The development of robust research questions is essential in guiding open-source information gathering efforts. Most information requests require focused thought and problem-solving to properly begin a disciplined approach to satisfying the requirement. With this in mind, it becomes essential to get intricate when forming a research question, and for businesses conducting open-source research for their clients, it is worth building procedures around this process.

In our courses, we consistently emphasize the importance of asking the right questions about the request before formulating a question and starting your research.  Not doing so will likely result in unorganized research efforts resulting in much more work by the team later into the project. In this article, we will try to provide some simple tips and recommendations to ensure your next open-source research effort gets off to a good start and is well organized.


What Makes a Research Question Essential?

Research requires a clear focus and purpose. With a well-developed research question, you can focus your collection on a clear path towards the research development and writing process.

A well-developed research question offers specificity and flexibility, as well. From a general approach, all research questions should be:

  • Specific enough to receive thorough answers
  • Focused on a single issue/problem
  • Practical to answer within a specified time-frame
  • Relevant to your area of specialization
  • Supported with primary and/or secondary sources


Steps to Forming a Research Question

In the process of doing research, the concept of the research question is to guide your reading and information collection process.  To get started,

  • Select a General Topic that suits your Interest. Once you are genuinely interested in research, it becomes easier to develop more concepts, ideas, and questions towards learning more.
  • Perform Preliminary Research on Selected Topic. A few searches on related works to your topic would help fine-tune your focus and study area.
  • Define your Audience. Every research question can be informed by a target audience, which helps define the depth your response
  • Start asking the “What,” “Why,” And “How” questions. Consider the above points, then start with open-ended questions using what, how, and why to improve them.
  • Evaluate Every Answer: After every response, evaluate them and compose what would be useful for your research questions. Also, revise and refine them to suit your audience.

With so many resources and so much data available today, forming a research question requires clarity to get effective results for your research. Having enough research questions would cover the possible paths to solving your challenges with fewer troubles.

For more extensive research projects, it becomes necessary to have multiple research questions that help you to clearly connect and focus your research ideas.

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Buddy is a military veteran, former intelligence officer, and entrepreneur who teaches dozens of courses on a variety of intelligence-related topics.  Buddy currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Echo Analytics Group and is based in Tampa, Florida.