Types of Research Questions With Examples

Updated June 3, 2022
Student doing research in library
    Student doing research in library
    Don Mason / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

Research papers are source-based explanations of a topic, event, or phenomenon. The two methodologies of research, known as qualitative and quantitative research, explore topics with different objectives. The methodology you choose will determine which types of questions you ask before, during, and after the research process.

Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research

When coming up with a question for your next research project, consider what you want to know. If you’re inquiring about meaning and experience, you’re using qualitative research.

If you want to use empirical evidence to explain an occurrence, quantitative research is your process. These types of research are useful in scientific, marketing, historical, and psychological studies.


Qualitative Research Question Types

Because qualitative research is more concerned with understanding an event or phenomenon, its open-ended research questions focus more on a group’s experience than on statistics or numbers.

Qualitative research is primarily used in social sciences and includes surveys, case studies, focus groups, and ethnography studies. Here are the three types of qualitative questions for both research topics and survey questions.

Exploratory Questions

Questions that are designed to understand more about a topic are exploratory questions. The objective of asking an exploratory question is to learn more about a topic without attributing bias or preconceived notions to it.

Research Topic Example #1: What is the effect of personal technology on today’s youth?

Survey Question: Do you feel that personal technology has positively or negatively affected you?

Research Topic Example #2: How do students at our school spend their weekends?

Survey Question: What do you do on a typical weekend?


Predictive Questions

If you’re wondering about the future outcome of an action, you’ll use predictive questions. These types of questions use past information to predict reactions to hypothetical events.

Research Topic Example #1: Are people more likely to buy a product after a celebrity promotes it?

Survey Question: Would you ever try a new product because a celebrity you respect said that it worked for them?

Research Topic Example #2: Would people in our town enjoy an ice-skating rink?

Survey Question: How often would you visit a local ice-skating rink?

Interpretive Questions

Interpretive research studies people in their natural settings. They interpret how a group makes sense of shared experiences and attributes meaning to various phenomena. These studies gather feedback on a group’s behavior without affecting the outcome.

Research Topic Example #1: How do preschoolers in a play-based program handle transitions between activities?

Survey Question: How do you feel when it’s time to put your toys away and start the next activity?

Research Topic Example #2: What is the historical significance of currency to the Lakota Nation?

Survey Question: How do you attribute value to a good or service?


Quantitative Research Question Types

Using measurable data answers a new set of research questions. These types of quantitative research questions prove or disprove a researcher’s hypothesis through descriptions, comparisons, and relationships. Quantitative research questions are beneficial when choosing a research topic or when posing follow-up questions that gather more information.

Descriptive Questions

As the most basic type of quantitative research question, descriptive questions seek to explain when, where, why, or how something occurred. They use data and statistics to describe an event or phenomenon.

Research Topic Example #1: What percentage of college students have felt depressed in the last year?

Follow-Up Question: How often do students report their feelings of depression?

Research Topic Example #2: How likely is it for mice with dominant traits to have offspring with recessive traits?

Follow-Up Question: How many generations of genes influence a future generation?


Comparative Questions

Sometimes it’s beneficial to compare one occurrence with another. Comparative questions are especially helpful when studying groups with dependent variables.

Research Topic Example #1: Why is it easier for men to lose weight than it is for women?

Follow-Up Question: Do men and women have comparable metabolisms?

Research Topic Example #2: Which painkiller is more effective for headaches?

Follow-Up Question: Do Advil and Tylenol target pain in the same way?

Relationship-Based Questions

If you’d like to know how one variable affects or influences another, use a relationship-based question. These questions are common in quasi-experimental and experimental studies.

Research Topic Example #1: How does the number of drought days in a year affect a region’s likelihood for wildfires?

Follow-Up Question: What conditions are needed for a wildfire to become uncontrollable?

Research Topic Example #2: Do high school grades have an impact on future success?

Follow-Up Question: What are the relevant factors that affect one’s grades in high school?


More Research Topics

Still curious about the research process? Learn more about writing a research paper and determine the difference between good and bad research questions. You can also check out a list of research topics that may be better to avoid when writing a paper.