At the core of any research or study is the research question. It is essential in defining the scope and limitation of a particular study, as well as in determining the direction of the literature review, deciding the suitable research methodology, and in designing survey questionnaires or discussion guides. However, before formulating a research question, it is also important to understand its different types.
The Major Types of Research Questions
1. Descriptive Research Questions
A descriptive research question demonstrates an attempt to describe a phenomenon. This type of research question is suitable for almost all types of qualitative research such as ethnography, case studies, phenomenology, narratives, and grounded theory. On the other hand, in quantitative research, note that the aim of a descriptive research question centers on describing the variables the study intends to measure through quantification. Examples include determining the frequency, quantity, or prevalence of variables without any attempt to make a comparison.
2. Comparative Research Questions
In a comparative research question, the aim is to analyze the difference between two or more points of comparison or in other words, between variables or groups. An example of this type of research question as it applies in quantitative research includes comparing variables in terms of frequencies, quantity, or prevalence, among others. However, when applied in qualitative research, a comparative research question can be framed with a descriptive research question.
3. Relationship-Based Research Questions
There are also research questions directed toward identifying the causal relationships, associations, trends, and/or interactions between two or more variables or between variables and one or more groups. These questions are an example of relationship-based or causal research questions. Qualitative research would rarely employ this type of research question because of its inherent limitations. On the other hand, quantitative research pursues a relationship-based question through cause-and-effect experimental study or a correlational study.
A Note on The Types of Research Questions
Most studies such as an undergraduate thesis or master-level dissertation would only attempt to answer one research question based on a single type of research question. However, there are more complex studies such as doctorate-level dissertations, scientific studies, and other industrial research that attempt to integrate the different types of research question into a single research problem. Such is always doable but also requires a high degree of expertise.