What is a Research Question?

A research question is a question about something that happens in the world. How do people find jobs? How do auctions really work? Why don’t Welfare-reliant mothers go to work? For criminologists, research questions are usually asked about some aspect of the criminal justice system or crime that we don’t know about, or haven’t investigated closely before. We can also ask a research question about something we think we know about, but go on to give a surprising answer. Or our choice of question may be guided directly by theory: we deliberately choose to study something that will help us confirm, modify, or falsify a theory that already exists—for example, the theory of incapacitation. In sum, a good research question is well-defined, clearly stated, and addresses an empirical or theoretical issue. For this class, your research question will be related to your selected topic.

Bear in mind that the rather dry language of formal social research — competing theories, formal hypotheses, and so on — can make it easy to forget the point of the criminal justice research. We want to ask and answer important and interesting questions. But the big, sweeping questions that motivate whole fields are impossible to tackle properly in a research proposal. It is possible to write interesting proposals that don’t over-reach. When someone reads your research question, you want the person to say: “That’s Interesting!”

Research Question Assignment

Compile the following materials into one document 

1. Proposed research poster title;

2. Research topic – MUST be criminal justice-related!;

3. Research question – defining a good research question will REQUIRE you to review a few previous empirical studies – to do well on this assignment you will need to visit the UCF library database and/or Google Scholar and review previous research on your topic;

4. A couple sentences about why you choose your research question (has anyone researched this before?) – you should cite previous research in response to this item!;

5. A few sentences about the feasibility (think about how you would be able to actually answer your research question – what type of data would you need, is it possible for you to collect this data? Why is it important? Why is the topic relevant to the field?; 

6. Reference page according to APA style (check out the APA Reference Page example on our module page to guide you and remember to apply the feedback from our APA writing assignment!).

Use APA format to write your paper, including in-text citations and references. You must cite any research studies or resources you use to complete this assignment. If in doubt, provide a citation. If what you are writing was inspired by or taken from someone else’s work – cite it! Use your APA manual to help you!!

Assignment: Research Question
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