Questions are a fundamental part of human lives. Whether at home, in the office, or in a bus, we seek to understand things by asking questions.

When it comes to research, questions are vital. When you ask the right questions during research, you are able to get relevant and insightful information. This ultimately improves your research work. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the meaning of research questions, the types, examples, and how they are used in everyday life. 

What is a research question?

A research question is a specific question that a piece of research seeks to answer. They help define a clear path for research or study. In other words, research questions form the basis upon which everything is built. Typically, research questions cover several aspects of a study. 

A wrong or bad research question can make your research efforts futile. Conversely, a good research question can help you uncover, investigate, and develop the right answers to a topic of interest. They help you to determine a suitable approach or methodology, including other aspects of the research.  

Types of research questions

There are several types of research questions that can be classified into two broad categories – quantitative and qualitative research questions. Both can be used at the same time or separately, depending on the focus of the research.

For example, if your research focuses on collecting quantifiable data, then you’ll make use of quantitative research questions. On the other hand, if your research interest is to gather qualitative data, then qualitative research questions will suffice. 

Quantitative research questions

As the name suggests, quantitative research questions are questions used to collect or gather data that can be quantified. Quantitative research questions are specific and direct. The overall goal of these question types is to collect information that can be measured. 

Three types of quantitative research questions are:

  1. Comparative Research Questions
  2. Descriptive Research Questions
  3. Relational Research Questions

Comparative research questions

Comparative research questions help you to examine the difference between two or more groups when one or more variables remain the same. Typically, comparative research questions are phrased like this: 

“What’s the difference in…[variable]…between …[Group A]…and …[Group B]…and…[Group C]?

For example, let’s consider the following comparative research questions

Question 1: What is the difference in time spent on mobile phones between people ages 15 to 24 and 25 to 34?

Variable: Time spent on mobile phones

Group A: People between the ages of 15 and 24

Group B: People between the ages of 25 and 34

Question 2: What is the difference in the average daily milk consumption of American men and women?

Variable: Average daily milk consumption 

Group A: American men 

Group B: American women

Question 3: What is the difference in the usage of Facebook among Millenials, Gen Z, and Baby Boomers?

Variable: Usage of Facebook

Group A: Millenials

Group B: Gen Z

Group C: Baby Boomers

Using comparative research questions, you can know what distinguishes one group from another. They can be used in market research to gain insight into the buying behavior of different customer segments. 

Descriptive research questions

Descriptive research questions are questions used to gather quantifiable information. They are asked to reveal patterns in the group under study. Descriptive research questions do not reveal cause-and-effect relationships. Rather, the primary focus of a descriptive research question is the “what is” question. 

Generally, descriptive research questions are closed-ended questions. The reason for this is to get specific responses from the group under study. Also, descriptive research questions are focused on one group and one variable. 

Let’s consider some examples of descriptive research questions:

Question 1: How much wine do Italians consume per week?

Variable: Weekly wine intake

Group: Italian

Question 2: What is the percentage of male students in British high schools?

Variable: Male students

Group: British high schools

Question 3: How much are you willing to pay for this hair product?

Variable: Amount to pay

Group: Hair product

Descriptive research questions allow you to gather customers’ opinions about the specific variable you intend to measure. 

Relationship research questions

Relationship research questions are questions used to identify relationships between two or more variables. Typically, relationship research questions are often in the format:

“What is the relationship between/ among ….[variables]”

Let’s consider some examples of relationship research questions.

Question 1: What is the relationship between employee productivity and work culture in the United States?

Dependent Variable: Work culture

Independent variable: Employee productivity

Group: United States

Question 2: What is the relationship between the class of degree and job positions among employees in oil and gas companies?

Dependent Variable: Job positions

Independent Variable: Class of degree

Group: Employees in Oil and Gas companies

Question 3: What is the relationship between purchasing power and product sales in the B2C customer segment?

Dependent Variable: Product sales

Independent Variable: Purchasing power

Group: B2C customer segment

Using relationship research questions, you can establish the relationship between the sales of your product and the income levels of your customers. 

Qualitative Research Questions

A qualitative research question is a question that seeks to gather qualitative data from research subjects. This type of research question is aimed at collecting non-statistical information such as experiences, observations, and perceptions of the research subjects. 

Three types of research questions are:

  1. Exploratory Research Questions
  2. Interpretive Research Questions
  3. Predictive Research Questions

Exploratory Research Questions

An exploratory research question is a question that seeks to understand something in more detail. In other words, it provides a deeper understanding of a research endeavor. Exploratory research questions help answer questions like “what”, “when”, and “how”. It doesn’t answer the question “why.”

Some examples of exploratory research questions:

Research Topic Example 1: What is the effect of mobile phones on attention span?

Exploratory Research Question: How many hours, on average, do you spend using your phone?

Research Topic Example 2: How does inflation affect the purchasing power of citizens in the United States?

Exploratory Research Question: What is the average disposable income of a citizen?

Research Topic Example 3: What are the common eating disorders in teenagers?

Exploratory Research Question: Do you feel that you like certain foods and dislike others?

Exploratory research questions are used to provide more context to a research question. It helps researchers to understand their research problems better. 

Interpretive Research Questions

Interpretive research questions are questions that gather feedback about a group or research object. These questions help interpret how a group responds to different scenarios. When using interpretive research questions, the study group’s behavior is not altered in any form.

Here are some examples of interpretive research questions:

Research Topic Example 1: How do high school students studying Chemistry transition to Arts?

Interpretive Research Question: How do you feel when Chemistry is no longer part of your core course?

Research Topic Example 2: What is the major benefit of investing in startup businesses?

Interpretive Research Question: How do you know if a small business is profitable?

Research Topic Example 3: Why don’t parents allow their kids to choose their careers?

Interpretive Research Question: How do you feel when kids have no say in their career choice?

Using interpretive research questions, you can get useful information without altering the behavior of those under study. 

Predictive Research Questions

As the name suggests, predictive research questions are questions that are used to predict the future outcome of an action. Predictive research questions allow you to use past data to predict people’s reactions to future events. 

Examples of predictive research questions:

Research Topic Example 1: Are sports fans more likely to buy a new jersey after a top player promotes it?

Predictive research question: Would you try a new jersey because a top player you respect said it fits well and is also of high quality?

Research Topic Example 2: Would teenagers in a metropolitan city enjoy cycling?

Predictive research question: How often would you use bicycles to commute?

Research Topic Example 3: Are customers likely to change their buying habits due to the increased use of digital devices?

Predictive research question: How much time would you spend searching for products and services online?

Predictive research questions help you predict whether one or more research variables can be used to predict an outcome.

Examples of Good Research Questions

The foundation of any good research is in the quality of the research question. Hence, it is important to know how to craft a good research question. With the right research question, you’ll be able to gather objective and specific responses.

A good research question is one that is clear, concise, and objective. It is one that contributes to a body of knowledge or a specific field. Good research questions uncover areas for further research. 

Open-Ended Questions

An open-ended question is a type of question that gives respondents the opportunity to express their feelings, opinions, and perceptions toward a research subject. This allows them to give detailed answers to questions. 

Examples of Open-ended Questions

  1. How are you doing today?
  2. How do you cope with stress?
  3. What do you like to do in your free time?

Close-ended Questions

Unlike open-ended questions, closed-ended questions restrict respondents to a pre-defined set of answers. These types of questions typically require a “Yes” or “No”, “True or False”, or multiple-choice responses. Closed-ended questions are mostly used in quantitative research to collect numerical data from respondents.

Examples of Closed-ended Questions

  1. Did you enjoy the meal?
  • Yes
  • No
  1. How likely are you to recommend this product to a friend or colleague?
  • Very likely
  • Somewhat likely
  • Unlikely
  1. Do you enjoy reading?
  • Yes
  • No

Likert Scale Questions

A Likert scale is a psychometric rating scale that has five to seven points or rating options. It is used as part of a larger survey or questionnaire to get a deeper understanding of how respondents feel about a topic.

A Likert scale question is a question that is structured on a five to seven-point scale. Occasionally, a three-point scale is also used. Likert scale questions help gauge respondents’ feelings about a topic of interest. 

Examples of Likert Scale Questions

  1. How do you find our product quality?
  • Very satisfied
  • Satisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • Dissatisfied
  • Very dissatisfied
  1. The webinar event was engaging.
  • Strongly agree
  • Somewhat agree
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat disagree
  • Strongly disagree
  1. Tokyo is an attractive tourist destination
  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neither agree or disagree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree

A Likert scale question helps you to narrow down the sentiments and feelings of respondents. 

Examples of Bad Research Questions

We have discussed good research questions. The other side of the coin is the bad research questions. Bad research questions are usually unstructured and unfocused leading to biases that can impact the outcomes of research.

Leading Questions

Leading questions are questions that nudge respondents to answer in a predetermined way. They are suggestive in nature since they make respondents confirm the researcher’s assumptions or biases. Leading questions favor the sentiments of the researcher. 

Examples of Leading Questions

  1. Our customer service team did a great job, didn’t they?
  2. XYZ company is the best place to work in, don’t you agree?
  3. If you liked our digital products, would you be willing to try our other offline products?

Loaded Questions

Loaded questions are questions that contain a controversial assumption. These types of questions put respondents in a box because they do not have the freedom to express their true feelings and intentions.

Examples of Loaded Questions

  1. Have you stopped drinking?
  2. Where did you hide the book?
  3. Why do you support my opponent’s claims?

Negative Questions

Negative questions are questions that are structured using an explicit or implicit negator. They are misleading because they require negative answers for affirmation and positive answers for negation. 

Examples of Negative Questions

  1. You didn’t visit the hospital yesterday?
  2. Would you mind dropping by my house today?
  3. You didn’t go out with your cousin last week?

Use cases

Customer satisfaction

Research questions can be used to gather insight into customer satisfaction. For example, a bank sends a simple survey question: 

How would you rate your satisfaction with our services (Likert Scale)

  1. Very satisfied
  2. Satisfied
  3. Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  4. Dissatisfied
  5. Very dissatisfied

The data collected from this research can provide insight into how customers feel about the bank’s services. 

Market analysis

Open-ended questions can serve as a strong tool to gain a deeper understanding of the market. For example, let’s consider the open-ended question:

“How do you want us to serve you better?”

This question puts the customers at ease. They are able to state what they feel. And the information they provide can prove very useful in creating new products or developing existing ones. 

Conclusion

Research questions are essential ingredients in any research endeavor. Framing the right questions can help you avoid wasted time, effort, and resources. Take a step back and check if you have been asking the right kind of research questions. It is never too late to take a detour and start asking good research questions.