What is the best research question

Formulate research question | Examples for the bachelor thesis

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Each one deals with content bachelor thesis or a master's thesis with a specific topic, which is being worked on in order to present new research results. However, it is not enough to have a very general topic that is used as the title of the work. All scientific work is always selective, i. H. everything on one topic can never be edited. In addition, this is not required at all.

Rather, you should show that you can work on a partial aspect of a selected topic comprehensively and present meaningful results. In order not to run the risk of bringing in too many aspects and not having a clear focus, a fundamental thing must be formulated after the topic has been identified: the research question.

The research question is the linchpin of the bachelor thesis as well as the master thesis (even a simple housework cannot do without it), as it determines exactly what the goal of the work is. What do you want to achieve in your work, and most importantly, how? Which answer to a precisely posed question should the reader be richer in the end? After all, he doesn't want to read anything that doesn't lead to anything. The following is what you need to consider when formulating the research question and why you cannot possibly do without it.

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frequently asked Questions

When writing an academic paper, such as a bachelor thesis, the research question is referred to as the formulation of the research project. This means that it is clearly defined which topic will be dealt with in the thesis.

The aim is to answer the research question at the end of the work.

Basically, the Research question should also be formulated as a question, because in the end this question should be answered with the work. Attention should be paid to a narrow formulation and very precise formulation. In addition, a research question should be as objective as possible.

The research question is formulated in the introduction. This first introduces the topic and then clearly states the question.

Note: In our blog post on introduction you will find more helpful tips!

Definition: research question

The success of any scientific work stands or falls with the formulation of the research question, because it determines which material is cited and how it is cited argumentation is built and what the goal is. If the research question is vague, irrelevant or not clearly directed to a certain aspect of a topic, it can be compared to a large orchestra that has lost its conductor.

Everything is mixed up and the result is only noise, not nice music. About the same thing happens with a scientific paper: Without a clear goal through a precise research question, everything ends in chaos, at the end of which the reader stands and does not know why he has now read your work. It is best to formulate the question as a W-question. Answering the question at the end of the thesis is your scientific contribution. The research question must be in the introduction after the introduction to the topic. It limits the scope of the material and enables targeted work.

Examples of the research question

For orientation purposes, there is now an overview of different question types with examples of research questions (see Kornmeier 2013: 56-73 for an even more detailed description), as they are for a bachelor thesis or master thesis could be formulated.

Question typeTask and central question (s)Examples of the research question
Description / descriptionDescribe a state: What is the case? What does the "reality" look like? (Or also: Does reality really look like this?) (Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 25)How is the practical training of the students at the Pedagogical University XY currently presented?
How and in which contexts do math teachers use pupil questions in the 8th grade? (Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 49)
Reason/
Explanation
Understand / explain a connection: Why is something like that? Which causes lead to which effects? (Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 49)Why do companies differ in their personnel development intensity?

Why has labor mobility (not) changed in the EU since 1990? (Bänsch & Alewell 2013: 4)
layoutMeasures to achieve a goal / solve practical problems: Which measures are suitable to achieve a specific goal? (Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 25)How can the population balance be ensured in the future?
What measures / strategies should large companies take if they want to be successful in the Chinese market? (Kornmeier 2013: 61)
forecastOutline future events and their consequences: What will something look like in the future? What changes will happen? (Bänsch & Alewell 2013: 4)How will the personnel development intensity of companies in an industry change?
How will labor mobility in the EU change over the next five years? (Bänsch & Alewell 2013: 4)
Criticism/
Evaluation /
rating
Practice criticism of something, make suggestions for improvement: How is a certain condition to be assessed against the background of the explicitly named criteria? (Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 49)How should the student-centered teaching in German be assessed with regard to the promotion of formal performance dimensions?
How has the development of a school profile by the teachers affected their job satisfaction? (Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 49)
UtopiaSpeculating, sense / ethics from a scientific point of view related to long-term predictions or developments: What will the world of tomorrow look like? (Kornmeier 2013: 61)How will old (and young) people live (together) in 50 years?
What role will countries like the BRIC states (= Brazil, Russia, India, China) play in the global economy in 50 years' time? What are the consequences for the German economy? (Kornmeier 2013: 61)

Examples of successful working titles

Examples of research questions:

Further working titles from areas of science

(adapted from Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 51-53)

Difference between title and research question

titleResearch question
Differences between fathers with different migration backgrounds in a metropolitan milieu in the subjective constructions of the father role in the upbringing of young childrenThe thesis deals with the constructions that fathers in large cities have of their role in bringing up young children. The question is: What differences can be found between fathers of different origins in terms of their role definition and identity as a father?

(adapted from Kruse 2007: 128)

Research question of scientific work

"The problem [...] clarifies the question of what entitles you as an author to make the world happy with another pile of printed paper" (Winter 2004: 28).

A scientific thesis such as the bachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation To write does not mean to feel compelled to put "something" on paper, but to gain new scientific knowledge or to reinterpret / apply theories. This can only be achieved if one has researched extensively and has found a topic that still has aspects that are relatively unexplored, a "gap" in the literature, so to speak. More precisely: A new question can be asked about it, a question that no one has answered yet.

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Important: It must be clear why a question is important and should be addressed; usually there is an unsolved problem. The solution to the problem is the aim of the work, because "Problems are good starting points for research because - in contrast to mere collections of material - they are motivating and give direction to the work" (Kruse 2007: 129).

Esselborn-Krumbiegel sums up what is required in every scientific work: “First of all, you have to make it clear that every scientific work is the answer to an open question” (2002: 60). Because as soon as a topic has been found, a research question must be formulated, because the topic itself "becomes a topic because a question is dealt with in the work" (Franck & Stary 2009: 167).

Note: The topic and research question are very closely related. Nevertheless, the topic is “'only' 'the title of your scientific work”, because “only the answer to a specific research question provides an increase in knowledge” (Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 24). The research question is derived from the topic in order to avoid starting to write aimlessly without having a clear focus (cf. Bänsch & Alewell 2013: 3).

Formulate the research question

The easiest way to answer the research question is to try to “formulate your bachelor thesis in a single question”, because “you will find that the aim and purpose of your bachelor thesis can be defined much more easily with it” (Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 46) . Only when it is really clear to you what you want to write your work about can all other important decisions regarding the selection of literature, the structure, the content and the design of your own study be made (cf. Kornmeier 2013: 56).

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Important: The research question must be formulated in such a way that it clearly differs from other work that has already been written (if it does, your results will also differ and a repetition of a topic that has already been dealt with is excluded). It should also be formulated as a W question (what? How? Etc.) (cf. Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 24).

The research question of bachelor thesis or Master's thesis can (but does not have to) be formulated as an interrogative sentence, e.g. B. The question of this work is: ... or The thesis deals with the following question: ... (cf. Kruse 2010: 80). Finally, a question mark signals to the reader that there is an unsolved problem here and that they can hope for an answer by reading your work.

An important criterion that the research question must meet is that it must be narrowly enough and formulated very precisely. Andermann, Drees & Grätz note that it is a cardinal mistake when “the author thinks that everything he has read and worked on by him for the topic must be the subject of his work”, ie “figuratively speaking, the beginning with Adam and Eve counts and the effort to reinvent the wheel of the dominant aberrations of budding scientists ”(2006: 33).

Note: Kruse (2010) makes it clear how problem, question and objective are delimited from one another. While the problem reflects the relevance of the topic and is a larger unit of meaning (political, scientific, ethnic, professional problems, etc.). The entire problem can never be dealt with comprehensively in one paper, only a partial aspect = the research question. The aim of a thesis is to present general knowledge, or more specifically: to present and apply theories, test new methods, evaluate and interpret sources, etc. (cf. 2010: 80).

Example: interaction of topic, problem, question and objective

(adapted from Kruse 2010: 81)

Where the research question has to be

Since the research question is the content and the procedure of the bachelor thesis and the master thesis it must of course also be presented to the reader at the beginning of the work. The structure is also only aimed at answering the research question and thus the overall understanding depends on understanding the research question.

For this reason it must be mentioned in the introduction, first the topic is introduced and its relevance made clear, then the research question follows; in addition, it must be classified in the topic (cf. Oertner, St. John & Thelen 2014: 31).

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Note: The research question can also be divided into sub-questions, which are reflected in the structure, i. H. the sub-questions all do their part to answer the research question successively (cf. Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 24; Esselborn-Krumbiegel 2002: 64). After all, a long work does not consist of just one chapter and so several steps are often necessary to answer the question (research situation, methods, empirical data collection and data evaluation, etc.).

Tip: The introduction of the research question makes it possible to fall back on the first-person form. Even if the use of the first-person form is to be avoided in principle (except in the foreword), the research question can e.g. B. from "In this work I want to show ...", "In this work I deal with ... and therefore the following question arises: ...". After all, these are not your own thoughts (I think… in my opinion) (cf. Rossig & Prätsch 2005: 147), but merely highlight the new aspect that you will now work on in a targeted manner. Therefore, the I-form should only appear this once in direct relation to the research question; this also emphasizes your own question, because it is very important for your work.

Different types of research question

In addition to developing the core question and its sub-questions, you also need to be clear about the context in which these questions are and what type of question (s) you want to answer. Otherwise, there is the risk that “for terms, facts, keywords or statements that are part (but only part) of the formulation of the topic, everything that was found in the literature research will be dumped” (Bänsch & Alewell 2013: 3-4 ). In other words:

This is the best way to completely sink into the "creative chaos", whereby it is less creative than it will lead to a bad job, because it cannot succeed in working out a clear focus.

What you have to pay attention to when formulating

It is important to take enough time to carefully formulate the research question of the bachelor thesis and master thesis in order not to be on the wrong track from the outset because the formulation was unsuccessful. First and foremost, this should of course never be ambiguous or vague, because then you have to rightly ask yourself the question of whether you actually know what exactly you are working on and want to answer in your work (cf. Kornmeier 2013: 71).

The question should also not be a presumption (Why is it true that ...?), to be too vague (How does the Internet benefit mankind?) or have an influencing character (How do men and women differ in their interest in politics?) (see Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 24). After all, the top priority in science is to be impartial and open-ended, which must be made clear in the research question.

Tip: Writing a bachelor thesis with examples

Note: Successful work can only arise from a successful question, i. H. this must be as concrete and precise as possible. The initial question "How has labor mobility changed in the European Union (EU) since 2004?" B. the more specific research question "What effects did Hungary's accession to the EU in 2004 and the unrestricted labor market opening in May 2011 have on labor mobility from Hungary to Germany and Austria in a short and long-term comparison?" (Cf. Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 26).

Important: The research question, just like the topic, must be discussed and clarified with the supervisor in any case!

Samac, Prenner & Schwetz have put together a helpful catalog which briefly outlines what characterizes a bad research question and which must therefore be avoided in the formulation (2009: 47).

To avoid:

Conclusion

  • The research question is the heart of the bachelor thesis or master thesis and specifies its content, structure and the goal to be achieved by answering this question.
  • The research question is closely related to the topic / title, because a comprehensive topic can never be dealt with in a paper, so the research question shows which specific aspect is being worked on.
  • The research question should be formulated as a W question and must be clearly differentiated from work that has already been written.
  • In the bachelor thesis and master thesis as well as the scientific work in general, it is not required that you reinvent the wheel: The research question limits the scope of the material and excludes aspects that are not necessary to answer the question.
  • The answer to the research question at the end of the thesis represents the scientific contribution.
  • The research question is embedded in the introduction immediately after the introduction and presentation of the topic.
  • There are different types of research questions: description, justification, design, criticism / evaluation, prognosis and utopia.
  • Vague, diffuse, vague or tendentious research questions should be avoided; it should be formulated very carefully, be researchable and relevant to the respective field of study.

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References

Andermann, Ulrich, Martin Drees & Frank Götz. 2006.How to write scientific Work? 3rd edition Mannheim: Dudenverlag.

Bänsch, Axel & Dorothea Alewell. 2013.Scientific work. 11th edition Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag.

Esselborn-Krumbiegel, Helga. 2002.From Idea to Text - A Guide to Scientific Write. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh.

Franck, Norbert & Joachim Stary. 2009.The technique of scientific work. 15th edition Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh.

Karmasin, Matthias & Rainer Ribing. 2014. The design of scientific work. 8th edition Vienna: Facultas.

Kruse, Otto. 2007.Don't be afraid of the blank sheet - without writer's block through your studies. 12th edition Frankfurt: Campus.

Kruse, Otto. 2010.Reading and writing - the correct handling of texts in your studies. Constance: UVK publishing company.

Kornmeier, Martin. 2013.Scientific writing made easy - for Bachelor, Master and dissertation. 6th ed. Bern: Haupt.

Oertner, Monika, Illona St. John & Gabriele Thelen. 2014.Scientific Writing - a Practical book for writing trainers and students. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink.

Rossig, Wolfram E. & Joachim Prätsch. 2005.Scientific work. 5th edition. Weyhe: PRINT-TEC.

Samac, Klaus, Monika Prenner & Herbert Schwetz. 2009.The bachelor thesis at the university and University of Applied Sciences. Vienna: Facultas.

Winter, Wolfgang. 2005.Writing scientific papers. 2nd edition Frankfurt: Redline Economy.

about the author

Bianca Mohr

Bianca Mohr (M. A.) is a doctoral candidate and research assistant at the University of Erfurt. During her studies at the University of WĂĽrzburg, she worked as a tutor and was able to gain years of experience in giving students an introduction to scientific work and providing personal advice. She is doing her doctorate in the field of "early bilingualism". She also holds seminars for Bachelor students on the topics of early multilingualism and early second language acquisition. Ms. Mohr gives scientific guidelines on the subject of "Writing theses".