This section explores the phases of constructing a robust, feasible research question. What is a research question? See the FAQ below.
How to construct a research question using the FINER framework
|How to ensure your concepts are clear and searchable||
How to structure your research question according to a framework
At this point, consider the following:
Adapted from McGowan, J., Sampson, M., Salzwedel, D. M., Cogo, E., Foerster, V., & Lefebvre, C. (2016). PRESS peer review of electronic search strategies: 2015 guideline statement. Journal of clinical epidemiology, 75, 40-46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2016.01.021
The FINER framework (Hulley, et al., 2013, pp.17-19) outlines some of the characteristics of a good research question. Review the FAQs below for more information.
Hulley, S. B., Cummings, S. R., Browner, W. S., Grady, D. G., & Newman, T. B. (2013). Designing clinical research. Wolters Kluwer.
Once you have put your research question together, it is recommended that you perform a scoping search (see FAQ below) to get a sense of what already exists on your topic. To do this, it's important to identify the searchable concepts in your question. These are the parts of the question that will be translated into the actual search.
If our research question is:
Does access to professional development opportunities improve morale in high school teachers?
The main concepts in this search are professional development, morale, and high school teachers, and you could start by searching just these terms in a general source like the Library's FiNDit. Keeping the initial searches broad will help provide a sense of the breadth and depth of existing literature, or the absence of coverage. The terms "access", "opportunities" and "improve" are important parts of the question, but at this stage, they are not the searchable parts of the question.
As you review the search results, you might notice synonyms that match your concepts. Note these terms down, as they will become useful as you perform more advanced searches. This table shows the initial concepts that were searched, and some synonyms that appeared in the results.
|Concept 1||Concept 2||Concept 3|
|Concept||professional development||morale||high school teachers|
junior high school
Using a research question framework can help clarify and classify the concepts in your research question. There are many frameworks available, and which one you choose depends on the nature of your research. Frameworks are useful, but optional, as not all research aligns with the components.
Popular frameworks include:
See our Evidence Based Practice guide for more research question structures and examples of how they can be used.