Developing a Research Question
Developing a good research question is critical.

  • Without one, you can end up picking a question that is too broad to be properly researched or does not allow for debates between perspectives. In AP Seminar, good research questions:
  • Require a judgment or evaluation to be made (not just description);
    • Are researchable (it is possible to find relevant and credible sources);
    • Involve genuine points of ongoing debate;
    • Invite engagement with alternative perspective; and
    • Are simple and do not contain multiple, nested questions

Helpful Steps

  • Choose a topic of interest. This topic should have a clear focus that will guide your research
  • Start developing a list of questions about the conversation you have decided to join. When developing your list, think about what you want to accomplish with your research. Your research questions should begin with words such as what, why, when, where, who, how, would, could, and should.
  • Once you have a list of research questions, it is time to select which one will be the focus of your research. Choose a question that best meets your interest and purpose. 
  • Finally, you will need to refine your research question. When writing research questions, revision is inevitable. You want to make sure your question is not vague or too broad. One good way to do this is to conduct a preliminary search for resources. If your preliminary research yields too many results, you should probably limit the scope of your study. However, if you receive too few results, you should broaden the scope of your question. 



  • Does having children adversely affect American women professionally? (weak – answer implied, too narrow)
  • Should American businesses be required to provide six-month paid maternity leave? (stronger – no implied answer, broader  research potential)

Fix These!

  1. What different attitudes do people around the world have to the relationship between parents and child?
  2. Is euthanasia ever justifiable? If so, when?
  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power stations?
  4. Is cryogenics only an option for the rich as well as an immoral use of resources?
  5. The problems with South American education. 
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