Exercise 2: Is the Question Too Broad or Too Narrow?

Below are five exercises designed to improve your ability to select a good research question. Select what you think is the best research question out of the three (neither too broad nor too narrow). Click the letter next to the best one.

Exercise 2A-Is Research Question Too Broad/Narrow?

Question A: What marketing strategies does the Coca-Cola company currently apply?

Question B: What is the Coca-Cola company's future marketing plan?

Question C: What marketing strategies has the Coca-Cola company used in the past?

Question A

Question A is the best research question.

Your research to answer this question may include observation of print, television and radio advertisements as well as research into various current marketing theories and strategies. Both types of research are "do-able," and the question is focused enough to yield a fully-developed research paper.

Question B

Question B is very broad as well as being unresearchable

It's unlikely that Coca-Cola personnel will reveal their marketing plan.

Question C

Question C may be too broad as well.

"The past" covers a lot of time, especially since the Coca-Cola company was incorporated in 1919.

Exercise 2B-Is Research Question Too Borad/Narrow?

Question A: What impact has deregulation had on the airline industry?

Question B: What percentage of commercial airline crashes was traced to negligent maintenance during the 10 years immediately preceding and following deregulation?

Question C: What impact has deregulation had on commercial airline safety?

Question A

Question A is too broad once you get into the research.

Because deregulation may have had impact on safety, costs, passenger fees, ability to comply with government regulations and many other areas of the airline industry, there are too many facets of the question to deal with in depth in one research paper.

Question B

Question B is too narrow.

It can be answered with simple percentages and cannot be developed into a full research paper.

Question C

Question C is the best research question.

You may use statistics such as question B would uncover as you answer question C, which is focused enough to allow you to research the question in some depth, yet broad enough to allow you to consider the various effects of deregulation on airline safety.

Exercise 2C-Is Research Question Too Narrow/Broad?

Question A: Do children sent to day care or preschool start kindergarten with more developed skills?

Question B: Do children sent to day care or preschool start kindergarten with more highly developed language skills?

Question C: Do children sent to day care or preschool start kindergarten with larger vocabularies?

Question A

Question A is too broad.

Because it focuses on all skills ( language, social, small motor, large motor, etc.) you'd have to gather too much diverse information to answer question A.

Question B

The best research question is B.

The topic is broad enough to find more than just one or two sources, but it's limited to one focus--the development of preschool language skills.

Question C

There may or may not be enough information to answer question C.

You'd need to find more than just one or two studies if you chose to answer question C. If you find that there are enough sources dealing with vocabulary only, then you could choose to pursue question C.

Exercise 2D-Is Research Question Too Broad/Narrow?

Question A: What are the 14 different disease-causing genes that were discovered in 1994?

Question B: What is the importance of genetic research in our lives?

Question C: How might the discovery of a genetic basis for obesity change the way in which we treat obese persons, both medically and socially?

Question A

Question A is far too narrow to develop into a research paper.

You could answer this question in one sentence, and the question does not allow you to develop your own thoughts about the topic.

Question B

Question B is too broad.

You could write a book to discuss the importance of genetic research in our lives.

Question C

Question C is the best choice.

You might be asking, "How can I research something whose effect hasn't been felt yet?" You can posit what "might happen logically" in the future based on what "has happened" in the past. For example, your research may bring you to the major things thought to have caused obesity in the recent last two to hree decades in order to establish a direct relationship between cause and treatment. Once you establish that direct cause-and-effect relationship, you can project similar types of relationships based on the new genetic research.

Exercise 2E-Is the Research Question Too Broad/Narrow?

Question A: How can adult children of alcoholics interact most positively with their alcoholic parents?

Question B: How do adult children of alcoholics interact with their alcoholic parents?

Question C: What is the major emotional reaction of adult children of alcoholics to their alcoholic parents?

Question A

Question A is the best choice.

It narrows the scope by focusing on only the most positive ways of interaction. It also asks you to use the research to support your own informed judgment, which you provide eventually in the final research paper, thus creating interest as well as focus.

Question B

Question B may be too broad.

At first glance, there's not a lot of difference between questions A and B, but there is one major difference: Question B asks for the variety of ways in which adult children of alcoholics interact with their alcoholic parents. Substantial research has identified many patterns of interaction, so this question may be too broad to deal with in the scope of one research paper.

Question C

Question C may be too narrow.

It asks the researcher to identify just one major emotional reaction.

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