Queen's Learning Commons


Learning Commons

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Stage 2 - Identifying Your Research Questions

Your interest in your research questions will help carry you through the dissertation process and may become the jumping off point/ starting place for future research work or the next step in your career. Be sure to take the time you need for defining and refining your research question(s).

Step 1: Brainstorm possible research questions.

Be creative. This is your chance to experiment with a variety of different questions you might pursue

Try using various brainstorming techniques

Reflect back on your master's thesis, coursework, and seminar papers

Step 2: Do some preliminary research.

Search Theses and Dissertations and read the abstracts to identify research questions that have already been pursued in your field

Search an index in your field to find relevant articles and focus on the last sections covering recommended further research

Go to the Queen's Library Article Indexes and search by your field and search index descriptions for "conference papers," and "conference proceedings"

Step 3: Narrow down your ideas to your top two or three.

Be careful about research feasibility: If you are doing empirical research, your research question must be appropriate for the subjects you have to work with

Be careful about broad questions: Your research question cannot be so broad that you can't adequately cover it.

Step 4: Discuss with all your advisors, other faculty, peers.

Step 5: Through this process, reach an agreement with your advisor on an initial set of research questions to guide your research. Note that as your research progresses, you might refine your questions.