Take Charge of Your Research Paper – Tips for Formulating an Effective Research Question

Every graduate student or researcher aims to study an interesting topic, contribute to existing research in the field, and get published in an international English-language journal. However, not many authors achieve publication success. Manuscripts are often rejected by journals because of ineffective presentation or poor writing. A poorly formulated or insufficiently defined research question could also lead to journal rejection.

It is common for an author to send his paper to a editing service provider for language/structural polishing. There are several research-paper editing services available and online research editing is seen as an affordable and viable option by authors. However, even before sending your research paper for editing, you have to write it. And before writing your research paper, you must conduct an in-depth study of the topic of your choice. Thus, it is imperative to choose the right research question to ensure that you are able to develop an effective study design and analyze your data to arrive at a clear conclusion.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right question for your research:

The “so what?” test
As yourself these questions about the topic you have short listed:
• What are the possible outcomes of your research? Could they be useful, interesting, and meaningful?
• Is it of consequence to your intended reader?
• Do the outcomes change/add to existing knowledge about the field?
• Do they provide insights to policymakers?
• Will the study guide other researchers?
If your research question clears the “so what?” test, you should definitely consider exploring it further.

What’s new?
Journal editors often reject manuscripts that are not novel. Your question for research should not be repetitive nor should it have an obvious answer. Ensure that your research will:
• result in new information or add to further lines of research in your field
• corroborate existing knowledge or generalize it further
• establish findings that negate existing knowledge, or
• critically review existing literature.
You can also arrive at a question by revisiting existing concepts or theories in a new light.

Replication is acceptable if it adds value
It is possible for a research to focus on a topic that has already been researched and examine the findings from a different perspective, for example, on a different sample. If your research question validates the findings of a previous study or helps overcome its limitations, it is most likely a strong question that will be meet journal requirements.

Read and review
Staying abreast of the latest developments in your field as well as reviewing existing literature is critical to ensuring that you are able to identify strong potential lines of research or gaps in existing literature. This will also help you avoid choosing a repetitive research topic.

Attend conferences
Academic conferences have great potential not only as a networking platform but also as a rich source of information about the latest advancements in your field before they are published. You can also use the networking opportunities at conferences to exchange ideas with active researchers to help formulate questions that are more likely to receive funding approval.

Follow a framework
Researchers can also access to frameworks that have been specifically developed to aid them in formulating effective questions for your research. Using templates offered by frameworks such as PICOT, PESICO, and FINER you can devise a well-planned research strategy.

Seek advice
Having a good mentor who is available to guide you through the process of choosing a research question is also helpful. The role of a mentor can be played by a senior colleague, a statistician, a professor, or someone who has considerable experience conducting and publishing research.

A question is the most critical aspect of a research paper because it lays the foundation for what is to follow. An effective research question will ensure that the researcher is able to conduct a well-planned study and write a structured, effective manuscript that will make a great first impression on journal editors and reviewers.

My name is Jayashree R and I am admittedly a word addict, ever enthralled by the infinite potential of words to enable people to reach out, express, forge relationships, and build our own languages, histories, and futures.

As a BELS-certified editor, I have helped authors develop effective, publication-ready manuscripts. And now, as a content writer, I thrive in the engaging universe of words to create compelling communication materials.

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