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Introducing research questions

In this video, Ella Hatton explains what is meant by the term 'Research question' and why they are so important.
So, broadly speaking, a research question is what you are trying to answer through your research study. And this revolves around a specific topic usually. Having a good research question is one of the most critical parts of a research study because it’s what your entire research project will focus around. About two years ago, I was conducting a research project for my MSc dissertation. At the time, I was working in a mental health setting and I was particularly interested in the psychological wellbeing of clinical mental health staff, particularly those who worked in secure mental health environments. So I conducted in an initial literature review and found that rates of burnout were quite high in clinical mental health staff.
And, I was intrigued to know why. So, I started to look into some theories around burnout. I was particularly interested in the Job Demands-Resources Theory, as it considers both demands and resources in the role of the person’s burnout. I was also interested in how burnout can affect the psychological wellbeing of clinical mental health staff, and particularly their life satisfaction, which is how we appraise our lives as a whole. I was therefore able to base my research question around this theory. And after seeing that, there was a gap in the research around this area.
I refined my research question to be ‘what effect do job demands and job resources have on burnout and life satisfaction in clinical mental health staff working in a secure mental health settings?
So, having a good research question helps you to frame your entire research study. So, by devising my research question, I was able to consider the measures that I would to use, for example. Because I knew I was basing it on the Job Demands-Resources Theory, I was guided to look into the literature for specific job demands and resources that clinical mental health may experience. From this, I was able to consider what tools would be the most appropriate to measure these variables. Because I also knew from my research question that I would be looking at burnout and life satisfaction, I was able to consider what would be the best measures for those too.
Because my research question stated that I would be focusing on clinical mental health staff, I was able to focus on them as my sample. This also helped me to refine my inclusion and exclusion criteria when it came to sampling my participants. Devising a research question also helped me to consider what my hypotheses would be. In other words, statements of what I thought the results would be in the study. This also helped me to consider what the most appropriate form of analysis would be too.

In this video, Ella Hatton, assistant lecturer in the Business and Occupational Psychology team at Coventry University, reflects on what a research question is and why it is so important.

Much of what she has to say is based on her own experiences of conducting research as an MSc student.

Your task

Reflect on what Ella has said and answer the question below in the comments area.
How important do you consider research questions to be when carrying out research?
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