with name, email, phone, etc.

Source: StudentSavvy/Teachers Pay Teachers

  • Elementary School: Most outside-school communication is between parents and teachers at this point, but kids should be encouraged to ask their own questions during the school day whenever possible. As they get older, parents should do their best to let kids take the lead.
  • Middle School: Students should be almost entirely independent of parents when communicating with teachers now. They should know when teachers are available to chat in person (including before and after school, if possible). Adults can also show them how to write respectful emails or texts if teachers have made that contact information available.
  • High School: At this point, students should be nearly 100% responsible for talking to their teachers when they need to. They should keep a contact list of email addresses, phone numbers, or other info. Additionally, they should recognize and respect preferred methods of contact.

Create Study Groups

While some kids work best on their own, many others thrive working with others to keep them on track and motivated. Setting up study buddies or groups enhances everyone’s study skills.

Group of middle school students in a study group

Source: MiddleWeb

  • Elementary School: Parents will likely have to coordinate any in-person or online study sessions. Teachers can help by pairing students together as partners or for tutoring, and providing virtual study spaces when necessary.
  • Middle School: As students get older, they should learn to seek out strong study partners. Help them recognize that their best friends may not always be the best choices when it comes to studying. Encourage them to have peers over to study, or to meet in public places like libraries.
  • High School: Kids should be independently forming their own study support systems. However, they might ask teachers for help when they need one-on-one tutor recommendations. They may work together at school, at home, at the library, or online.

Use Resource Tools

There are more ways to learn and study than ever before. Help students find the right options to support their studies.

  • Elementary School: Encourage students to look up answers in the right places: What does a word mean? Check the dictionary. When did the Civil War start? Here’s how to Google that. Help younger students use the resources to ensure they’re finding the information they need.
  • Middle School: “Hey Google, how many moons does Jupiter have?” Kids this age know how to ask questions on the web. However, they need to learn how to make sure the answers are reliable. Teach them about primary sources (like following Wikipedia info back to its original source) and how to verify information in several different places.
  • High School: A huge number of resources are online these days, so be sure students know where to find them and how to use them. Provide trusted online dictionaries and encyclopedias, show them how to seek out a thesaurus or rhyming dictionary, and guide them to video sites beyond YouTube, just to name a few.

How do you teach study skills in your classroom? Come share your ideas and ask for advice in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook !

Plus, check out 15 life skills every teen should learn ..

We rarely teach students study skills, but they're key to success. Show kids how to set up a study space, take and use good notes, and more.

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SkillsYouNeed

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Study Skills

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Learning Skills:

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What are Study Skills?

Study skills are the skills you need to enable you to study and learn efficiently – they are an important set of transferable life skills.

Our pages provide generic study skills advice – appropriate to learners across all disciplines and in different life circumstances: full and part-time students, those returning to education later in life, those engaged in professional development and anybody who wants to learn how to learn effectively. 

Key points about study skills:

You will develop your own personal approach to study and learning in a way that meets your own individual needs. As you develop your study skills you will discover what works for you, and what doesn’t.

Study skills are not subject specific - they are generic and can be used when studying any area. You will, of course, need to understand the concepts, theories and ideas surrounding your specific subject area. To get the most out of your studies, however, you’ll want to develop your study skills.

You need to practise and develop your study skills.   This will increase your awareness of how you study and you’ll become more confident.  Once mastered, study skills will be beneficial throughout your life.

Study skills are not just for students.   Study skills are transferable - you will take them with you beyond your education into new contexts. For example, organisational skills, time management, prioritising, learning how to analyse, problem solving, and the self-discipline that is required to remain motivated.  Study skills relate closely to the type of skills that employers look for.  (See Transferable Skills and Employability Skills for more.)

At SkillsYouNeed we provide quality content on many life skills – and many of these are relevant to studying.

You’ll find two types of study skills pages – pages that directly relate to skills you need for study (such as How to Write an Essay ) and pages that are more general life skills but which are also important to studying (like Active Listening ).

Our Study Skills Pages Include:

Getting Organised to Study

Getting organised is an important first step to effective study.  Our page covers the basic organisation skills you need to consider – fundamentals such as where and when to study and the importance of developing a network of contacts who can help you when you need it.

This page covers some of the basic principles of time management – with reference to study. If you manage your time badly then you will be less productive, which can lead to stress and anxiety. This page will help you by outlining the importance of a personal study timetable and how to set goals and prioritise your time.

Sources of Information for Study

Learn what is meant by, and the importance of, primary, secondary and tertiary documents and how you may source such information in a library or online.

By understanding different writing styles you can put what you read into perspective. This page covers the main writing styles that you are likely to come across, including academic, journal, and journalistic styles.

When studying, it is likely that you will need to read a lot of information – and you will wish to use this time effectively as possible by developing your reading skills. Discover ways that you can engage with your reading, form links, understand opinions and put ideas and research into perspective. In short, develop your reading skills.

Critical Reading and Reading Strategies

This page explains what is meant by critical reading and critical thinking – skills which are fundamental to true learning, personal development and advancement. The page also covers how to develop a personal reading strategy and use SQ3R to help you manage your reading.

Note-Taking

Learning to take notes effectively is not only important to study but also in many other situations, at work and in your personal life.  Develop your note-taking skills with our pages: Note-Taking for Verbal Exchanges and Note-Taking for Reading .

It pays to carefully think about and plan an essay or other piece of written work before you start writing.  This page provides you with a framework for planning which will help ensure your work is relevant, well-constructed and produced efficiently.

Essay Writing

Learn about the processes involved in writing an essay, or other piece of assessed work.  Avoid common mistakes and follow best practice to help ensure that the work you produce is of a high quality.

How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis

Working on a dissertation, thesis or other research project can be the most challenging part of study. Our guide offers practical advice and explains how to work on each part of a research document, including:

  • How to Write a Research Proposal
  • Ethical Issues in Research
  • Researching and Writing a Literature Review
  • Writing your Methodology
  • Writing up your Results and Discussion

Learning how to reference correctly is vital if you are a student. This page not only covers why you should reference, and what may happen if you don’t, but also includes some detailed guidelines on how to reference different types of materials.

As a learner you will be required to engage with theory, but exactly what is a theory?  A theory is an attempt to provide understanding - theories attempt to answer the question, 'why?' and therefore satisfy our curiosity.  Learn more about theories and how they are usually developed.

Before you submit your assignment for school, university or work, run through a series of final checks.  Avoid potentially embarrassing or costly mistakes and increase the credibility of your work.

Reflecting On Marked Work

This page, for students, encourages you to engage in the feedback you receive from a marker when your work is returned.  Don’t just look at the bottom line, the mark, but understand the comments and feedback and learn from any mistakes.

Revision Skills

Revising for examinations can be a real challenge for many people. Learn and practice some key skills to make your revision time as productive and effective as possible, leaving you better prepared for exams and tests.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

Skills You Need

Develop the skills you need to make the most of your time as a student.

Our eBooks are ideal for students at all stages of education, school, college and university. They are full of easy-to-follow practical information that will help you to learn more effectively and get better grades.

Other Areas Related to Study

Writing Skills

The writing skills section of SkillsYouNeed includes many other pages that we hope you’ll find useful.

Our pages: Spelling , Grammar and Punctuation for example can help with assignment writing.  You may also find information on our pages: Gender Neutral Writing and Clichés to Avoid useful.

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are the skills we use every day to interact with others and many are relevant to effective study.

For example see:  Listening Skills , Problem Solving and Decision Making , Questioning and Types of Questions , Verbal Communication and Effective Speaking .

Personal Skills

Our Personal Skills section covers areas of personal development . 

Useful pages for study include:  Building Confidence and Self-Esteem , Tips for Dealing with Stress , Relaxation Techniques , and Self-Motivation .

Start with: Getting Organised to Study

See also: Employability Skills for Graduates How to Systemize Your Study Develop Your Online Learning Skills and Get More from Your Online Classes

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Research skills are the ability to find out accurate information on a topic. They include being able to determine the data you need, find and interpret those findings, and then explain that to others. Being able to do effective research is a beneficial skill in any profession, as data and research inform how businesses operate.

Whether you’re unsure of your research skills or are looking for ways to further improve them, then this article will cover important research skills and how to become even better at research.

Key Takeaways

Having strong research skills can help you understand your competitors, develop new processes, and build your professional skills in addition to aiding you in finding new customers and saving your company money.

Some of the most valuable research skills you can have include goal setting, data collection, and analyzing information from multiple sources.

You can and should put your research skills on your resume and highlight them in your job interviews.

The Most Important Research Skills

What are research skills?

Why are research skills important, 12 of the most important research skills, how to improve your research skills, highlighting your research skills in a job interview, how to include research skills on your resume, resume examples showcasing research skills, research skills faqs.

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Research skills are the necessary tools to be able to find, compile, and interpret information in order to answer a question. Of course, there are several aspects to this. Researchers typically have to decide how to go about researching a problem — which for most people is internet research.

In addition, you need to be able to interpret the reliability of a source, put the information you find together in an organized and logical way, and be able to present your findings to others. That means that they’re comprised of both hard skills — knowing your subject and what’s true and what isn’t — and soft skills. You need to be able to interpret sources and communicate clearly.

Research skills are useful in any industry, and have applications in innovation, product development, competitor research, and many other areas. In addition, the skills used in researching aren’t only useful for research. Being able to interpret information is a necessary skill, as is being able to clearly explain your reasoning.

Research skills are used to:

Do competitor research. Knowing what your biggest competitors are up to is an essential part of any business. Researching what works for your competitors, what they’re doing better than you, and where you can improve your standing with the lowest resource expenditure are all essential if a company wants to remain functional.

Develop new processes and products. You don’t have to be involved in research and development to make improvements in how your team gets things done. Researching new processes that make your job (and those of your team) more efficient will be valued by any sensible employer.

Foster self-improvement. Folks who have a knack and passion for research are never content with doing things the same way they’ve always been done. Organizations need independent thinkers who will seek out their own answers and improve their skills as a matter of course. These employees will also pick up new technologies more easily.

Manage customer relationships. Being able to conduct research on your customer base is positively vital in virtually every industry. It’s hard to move products or sell services if you don’t know what people are interested in. Researching your customer base’s interests, needs, and pain points is a valuable responsibility.

Save money. Whether your company is launching a new product or just looking for ways to scale back its current spending, research is crucial for finding wasted resources and redirecting them to more deserving ends. Anyone who proactively researches ways that the company can save money will be highly appreciated by their employer.

Solve problems. Problem solving is a major part of a lot of careers, and research skills are instrumental in making sure your solution is effective. Finding out the cause of the problem and determining an effective solution both require accurate information, and research is the best way to obtain that — be it via the internet or by observation.

Determine reliable information. Being able to tell whether or not the information you receive seems accurate is a very valuable skill. While research skills won’t always guarantee that you’ll be able to tell the reliability of the information at first glance, it’ll prevent you from being too trusting. And it’ll give the tools to double-check .

Experienced researchers know that worthwhile investigation involves a variety of skills. Consider which research skills come naturally to you, and which you could work on more.

Data collection . When thinking about the research process, data collection is often the first thing that comes to mind. It is the nuts and bolts of research. How data is collected can be flexible.

For some purposes, simply gathering facts and information on the internet can fulfill your need. Others may require more direct and crowd-sourced research. Having experience in various methods of data collection can make your resume more impressive to recruiters.

Data collection methods include: Observation Interviews Questionnaires Experimentation Conducting focus groups

Analysis of information from different sources. Putting all your eggs in one source basket usually results in error and disappointment. One of the skills that good researchers always incorporate into their process is an abundance of sources. It’s also best practice to consider the reliability of these sources.

Are you reading about U.S. history on a conspiracy theorist’s blog post? Taking facts for a presentation from an anonymous Twitter account?

If you can’t determine the validity of the sources you’re using, it can compromise all of your research. That doesn’t mean just disregard anything on the internet but double-check your findings. In fact, quadruple-check. You can make your research even stronger by turning to references outside of the internet.

Examples of reliable information sources include: Published books Encyclopedias Magazines Databases Scholarly journals Newspapers Library catalogs

Finding information on the internet. While it can be beneficial to consulate alternative sources, strong internet research skills drive modern-day research.

One of the great things about the internet is how much information it contains, however, this comes with digging through a lot of garbage to get to the facts you need. The ability to efficiently use the vast database of knowledge that is on the internet without getting lost in the junk is very valuable to employers.

Internet research skills include: Source checking Searching relevant questions Exploring deeper than the first options Avoiding distraction Giving credit Organizing findings

Interviewing. Some research endeavors may require a more hands-on approach than just consulting internet sources. Being prepared with strong interviewing skills can be very helpful in the research process.

Interviews can be a useful research tactic to gain first-hand information and being able to manage a successful interview can greatly improve your research skills.

Interviewing skills involves: A plan of action Specific, pointed questions Respectfulness Considering the interview setting Actively Listening Taking notes Gratitude for participation

Report writing. Possessing skills in report writing can assist you in job and scholarly research. The overall purpose of a report in any context is to convey particular information to its audience.

Effective report writing is largely dependent on communication. Your boss, professor , or general reader should walk away completely understanding your findings and conclusions.

Report writing skills involve: Proper format Including a summary Focusing on your initial goal Creating an outline Proofreading Directness

Critical thinking. Critical thinking skills can aid you greatly throughout the research process, and as an employee in general. Critical thinking refers to your data analysis skills. When you’re in the throes of research, you need to be able to analyze your results and make logical decisions about your findings.

Critical thinking skills involve: Observation Analysis Assessing issues Problem-solving Creativity Communication

Planning and scheduling. Research is a work project like any other, and that means it requires a little forethought before starting. Creating a detailed outline map for the points you want to touch on in your research produces more organized results.

It also makes it much easier to manage your time. Planning and scheduling skills are important to employers because they indicate a prepared employee.

Planning and scheduling skills include: Setting objectives Identifying tasks Prioritizing Delegating if needed Vision Communication Clarity Time-management

Note-taking. Research involves sifting through and taking in lots of information. Taking exhaustive notes ensures that you will not neglect any findings later and allows you to communicate these results to your co-workers. Being able to take good notes helps summarize research.

Examples of note-taking skills include: Focus Organization Using short-hand Keeping your objective in mind Neatness Highlighting important points Reviewing notes afterward

Communication skills. Effective research requires being able to understand and process the information you receive, either written or spoken. That means that you need strong reading comprehension and writing skills — two major aspects of communication — as well as excellent listening skills.

Most research also involves showcasing your findings. This can be via a presentation. , report, chart, or Q&A. Whatever the case, you need to be able to communicate your findings in a way that educates your audience.

Communication skills include: Reading comprehension Writing Listening skills Presenting to an audience Creating graphs or charts Explaining in layman’s terms

Time management. We’re, unfortunately, only given 24 measly hours in a day. The ability to effectively manage this time is extremely powerful in a professional context. Hiring managers seek candidates who can accomplish goals in a given timeframe.

Strong time management skills mean that you can organize a plan for how to break down larger tasks in a project and complete them by a deadline. Developing your time management skills can greatly improve the productivity of your research.

Time management skills include: Scheduling Creating task outlines Strategic thinking Stress-management Delegation Communication Utilizing resources Setting realistic expectations Meeting deadlines

Using your network. While this doesn’t seem immediately relevant to research skills, remember that there are a lot of experts out there. Knowing what people’s areas of expertise and asking for help can be tremendously beneficial — especially if it’s a subject you’re unfamiliar with.

Your coworkers are going to have different areas of expertise than you do, and your network of people will as well. You may even know someone who knows someone who’s knowledgeable in the area you’re researching. Most people are happy to share their expertise, as it’s usually also an area of interest to them.

Networking involves: Remembering people’s areas of expertise Being willing to ask for help Communication Returning favors Making use of advice Asking for specific assistance

Attention to detail. Research is inherently precise. That means that you need to be attentive to the details, both in terms of the information you’re gathering, but also in where you got it from. Making errors in statistics can have a major impact on the interpretation of the data, not to mention that it’ll reflect poorly on you.

There are proper procedures for citing sources that you should follow. That means that your sources will be properly credited, preventing accusations of plagiarism. In addition, it means that others can make use of your research by returning to the original sources.

Attention to detail includes: Double checking statistics Taking notes Keeping track of your sources Staying organized Making sure graphs are accurate and representative Properly citing sources

As with many professional skills, research skills serve us in our day to day life. Any time you search for information on the internet, you’re doing research. That means that you’re practicing it outside of work as well. If you want to continue improving your research skills, both for professional and personal use, here are some tips to try.

Differentiate between source quality. A researcher is only as good as their worst source. Start paying attention to the quality of the sources you use, and be suspicious of everything your read until you check out the attributions and works cited.

Be critical and ask yourself about the author’s bias, where the author’s research aligns with the larger body of verified research in the field, and what publication sponsored or published the research.

Use multiple resources. When you can verify information from a multitude of sources, it becomes more and more credible. To bolster your faith in one source, see if you can find another source that agrees with it.

Don’t fall victim to confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when a researcher expects a certain outcome and then goes to find data that supports this hypothesis. It can even go so far as disregarding anything that challenges the researcher’s initial hunch. Be prepared for surprising answers and keep an open mind.

Be open to the idea that you might not find a definitive answer. It’s best to be honest and say that you found no definitive answer instead of just confirming what you think your boss or coworkers expect or want to hear. Experts and good researchers are willing to say that they don’t know.

Stay organized. Being able to cite sources accurately and present all your findings is just as important as conducting the research itself. Start practicing good organizational skills , both on your devices and for any physical products you’re using.

Get specific as you go. There’s nothing wrong with starting your research in a general way. After all, it’s important to become familiar with the terminology and basic gist of the researcher’s findings before you dig down into all the minutia.

A job interview is itself a test of your research skills. You can expect questions on what you know about the company, the role, and your field or industry more generally. In order to give expert answers on all these topics, research is crucial.

Start by researching the company . Look into how they communicate with the public through social media, what their mission statement is, and how they describe their culture.

Pay close attention to the tone of their website. Is it hyper professional or more casual and fun-loving? All of these elements will help decide how best to sell yourself at the interview.

Next, research the role. Go beyond the job description and reach out to current employees working at your desired company and in your potential department. If you can find out what specific problems your future team is or will be facing, you’re sure to impress hiring managers and recruiters with your ability to research all the facts.

Finally, take time to research the job responsibilities you’re not as comfortable with. If you’re applying for a job that represents increased difficulty or entirely new tasks, it helps to come into the interview with at least a basic knowledge of what you’ll need to learn.

Research projects require dedication. Being committed is a valuable skill for hiring managers. Whether you’ve had research experience throughout education or a former job, including it properly can boost the success of your resume .

Consider how extensive your research background is. If you’ve worked on multiple, in-depth research projects, it might be best to include it as its own section. If you have less research experience, include it in the skills section .

Focus on your specific role in the research, as opposed to just the research itself. Try to quantify accomplishments to the best of your abilities. If you were put in charge of competitor research, for example, list that as one of the tasks you had in your career.

If it was a particular project, such as tracking the sale of women’s clothing at a tee-shirt company, you can say that you “directed analysis into women’s clothing sales statistics for a market research project.”

Ascertain how directly research skills relate to the job you’re applying for. How strongly you highlight your research skills should depend on the nature of the job the resume is for. If research looks to be a strong component of it, then showcase all of your experience.

If research looks to be tangential, then be sure to mention it — it’s a valuable skill — but don’t put it front and center.

Example #1: Academic Research

Simon Marks 767 Brighton Blvd. | Brooklyn, NY, 27368 | (683)-262-8883 | [email protected] Diligent and hardworking recent graduate seeking a position to develop professional experience and utilize research skills. B.A. in Biological Sciences from New York University. PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE Lixus Publishing , Brooklyn, NY Office Assistant- September 2018-present Scheduling and updating meetings Managing emails and phone calls Reading entries Worked on a science fiction campaign by researching target demographic Organizing calendars Promoted to office assistant after one year internship Mitch’s Burgers and Fries , Brooklyn, NY Restaurant Manager , June 2014-June 2018 Managed a team of five employees Responsible for coordinating the weekly schedule Hired and trained two employees Kept track of inventory Dealt with vendors Provided customer service Promoted to restaurant manager after two years as a waiter Awarded a $2.00/hr wage increase SKILLS Writing Scientific Research Data analysis Critical thinking Planning Communication RESEARCH Worked on an ecosystem biology project with responsibilities for algae collection and research (2019) Lead a group of freshmen in a research project looking into cell biology (2018) EDUCATION New York University Bachelors in Biological Sciences, September 2016-May 2020

Example #2: Professional Research

Angela Nichols 1111 Keller Dr. | San Francisco, CA | (663)-124-8827 |[email protected] Experienced and enthusiastic marketer with 7 years of professional experience. Seeking a position to apply my marketing and research knowledge. Skills in working on a team and flexibility. EXPERIENCE Apples amp; Oranges Marketing, San Francisco, CA Associate Marketer – April 2017-May 2020 Discuss marketing goals with clients Provide customer service Lead campaigns associated with women’s health Coordinating with a marketing team Quickly solving issues in service and managing conflict Awarded with two raises totaling $10,000 over three years Prestigious Marketing Company, San Francisco, CA Marketer – May 2014-April 2017 Working directly with clients Conducting market research into television streaming preferences Developing marketing campaigns related to television streaming services Report writing Analyzing campaign success statistics Promoted to Marketer from Junior Marketer after the first year Timberlake Public Relations, San Francisco, CA Public Relations Intern – September 2013–May 2014 Working cohesively with a large group of co-workers and supervisors Note-taking during meetings Running errands Managing email accounts Assisting in brainstorming Meeting work deadlines EDUCATION Golden Gate University, San Francisco, CA Bachelor of Arts in Marketing with a minor in Communications – September 2009 – May 2013 SKILLS Marketing Market research Record-keeping Teamwork Presentation. Flexibility

What research skills are important?

Goal-setting and data collection are important research skills. Additional important research skills include:

Using different sources to analyze information.

Finding information on the internet.

Interviewing sources.

Writing reports.

Critical thinking.

Planning and scheduling.

Note-taking.

Managing time.

How do you develop good research skills?

You develop good research skills by learning how to find information from multiple high-quality sources, by being wary of confirmation bias, and by starting broad and getting more specific as you go.

When you learn how to tell a reliable source from an unreliable one and get in the habit of finding multiple sources that back up a claim, you’ll have better quality research.

In addition, when you learn how to keep an open mind about what you’ll find, you’ll avoid falling into the trap of confirmation bias, and by staying organized and narrowing your focus as you go (rather than before you start), you’ll be able to gather quality information more efficiently.

What is the importance of research?

The importance of research is that it informs most decisions and strategies in a business. Whether it’s deciding which products to offer or creating a marketing strategy, research should be used in every part of a company.

Because of this, employers want employees who have strong research skills. They know that you’ll be able to put them to work bettering yourself and the organization as a whole.

Should you put research skills on your resume?

Yes, you should include research skills on your resume as they are an important professional skill. Where you include your research skills on your resume will depend on whether you have a lot of experience in research from a previous job or as part of getting your degree, or if you’ve just cultivated them on your own.

If your research skills are based on experience, you could put them down under the tasks you were expected to perform at the job in question. If not, then you should likely list it in your skills section.

University of the People – The Best Research Skills for Success

Association of Internet Research Specialists — What are Research Skills and Why Are They Important?

MasterClass — How to Improve Your Research Skills: 6 Research Tips

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Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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As a student, you're probably no stranger to essays, presentations, and other projects. The odds are that most of these projects will have required you to do some research. Solid research is so important as we can use it to formulate, investigate, and evidence an argument, topic, or hypothesis. 

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As a student, you're probably no stranger to essays, presentations, and other projects. The odds are that most of these projects will have required you to do some research. Solid research is so important as we can use it to formulate, investigate, and evidence an argument, topic, or hypothesis.

It can sometimes be tricky to know what we should be asking when we do research, which is why it's important to understand how to formulate effective research questions. This article will cover everything you need to know about research questions.

Research Question, two cartoon men with questionmarks and lightbulbs in their heads, StudySmarter

Without further ado, let's dive in!

Research Question Definition

Before we look at research questions, it's important to note that there are two main types of research: qualitative and quantitative . These are called research methodologies. The kind of research question you need to ask will depend on the type of research methodology you're using:

Qualitative research is based on first-hand evidence gathered by the researcher through means such as observation, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, and recordings of natural life. Research questions for qualitative research will likely be more open-ended as they are designed to help understand different events and phenomena. More detailed answers are required to satisfy qualitative research.

'How do nursery-aged children between 2 and 4 years of age react to having their play interrupted for lunchtime?'

This question is concerned with finding out how different children react to the same situation, and the 'how' beginning leaves the question very open-ended. Because the question is about a whole group of children, all of whom may have different reactions, the answer to the question will have to be very detailed and require a level of subjectivity.

Quantitative research is a range of strategies and techniques for quantifying or measuring certain variables being investigated and analysing this information. Research questions for quantitative research will likely be based on comparisons and relationships. A quantitative research question will aim to achieve objective and measurable answers.

'What percentage of students in Kent University has sought help from college counsellors for feelings of depression or anxiety?'

This question is concerned with finding out a percentage, which is a measurable, numerical value. The question is not concerned with the reasons behind the students feeling depressed or anxious; it simply wants to know how many students out of the whole student population of Kent University have reached out for support.

Now that we have those definitions out of the way, we can look at our main definition. What is a research question?

You already know what a question is – you probably use them all the time! But what makes a research question?

A research question is a specific type of question that aims to help a person investigate a research topic and eventually draw a conclusion . In other words, the research question is the question that the research aims to answer.

Research Question vs Hypothesis

We've seen what a research question is in the above section, but how does it differ from a hypothesis? You might have heard both terms used during your studies.

A hypothesis is a formal and often detailed statement that aims to predict the relationship between two or more investigated variables.

The key differences between a hypothesis and a research question are that a hypothesis is a statement rather than a question, and a hypothesis predicts whereas a research question enquires (or asks!).

'A-Level students who eat a banana prior to sitting a mathematics exam will perform better than students who eat chocolate before the exam.'

This is an example of a hypothesis. It is a statement that is predicting the outcome of an investigation between two variables: food eaten before an exam and exam performance.

Research Question, man writing in a notebook, StudySmarter

Research Question Types

There are three key types of research questions: descriptive, relational, and causal.

We'll look at the definitions of each one in turn:

Descriptive research question

A descriptive research question is used when a study has the purpose of describing what is happening or existing with regard to a particular topic.

'How many hours per week does the average British teenager spend watching Love Island?'

Relational research question

A relational research question is used when a study is designed to look at the relationship between two or more variables.

'How does increasing the hourly pay rate of workers within the educational field affect job performance?'

Causal research question

A causal research question is when a study is designed to investigate whether one or several variables affect an outcome, or whether one variable affects an outcome more than another variable.

'What effect does alcohol consumption have on driving reaction time?'

Research Question Formation Process

Before you start formulating your research question, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you to make your research question more targeted and effective:

What problem do I want to solve, or what information am I interested in finding out?

Why is this problem important, or why do I care about this?

Will my research be qualitative or quantitative?

What research have others done on this topic?

What variables can I include in my question that will get me the results I want?

How can I ensure all parts of my question are relevant to the information I want to know?

Is the research viable and realistic? Do I have a good chance of answering this question?

When you've thought about these questions and have some answers in mind, you're then ready to start formulating your research question.

Research Question Criteria

When thinking about your research question, there are a few criteria you should consider as you formulate it. Making sure the question hits these criteria will help to ensure the question is as helpful and effective as possible.

Your question should be:

  • Feasible – There's no sense in researching something that's impossible or non-existent.
  • Measurable – Your question needs to have a goal.
  • Clear – If the question is confusing, your research will be too.
  • Specific – You can't be vague or too general in your research, or you'll end up with too much information.
  • Focused – If your question doesn't have a focus, your research will be irrelevant and muddied.

These qualities will make it much easier to nail down exactly what information you need to find out, and should make it easier to search for your answers.

Research Question, weighing scales with question marks, StudySmarter

It also helps if your research question is interesting and engages you, as this will help you to stay motivated and invested in the research project.

Examples of Research Questions

So, now that we have a better understanding of what constitutes a good research question, let's look at some examples:

'What effect does TikTok have on the mental health of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 when used daily?'

This question is feasible as it is possible to set up an investigation or survey to ascertain how TikTok users feel after using the app. It's measurable because, through the survey (or another method), you would be able to get data to draw a conclusion . It is clear, as there is nothing confusing or overly complicated in the question, and it is specific because it is concerned with a particular demographic and particular app. Likewise, it is also focused rather than vague, which will mean the results of the research will be more helpful.

This question could produce a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. The quantitative data could come from seeing how many adolescents have noticed or reported mental health struggles as a result of TikTok use, and the qualitative data would come from analysing the different reasons for these mental health struggles.

'What impact do different legal restrictions have on the instances of driving under the influence of alcohol across Portugal, Spain, and France?'

Similarly, this question is also feasible and measurable, as it would be possible to set up observations in each country to investigate how each country's laws influence driving. The question is clear and specific, asking particularly about these three countries rather than any country in general, and it is focused. Rather than asking about driving habits in Europe, the question has narrowed things down to just three countries and only looks at instances of driving under the influence of alcohol.

This question would produce quantitative data, as the primary variable being measured is the 'instances of driving under the influence of alcohol' in each country. These instances are (to an extent) countable, and could be compared with figures (e.g., as percentages) from previous years when other restrictions might have been in place.

'How have modern film adaptations of Jane Austen novels, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice portrayed feminist ideals through strong female characters?'

This question is feasible as it would be easy to analyse these films to see how feminism is portrayed, and the research goal is clear. The results of the research would be measurable, as certain feminist qualities could be attributed to the female characters, and the question asks specifically about two films rather than all film adaptations of Jane Austen's novels. The question is also focused as it only asks about the theme of feminism rather than other social and political factors.

This research question would produce qualitative data as the films, characters, and themes being explored would be analysed subjectively. This would result in many different interpretations being possible.

Research Question - Key Takeaways

  • Research questions must be carefully constructed in order to enable effective and efficient research.
  • A research question is different from a hypothesis in that a hypothesis is a statement that predicts the results of an investigation, whereas a research question enquires.
  • There are three types of research questions: descriptive, relational, and causal.
  • Research questions must be feasible, measurable, clear, specific, and focused in order to be effective.
  • There are two types of research, qualitative and quantitative, and the type of research used will determine what kind of question to use.

Frequently Asked Questions about Research Question

--> what are some research question examples.

Some good research question examples inlcude:

  • 'What effect does TikTok have on the mental health of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 when used daily?'
  • 'What impact do different legal restrictions have on the instances of driving under the influence of alcohol across Portugal, Spain, and France?'
  • 'How have modern film adaptations of the Jane Austen novels, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice portrayed feminist ideal through strong female characters?'

--> How do you develop a strong research question?

You can make sure your research question is strong by ensuring it is feasible, measurable, clear, specific, and focused. It also helps if your question is interesting and tackles a topic or issue that people are interested in or care about. 

--> What effect does a research question have on the research process?

The research question is the jumping-off point for the research process. Without a decent research question, your research would be unfocused and disorganised, and could lead to you gathering relevant or incorrect information.

--> What is a general research question?

A general research question is one that is possibly a bit vague, or does not tackle a specific issue. It could be a question that covers too many variables. An example could be:

  • 'What effect does social media use have on teenage mental health?'

This question is general because it is not specific and is covering a wide range of factors. 

--> What is a specific research question?

A specific research question is one that tackles a specific and relevant topic or variable, or the relationship between two or more specific variables. Specific research questions are clear and focused. 

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

'A-Level students who eat a banana prior to sitting a mathematics exam will perform better than students who eat chocolate before the exam.'Is this a research question or a hypothesis?

Which of these is an example of a descriptive research question?

'What percentage of students in Kent University have sought help from college counsellors for feelings of depression or anxiety?'Is this question qualitative or quantitative?

Your score:

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What is qualitative research?

Research based on first-hand evidence gathered by the researcher through means such as observation, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, and recordings of natural life.  

What is quantitative research?

A range of strategies and techniques for quantifying or measuring certain variables being investigated and how this information is analysed.

What is a research question?

 A research question is a specific type of question that aims to help a person investigate a research topic and eventually draw a conclusion.

What is a hypothesis?

A hypothesis is a formal, and often quite detailed statement that aims to predict the relationship between two or more variables being investigated.

What are the two main differences between a research question and a hypothesis?

  • a hypothesis is a statement rather than a question
  • a hypothesis predicts whereas a research question enquires  

Is this a research question or a hypothesis?

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Published on 21.2.2024 in Vol 10 (2024)

Occupational Therapy Students’ Evidence-Based Practice Skills as Reported in a Mobile App: Cross-Sectional Study

Authors of this article:

Author Orcid Image

Original Paper

  • Susanne G Johnson 1 * , MSc   ; 
  • Birgitte Espehaug 1 * , Prof Dr   ; 
  • Lillebeth Larun 2 * , PhD   ; 
  • Donna Ciliska 3 * , Prof Dr   ; 
  • Nina Rydland Olsen 1 * , PhD  

1 Department of Health and Functioning, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen, Norway

2 Division of Health Services, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

3 Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

*all authors contributed equally

Corresponding Author:

Susanne G Johnson, MSc

Department of Health and Functioning

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Inndalseveien 28

Bergen, 5063

Phone: 47 92213202

Email: [email protected]

Background: Evidence-based practice (EBP) is an important aspect of the health care education curriculum. EBP involves following the 5 EBP steps: ask, assess, appraise, apply, and audit. These 5 steps reflect the suggested core competencies covered in teaching and learning programs to support future health care professionals applying EBP. When implementing EBP teaching, assessing outcomes by documenting the student’s performance and skills is relevant. This can be done using mobile devices.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess occupational therapy students’ EBP skills as reported in a mobile app.

Methods: We applied a cross-sectional design. Descriptive statistics were used to present frequencies, percentages, means, and ranges of data regarding EBP skills found in the EBPsteps app. Associations between students’ ability to formulate the Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome/Population, Interest, and Context (PICO/PICo) elements and identifying relevant research evidence were analyzed with the chi-square test.

Results: Of 4 cohorts with 150 students, 119 (79.3%) students used the app and produced 240 critically appraised topics (CATs) in the app. The EBP steps “ask,” “assess,” and “appraise” were often correctly performed. The clinical question was formulated correctly in 53.3% (128/240) of the CATs, and students identified research evidence in 81.2% (195/240) of the CATs. Critical appraisal checklists were used in 81.2% (195/240) of the CATs, and most of these checklists were assessed as relevant for the type of research evidence identified (165/195, 84.6%). The least frequently correctly reported steps were “apply” and “audit.” In 39.6% (95/240) of the CATs, it was reported that research evidence was applied. Only 61% (58/95) of these CATs described how the research was applied to clinical practice. Evaluation of practice changes was reported in 38.8% (93/240) of the CATs. However, details about practice changes were lacking in all these CATs. A positive association was found between correctly reporting the "population" and "interventions/interest" elements of the PICO/PICo and identifying research evidence ( P <.001).

Conclusions: We assessed the students’ EBP skills based on how they documented following the EBP steps in the EBPsteps app, and our results showed variations in how well the students mastered the steps. “Apply” and “audit” were the most difficult EBP steps for the students to perform, and this finding has implications and gives directions for further development of the app and educational instruction in EBP. The EBPsteps app is a new and relevant app for students to learn and practice EBP, and it can be used to assess students’ EBP skills objectively.

Introduction

Evidence-based practice (EBP) involves using the best available evidence from relevant research and integrating it with clinical expertise, patient values, and circumstances to make clinical decisions for individual patients [ 1 ]. When applying EBP, it is recommended to follow the five EBP steps: (1) identifying information needs and formulating answerable questions (ask), (2) finding the best available evidence to answer clinical questions (assess), (3) critically appraising the evidence (appraise), (4) applying the results in clinical practice (apply), and (5) evaluating performance (audit) [ 1 , 2 ]. These 5 steps reflect the suggested core competencies covered in teaching and learning programs to support future health care professionals applying EBP, including developing EBP knowledge and skills [ 3 ].

EBP skills can be understood as applying EBP knowledge by performing EBP steps, ideally in a clinical setting [ 4 ]. The literature indicates that EBP knowledge and skills improve when EBP teaching and learning are multifaceted, interactive, clinically integrated, and incorporate assessment [ 5 ]. When implementing EBP teaching, it is relevant to document and assess the individual student’s performance [ 3 , 5 , 6 ]. As it is recommended to follow all 5 EBP steps when teaching and learning EBP [ 1 , 2 ], measuring the performance of all 5 steps is relevant when evaluating EBP learning. However, few evaluation instruments measure all 5 EBP steps [ 5 - 9 ], and most instruments are self-reported questionnaires [ 6 , 7 ]. The use of self-reported questionnaires may contribute to biased results due to recall bias or social desirability responses [ 9 , 10 ]. Objectively measuring EBP learning could result in a true reflection of the situation, and thus, it is recommended to develop objective tools for EBP learning assessment [ 6 , 7 , 11 ]. To objectively document the performance of the EBP steps, Shaneyfelt et al [ 6 ] emphasized using online documentation. Online documentation is feasible through mobile apps, and innovative new methods to evaluate EBP teaching can now be explored [ 12 ]. Most students own a smartphone, which makes mobile learning and information sharing possible [ 13 , 14 ]. Thus, mobile apps can potentially be used for documenting and assessing students’ EBP performance. The aim of this study was to assess occupational therapy (OT) students’ EBP skills as reported in a mobile app.

This study used a cross-sectional design. The reporting of this study followed the STROBE (Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology) checklist ( Multimedia Appendix 1 ) [ 15 ].

A mobile web app called the EBPsteps app was developed at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL) to support health and social care students’ EBP learning [ 16 ]. An updated version of this web app is now freely available as a native app [ 17 ]. Experiences with using the EBPsteps app for learning EBP have previously been explored [ 16 ]. The app provides an opportunity for students to document the 5 EBP steps. A description of the content of the EBPsteps app is presented in Textbox 1 .

  • Reflect on information needs
  • Formulate the clinical question
  • Identify the type of clinical question (drop-down menu)
  • Identify the Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome/Population, Interest, and Context (PICO/PICo) elements
  • Report information source used to identify research evidence
  • Report links to research evidence identified
  • Choose a relevant critical appraisal checklist
  • Complete the critical appraisal using the integrated checklist
  • Report how research evidence was applied in practice (drop-down menu)
  • Report if changes in practice were completed and evaluated
  • Describe changes if changes were implemented
  • Evaluate the EBP process (ask, assess, appraise, apply, and audit)

By documenting the EBP process in the app, students produced critically appraised topics (CATs). A CAT can be explained as a summary of research evidence on a clinical question [ 18 ]. The CATs completed in the EBPsteps app included information on all EBP steps, and the CATs could be sent through email and shared as a PDF document. The CATs produced in the app were stored on the HVL research server and were accessible to the researchers in this project.

Participants

A total of 4 cohorts of fifth-semester OT students from different academic years (from 2018 to 2021) at HVL were eligible for inclusion if they used the EBPsteps app.

In Norway, OT education is a 3-year bachelor’s degree of 6 semesters (180 European Credit Transfer System [ECTS]). According to the Norwegian national curriculum, all health and social care students must be able to acquire new knowledge and make professional assessments, decisions, and actions in line with EBP [ 19 ]. At the time of this study, EBP was well integrated into the OT bachelor’s degree program at HVL [ 20 ].

Textbox 2 provides an overview of the total number of standalone EBP sessions (n=27) that OT students in this study received by their fifth semester (year 3). This amount of EBP teaching hours is a high number [ 21 ]. In addition, EBP was integrated into other learning activities, such as problem-based learning (PBL) group activities, written assignments, and exams.

Using the EBPsteps app was part of the EBP teaching. Students were introduced to the app at the start of the fifth semester. The students watched a video presentation of how to use the app and explored using the app while being supervised by a teacher. During the fifth semester, the students were encouraged to use the EBPsteps app on campus (4 weeks) and during clinical placements (11 weeks). While on campus, students had to use either the EBPsteps app or a Microsoft Word document to complete a mandatory EBP assignment that involved producing a CAT on a clinical topic. Similarly, at the end of the semester, an appendix to the home exam was to use either the EBPsteps app or a Word document to produce a CAT.

  • Standalone sessions about “ask” (2 hours) and “assess” (2 hours). Total duration is 4 hours.
  • Standalone sessions about “ask” (1 hour), “assess” (1 hour), “appraise” (3 hours), and “apply” (2 hours). Total duration is 7 hours.
  • Standalone sessions about “ask” (2 hours), “assess” (2 hours), “appraise” (8 hours), “apply” (3 hours), and “audit” (1 hour). Total duration is 16 hours.

Data Collection

CATs produced by students during the fifth semester were exported from students’ user accounts in the EBPsteps app to Microsoft Excel [ 22 ] at the end of the semester. The Norwegian data, anonymized by authors, are freely available through HVL Open [ 23 ] and include our assessment. To objectively assess students’ EBP skills based on how they documented the EBP process in the app, we developed a scoring plan for each EBP step in the CATs ( Multimedia Appendix 2 ). The different steps of the CATs were assessed as correct or incorrect, which were the outcomes investigated in this study. Two researchers independently scored each CAT, and disagreements were resolved through discussion. An overview of the scoring plan is presented in Textbox 3 .

  • Was it reflected on the information needs?
  • Which clinical question was formulated (eg, prevalence, cause, diagnostics, effect of measures, prognosis, or experiences and attitudes)?
  • Which clinical question was identified (drop-down menu)?
  • Was there an agreement between the formulated clinical question and the type of question identified from the drop-down menu?
  • Was the “population” of the Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome/Population, Interest, and Context (PICO/PICo) correctly reported?
  • Was the “intervention/interest” of the PICO/PICo correctly reported?
  • Was the “comparison” of the PICO/PICo correctly reported?
  • Was the “outcome/context” of the PICO/PICo correctly reported?
  • Which information sources were used (BMJ Best Practice, Cochrane Library, PubMed, etc)?
  • Was a link to research evidence reported?
  • Was there an agreement between the information source used and the identified research evidence?
  • Was there an agreement between the identified research evidence and the chosen critical appraisal checklist used?
  • Were the questions in the checklist completed?
  • Was the application of the research evidence reported (drop-down menu)?
  • If reported applied, was this described?
  • Were changes in practice evaluated?
  • Was the EBP process evaluated?

Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the assessment of students’ EBP skills based on the completed CATs, including frequencies and percentages for categorical variables and mean and range for continuous variables. Associations between correctly reporting the Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome/Population, Interest, and Context (PICO/PICo) elements and finding research evidence were analyzed with the chi-square test with adjustment for repeated measurements [ 24 ]. The significance level was set at 5%. Statistical analyses were performed with SPSS Statistics (version 28.0; IBM Corp) [ 25 ] and R (R Foundation for Statistical Computing) [ 26 ].

Ethical Considerations

The Norwegian Agency for Shared Services in Education and Research approved the study (project 50425). The students were informed, both orally and in writing, about the purpose of this study and that the data would be treated confidentially. The students agreed to participate in the study and signed a consent form when they created a profile and used the EBPsteps app. The students did not receive any compensation for participating. Students could choose to use the app or a Word document to complete assignments where it was required to produce CATs. The data were securely stored on the research server at HVL.

Among 4 cohorts with OT students, 79.3% (119/150) of students used the EBPsteps app during their fifth semester. The students who used the app produced 240 CATs. In the first cohort (2018), 41 of 47 students produced 73 CATs; in the second cohort (2019), 25 of 30 students produced 53 CATs; in the third cohort (2020), 21 of 33 students produced 43 CATs; and in the fourth cohort (2021), 32 of 40 students produced 71 CATs. The mean number of CATs produced per student was 2, with a range from 1 to 7.

Step 1: Ask

A need for more knowledge on a clinical problem was reported in 94.6% (227/240) CATs. In 80% (192/240) of the CATs, the type of clinical question was identified using a drop-down menu. A clinical question was formulated in 53.3% (128/240) of the CATs. The “effect of therapy” was the most prevalent clinical question reported (100/240, 41.7%) ( Table 1 ).

All PICO/PICo elements were reported correctly in 10.4% (25/240) of the CATs. Assessing the different PICO/PICo elements separately, the “population” and “intervention/interest” elements were more often correctly reported (187/240, 77.9% and 189/240, 78.8%) than the “comparison” and “outcome/context” elements (44/240, 18.3% and 103/240, 42.9%). This applied to all question types, including when the question had been formulated as a background question ( Table 1 ). In CATs without a clinical question identified, most PICO/PICo elements were incorrectly reported.

a Not relevant.

Step 2: Assess

In 240 of the CATs, the information source most frequently reported was the Cochrane Library (65/240, 27.1%), followed by CINAHL (43/240, 17.9%), PubMed (36/240, 15%), and Epistemonikos (17/240, 7.1%). In 12.9% (31/240) of the CATs, no information source was reported. Research evidence was identified and linked to in 81.3% (195/240) of the CATs, and the most common type of research evidence identified was systematic reviews (n=85), randomized controlled trials (RCTs; n=51), and qualitative research (n=44).

We observed a positive association between correctly reporting “population” and “intervention/interest” elements of the PICO/PICo and identifying research evidence. Among those correctly reporting the population element, 92.1% (221/240) identified research evidence, compared to 52.1% (125/240) among those that did not report the population element ( P <.001). Similar findings were observed for the intervention/interest element.

Step 3: Appraise

A checklist was used in 81.3% (195/240) of the CATs. Of these, the correct checklist was used in 84.6% (165/195) of the CATs; that is, there was agreement between the type of checklist and the research evidence identified ( Table 2 ).

In 98.2% (162/165) of the CATs with a correct checklist, more than 75% of the checklist questions had been answered. Effect estimates from identified research evidence were documented in 27% (21/77) of the checklists for systematic reviews and 36% (15/42) of the checklists for RCTs.

a Included the following study designs: prevalence (n=1), diagnostic (n=1), cohort (n=3), case-control (n=1), and cross-section (n=5).

Step 4: Apply

In 39.6% (95/240) of the CATs, it was reported that research evidence was applied in clinical practice. How the research was applied was described sufficiently in only 61% (58/95) of these CATs.

The most common shared decision-making approach reported from a drop-down menu was “identifying preferences” (78/240, 32.5%) and “exploring possibilities” (78/240, 32.5%). Other shared decision-making approaches reported were “presenting choices” (48/240, 20%) and “recommendations” (46/240, 19.2%), “discussing potential” (45/240, 18.8%), “deciding follow-up” (28/240, 11.7%), and “checking recommendations” (24/240, 10%).

Step 5: Audit

Evaluation of practice changes was reported in 38.6% (93/240) of the CATs. However, details of practice changes were lacking in all these CATs. In 46% (43/93) of the CATs that reported evaluation, it was reported, “did not change practice,” and in 54% (50/93) of these CATs, it was reported that it was “not relevant to change practice.” The EBP process was reported as evaluated in 54.6% (131/240) of the CATs.

Principal Findings

This study assessed OT students’ EBP skills as reported in the EBPsteps mobile app. We found that students were most often able to perform the EBP steps of “ask,” “assess,” and “appraise” correctly. A positive association was found between formulating the PICO/PICo elements and identifying research evidence. Applying the evidence and evaluating practice change were the least frequently correctly reported steps of the EBP process.

Comparison to Previous Work

Using data from the EBPsteps app, where students had documented how they followed the EBP process for their clinical question, enabled us to collect objective data on students’ EBP skills. Instruments that objectively measure EBP skills are recommended for acquiring a true reflection of the situation [ 6 , 7 , 11 ], as opposed to more frequently used self-report assessment tools [ 6 , 7 ]. Although objective assessment is advised, it can be time-consuming to complete and assess [ 4 ]. Consequently, self-reported questionnaires are often chosen because of their practicality of administration [ 9 ]. Developing an easy-to-administer scoring plan for the EBPsteps app has therefore been important. Against this background, the EBPsteps app can be a valuable contribution to objectively assessing EBP skills related to all 5 steps of the EBP process.

Ask and Assess

We found a positive association between correctly reporting population and intervention/interest elements of the PICO/PICo and finding research evidence, indicating that completing the PICO/PICo supports students’ ability to retrieve relevant research evidence. These findings align with previous research reporting that a clearly defined question supports students’ ability to retrieve relevant information [ 27 , 28 ]. Furthermore, structuring the question using the PICO/PICo format makes it easier to decide on search terms [ 2 ].

The appropriate critical appraisal checklist was chosen in 68.8% (165/240) of the CATs in this study. Nevertheless, few effect estimates were reported in checklists for RCTs and systematic reviews. This might suggest that the students had difficulties interpreting the statistical results. Lack of confidence in interpreting statistical results has previously been reported among health and social care students [ 29 , 30 ]. Acquiring an understanding of effect estimates is necessary when applying EBP [ 3 ], and spending more time teaching the understanding of research results to support the students learning and interpretation of research results is recommended [ 31 ].

Apply and Audit

Only about half of the students in this study reported that they applied the research evidence they found, indicating that they struggled using EBP skills beyond the classroom setting, which also correlates with previous research [ 32 , 33 ]. Lehane et al [ 34 ] suggest that structural incorporation of EBP during clinical placement, for instance, through easy access to research, EBP mentors, or regular journal clubs, may support the students in applying research evidence. In addition, incorporating assessment of EBP into clinical placement has been shown to influence EBP behavior [ 5 ]. In this study, EBP assignments were mandatory in class but not during clinical placement, which may explain why students in this study struggled with the steps of applying and evaluating practice. Providing a mandatory EBP assignment during the clinical placement may support the students in applying EBP and thus also mastering the 2 last steps of the EBP process.

An alternative explanation for why students struggled with the steps of applying and evaluating practice could be that they experienced fatigue or other difficulties using the app. To explore whether other issues influenced students’ skills, we could have further tested the usability of the app. When developing mobile apps for teaching and learning, usability testing is important [ 35 ]. Other research methods are necessary to investigate why the 2 last steps of the EBP process were less frequently completed. Future research should include cognitive interview studies (eg, think-aloud methods) and other pilot studies in different populations to evaluate the comprehensiveness and comprehensibility of the app.

Future Directions

Knowledge of which EBP steps students find most challenging has implications and gives directions for further development of the EBPsteps app and educational instruction in EBP. For example, providing a more comprehensive explanation of how to interpret statistical results in the app could be beneficial. In addition, spending more time teaching statistics and how to read the results seems necessary to improve students’ EBP performance.

A better alignment between what is taught during classes on campus and what students do at placements could also perhaps better facilitate EBP behavior among students. A mandatory assignment where research evidence must be found and discussed with the clinical instructors may help the students apply and evaluate the use of research evidence during clinical placement.

Currently, the EBPsteps app is available only in Norwegian. In the future, we aim to provide user interface translations for several languages [ 16 ]. However, we will need to modify options in the app according to the free access resources available in the different countries (eg, databases, guidelines, and e-learning resources). Efforts will be made to find the best solution and to accommodate needs in low- and middle-income countries.

Methodological Considerations

The main limitation of this study was that we included students from only one profession and from the same educational institution, and thus the generalizability of the results to other institutions and to other health and social care students is reduced. However, the sample consisted of 4 student cohorts from different academic years (from 2018 to 2021; n=119), including 240 CATs. Accordingly, we believe the results from this study can be recognizable and relevant across other populations.

A strength of this study was that the EBPsteps app allowed us to objectively measure the performance of the EBP process using an app that includes all 5 EBP steps. It is recommended that educators select instruments that objectively measure EBP performance [ 11 ]. Shaneyfelt et al [ 6 ] emphasized the use of online documentation of the EBP steps as a promising approach.

Another strength was that 2 researchers assessed the CATs independently based on a scoring plan, and disagreement was solved through discussion. However, the EBPsteps app and the scoring plan are not validated for assessing EBP, and measurement properties should be examined in future studies.

Conclusions

We assessed the students’ EBP skills based on how they documented following the EBP steps in the EBPsteps app, and our results showed variations in how well the students mastered the steps. “Apply” and “audit” were the most difficult EBP steps for the students to perform, and this finding has implications and gives directions for further development of the app and educational instruction in EBP. The EBPsteps app is a new and relevant app for students to learn EBP and can be valuable for assessing EBP skills objectively.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Johannes Mario Ringheim at Medialab, HVL, for the programming and technical development of the EBPsteps app and data extraction from the EBPsteps app for this study. In addition, the authors would like to thank all the students who participated in the study and used the EBPsteps app.

Data Availability

The Norwegian data, anonymized by the authors, are publicly and freely available through HVL Open [ 23 ].

Authors' Contributions

SGJ and NRO conceptualized this study. NRO was responsible for the funding of the study, and the initial analysis of the results and the project administration were performed by SGJ and NRO. The formal analysis was conducted by SGJ and BE. SGJ, BE, LL, DC, and NRO decided on the methodology. SGJ, BE, and NRO provided resources. Validation was done by SGJ, BE, and NRO, and visualization by SGJ and NRO. The writing of the original draft was done by SGJ, and review and editing were done by SGJ, BE, LL, DC, and NRO.

Conflicts of Interest

None declared.

Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) checklist.

The scoring plan of EBPsteps.

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Abbreviations

Edited by T de Azevedo Cardoso; submitted 26.04.23; peer-reviewed by G Kian Liang, M Johnson, M Stein, M Mostafa, M Gasmi ; comments to author 09.08.23; revised version received 18.09.23; accepted 29.01.24; published 21.02.24.

©Susanne G Johnson, Birgitte Espehaug, Lillebeth Larun, Donna Ciliska, Nina Rydland Olsen. Originally published in JMIR Medical Education (https://mededu.jmir.org), 21.02.2024.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Medical Education, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://mededu.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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  4. STUDY SKILLS ASSESSMENT -- Handout 1 GRADE LESSON

    study skills research questions

  5. How to ask a good Research Questions?

    study skills research questions

  6. Research Survey Questions

    study skills research questions

VIDEO

  1. Academic reading and writing in English Part 10: Building logical arguments

  2. 4. Research Skills

  3. Research methodology- exam based crash course

  4. Research Methodology Video for Final Exam

  5. Academic reading and writing in English Part 14: Tentative and objective language

  6. Tutorial class of Research (step 1)

COMMENTS

  1. Writing Strong Research Questions

    You can follow these steps to develop a strong research question: Choose your topic Do some preliminary reading about the current state of the field Narrow your focus to a specific niche Identify the research problem that you will address The way you frame your question depends on what your research aims to achieve.

  2. How to Develop a Good Research Question?

    Research questions guide the focus and direction of a research study. Here are common types of research questions: 1. Qualitative research question: Qualitative questions concern broad areas or more specific areas of research. However, unlike quantitative questions, qualitative research questions are adaptable, non-directional and more flexible.

  3. 3 Steps to Designing Effective Research Questions and Study Methods

    Step 1: Develop a Targeted Question. To develop a meaningful research question, it's important to narrow your interest to a very specific area. "Often people get excited and want to study a big topic," Robertson says. This could be something like the factors related to hypertension among adults of all ages. "But you can actually do your ...

  4. A Practical Guide to Writing Quantitative and Qualitative Research

    Scientific research is usually initiated by posing evidenced-based research questions which are then explicitly restated as hypotheses. 1, 2 The hypotheses provide directions to guide the study, solutions, explanations, and expected results. 3, 4 Both research questions and hypotheses are essentially formulated based on conventional theories and...

  5. Formulation of Research Question

    Abstract. Formulation of research question (RQ) is an essentiality before starting any research. It aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation. It is, therefore, pertinent to formulate a good RQ. The present paper aims to discuss the process of formulation of RQ with stepwise ...

  6. How to Write a Research Question in 2024: Types, Steps, and Examples

    Mixed-methods studies. Mixed-methods studies typically require a set of both quantitative and qualitative research questions. Separate questions are appropriate when the mixed-methods study focuses on the significance and differences in quantitative and qualitative methods and not on the study's integrative component (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2010).

  7. Research questions, hypotheses and objectives

    Interest in a particular topic usually begins the research process, but it is the familiarity with the subject that helps define an appropriate research question for a study. 1 Questions then arise out of a perceived knowledge deficit within a subject area or field of study. 2 Indeed, Haynes suggests that it is important to know "where the bound...

  8. LibGuides: Research Skills for Students: The Research Question

    Research Skills for Students An Open Educational Resource Introduction The Purpose of a Research Question Narrowing Your Topic Regular Questions VS Research Questions Both professional researchers and successful student researchers develop research questions.

  9. How to Assess Student Research & Study Skills

    The first aspect of good research and good study skills is the ability to ask good questions. In research, a solid, interesting, open-ended and answerable question directs a student's project. The ...

  10. The Correct Way to Do Your Research: 5 Tips for Students

    Tip 1: Define Your Research Question Clearly. A well-defined research question is the cornerstone of any successful research endeavor. It guides the direction of your study, helping to focus your efforts on finding relevant information. Start by identifying the main topic or issue you wish to explore, then narrow it down to a specific question ...

  11. Teaching study skills (not just study tips) in introductory psychology

    The study skills module includes a complete lesson plan, slides, activities and assessments. The goals of the module are to teach students the principles of learning based on cognitive research that will allow them to identify the components of effective studying and to design an effective study plan. The module begins with a class survey to ...

  12. Writing Research Questions

    1. Select a general topic of interest. 2. Ask questions about the topic. 3. Write an effective question based on the inquiries in step two. 4. Evaluate the question for effectiveness. 5....

  13. Research Question Examples ‍

    A well-crafted research question (or set of questions) sets the stage for a robust study and meaningful insights. But, if you're new to research, it's not always clear what exactly constitutes a good research question. In this post, we'll provide you with clear examples of quality research questions across various disciplines, so that you can approach your research project with confidence!

  14. Designing a research question

    There are a number of steps to take in designing a research question: Finding a topic. Researching the topic and finding a theme. Narrowing down. Turning your narrow sub-topic into a question. Testing and refining your question. 1. Finding a topic. 2.

  15. (PDF) Relationship of Study Skills and Academic ...

    The study's research questions were; (i) what types of study skills are possessed by the university students? (ii) How do study skills vary among students in terms of gender,...

  16. Eight questions to ask when interpreting academic studies: A primer for

    A hypothesis is a research question that a study seeks to answer. Sometimes researchers state their hypotheses explicitly, but more often their research questions are implicit. Hypotheses are testable assertions usually involving the relationship between two variables. In a study of smoking and lung cancer, the hypothesis might be that smokers ...

  17. Research and study skills

    The extended project qualification (EPQ) is an independent research project undertaken by students in post-16 education. It's a great way for students to develop their academic research skills, prepare for university study and can often make a difference to their application success. A variety of online resources can also be accessed by ...

  18. Quiz & Worksheet

    1. What are study skills? Study skills are the same as research skills. Study skills are skills at rote memorization. Study skills are skills at using the internet wisely....

  19. Ultimate Study Skills Guide: Tips, Tricks, and Strategies

    Elementary School: Whenever possible, adults should work with kids to help them study. Make flash cards, talk over the material together, sing spelling word songs—model good study skills for them to help them learn. Middle School: Help students continue to use a variety of review strategies.

  20. Study Skills

    Effective Reading When studying, it is likely that you will need to read a lot of information - and you will wish to use this time effectively as possible by developing your reading skills. Discover ways that you can engage with your reading, form links, understand opinions and put ideas and research into perspective.

  21. The Most Important Research Skills (With Examples)

    Key Takeaways Having strong research skills can help you understand your competitors, develop new processes, and build your professional skills in addition to aiding you in finding new customers and saving your company money.

  22. Research Question: Examples, Types, & Criteria

    A research question is different from a hypothesis in that a hypothesis is a statement that predicts the results of an investigation, whereas a research question enquires. There are three types of research questions: descriptive, relational, and causal. Research questions must be feasible, measurable, clear, specific, and focused in order to be ...

  23. 11 Top Study Skills and Techniques: Study Smarter Not Harder

    Developing good study habits will help make the most of your study time. The following 11 skills and techniques will help you study efficiently and remember the things you have learned: 1. Manage your time. Both as a student and a professional, you may have many demands upon your time. To make sure you have time for studying throughout your ...

  24. Occupational Therapy Students' Evidence-Based Practice Skills as

    The clinical question was formulated correctly in 53.3% (128/240) of the CATs, and students identified research evidence in 81.2% (195/240) of the CATs. Critical appraisal checklists were used in 81.2% (195/240) of the CATs, and most of these checklists were assessed as relevant for the type of research evidence identified (165/195, 84.6%).