ANSO 301: Methodologies in Anthropology & Sociology: Developing a Research Question

A guide to getting started with senior research in Anthropology & Sociology
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2020 1:48 PM
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What is a Research Question?

A research question guides and centers your research. It should be clear and focused, as well as synthesize multiple sources to present your unique argument. Even if your instructor has given you a specific assignment, the research question should ideally be something that you are interested in or care about. Be careful to avoid the “all-about” paper and questions that can be answered in a few factual statements.

How Do I Develop A Research Question

Think about a topic that you would like to study.  A more narrow focus on the topic will help drive your research.

A quick search of some of the literature on the topic will help guide you towards questions about your topic.  If you were interested in gender roles in the Native American Southwest, what aspect of it are you interested in?  What time period?  What age group?  

These questions will flush out your interest and will help you create a research question.  

8 Questions

Ask the following 8 questions to evaluate the quality of your research question and the ease with which you should be able to answer it:

1. Does the question deal with a topic or issue that interests me enough to spark my own thoughts and opinions?

2. Is the question easily and fully researchable?

3. What type of information do I need to answer the research question? Qualitative?  Quantitative? Original research?     

4. Is the scope of this information reasonable (e.g., can I really research 30 online writing programs developed over a span of 10 years?)

5. Given the type and scope of the information that I need, is my question too broad, too narrow, or okay?

6. What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer the research question (journals, books, Internet resources, government documents, people)?

7. Can I access these sources?

8. Given my answers to the above questions, do I have a good quality research question that I actually will be able to answer by doing research?


Where Do I Go From Here?

Your research question will drive where you get your research and what kind of research you will seek out.  Quantitative data "focuses on the numerical measurement and analysis between variables, qualitative data examines the social processes that give rise to the relationships, interactions, and constraints of the inquiry."

Selecting the Appropriate Research Approach

Now it's time to select the most appropriate investigative methods for researching your topic. In order to do this, you must figure out what kinds of data (primary and secondary) you will need. This data may be gathered via fieldwork, participant observation, data analysis, interviews, survey research, literature review, software for linguistic text analysis, and/or spatial databases for archaeology.

If applicable, you will also need to investigate Knox's policies related to human subjects research, including access to subjects, informed consent, and institutional review board (IRB) requirements.

You will also need to become conscious of privacy, confidentiality, security, and other ethical issues related to your research methodology in accordance with principles in the American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics or the American Sociological Association Code of Ethics.