Defining Your Research Question

Once your overall research agenda is set, the broad areas where you have identified a need for better understanding must be translated into specific research questions. An effective research question is specific and can be operationalized. A good research question defines the following:

  • Topic of study
  • Exposures, risk factors or intervention of interest
  • Outcomes of interest
  • Population of interest
  • Timeframe of interest

The more specific your research question is, the more helpful it can be in refining and communicating your intentions. For example, a broad research question may be: “Does our program improve educational achievement levels in children with FASD?”. This language may be most useful at the early stages of a project to initiate discussions.

A more specific question that can be translated directly into a research project would be: “Among children with FASD who entered junior kindergarten in Bracebridge in September 2000, what were the 2010 educational achievement levels among those who received early intervention programming compared with those who did not?”. This more specific question can be used by the research team as a starting point for the research project.