Research Questions and Hypothesis

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Assignment – What is your research question and hypothesis for your lab projects?  


Research Questions & Hypothesis


Research Question

In a research paper, the emphasis is on generating a unique question and then synthesizing diverse sources into a coherent essay that supports your argument about the topic. In other words, you integrate information from publications with your own thoughts in order to formulate an argument. Your topic is your starting place: from here, you will develop an engaging research question. Merely presenting a topic in the form of a question does not transform it into a good research question.

A Research Question is a statement that identifies the phenomenon to be studied. For example, “What resources are helpful to new and minority drug abuse researchers?”

To develop a strong research question from your ideas, you should ask yourself these things:


Research Question (RQ) Checklist:

  • Is my RQ something that I am curious about and that others might care about? Does it present an issue on which I can take a stand?
  • Does my RQ put a new spin on an old issue, or does it try to solve a problem?
  • Is my RQ too broad, too narrow, or OK?
  • Is my RQ researchable……within the timeframe of the assignment?…given the resources available at my location?
  • Is my RQ measurable? What type of information do I need? Can I find actual data to support or contradict a position?
  • What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer my RQ (journals, books, internet resources, government documents, interviews with people)?The answer to a good research question will often be the THESIS of your research paper! And the results of your research may not always be what you expected them to be. Not only is this ok, it can be an indication that you are doing careful work!

A strong research idea should pass the “so what” test. Think about the potential impact of the research you are proposing. What is the benefit of answering your research question? Who will it help (and how)? If you cannot make a definitive statement about the purpose of your research, it is unlikely to be funded.

A research focus should be narrow, not broad-based. For example, “What can be done to prevent substance abuse?” is too large a question to answer. It would be better to begin with a more focused question such as“What is the relationship between specific early childhood experiences and subsequent substance-abusing behaviors?”

A well-thought-out and focused research question leads directly into your hypotheses. What predictions would you make about the phenomenon you are examining?



Hypotheses are more specific predictions about the nature and direction of the relationship between two variables. For example, “Those researchers who utilize an online grant writing tutorial will have higher priority scores on their next grant application than those who do not.”


Strong hypotheses:

Give insight into a research question;
Are testable and measurable by the proposed experiments;
Spring logically.
Make sure you:

Provide a rationale for your hypotheses—where did they come from, and why are they strong?
Provide alternative possibilities for the hypotheses that could be tested—why did you choose the ones you did over others?


Specific Aims

If you have good hypotheses, they will lead into your Specific Aims. Specific aims are the steps you are going to take to test your hypotheses and what you want to accomplish.


Make sure:

Your objectives are measurable and highly focused;
Each hypothesis is matched with a specific aim;
The aims are feasible.

An example of a specific aim would be “Conduct a rigorous empirical evaluation of the online grant writing tutorial, comparing outcome and process measures from two groups—those with exposure to the tutorial and those without.”



Adapted from an online tutorial at Empire State College and The Research Assistant website:

  1. Empire State College, Formulating -Your Research Question
  2. The Research Assistant

 What Makes a Good Research Question