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To Narrow or Not to Narrow: That is the Research Question

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

by Konstantina Spyropoulou

On Wednesday 17th March, 2021, Writing Center tutors Apoorva Dudani and Ahmad Bilal presented a workshop on how to formulate a research question called "To Narrow or Not to Narrow: That is the Research Question." Forty-three students of all standings from all colleges attended, with Freshmen taking Writing 101 being the overwhelming majority.

In the workshop, Apoorva and Ahmad explained that a research question should be clear, focused, concise, at times complex, and always arguable. They also presented the three types of research questions and the differences between descriptive, relational, and causal research questions through several examples. Apoorva then highlighted the six steps to developing a research question:

  • Choose an interesting general topic

  • Do some preliminary research on your topic

  • Consider your audience

  • Start asking questions

  • Evaluate whether these questions are clear, focused, concise, complex and arguable

  • Begin your research

Ahmad then explained that writers can improve their research question through revision and answering the five W's: who, what, when, where, and why. The workshop continued with several exercises on narrowing down a research question and enhancing its focus before the two presenters engaged the participants in a modified version of "Who Wants to be a Millionnaire" for research questions. In the "Who Wants to be a Questionnaire" game of this workshop, 13 questions on the information presented were answered to reach the one million dollar question that made the attendees official "questionnaires" in Ahmad's words, or in other words, experts on research questions.

At the end of the workshop, the participants expressed their gratitude to the two presenters and thanked them for the interactive way they learned about research questions. As the workshop proved to be a great success, I interviewed Apoorva and Ahmad on their collaboration and on putting together their first ever workshop for the Writing Center.

Apoorva was surprised by the workshop's success: "Our workshop turnout was amazing! I'm glad to have seen so many attend, and I hope they were able to learn some valuable information that will help them with their writing", she said.

Ahmad was a bit nervous on how his first ever workshop for the Writing Center would go: "I try to not prepare for these sort of things, I just try to freestyle. But when I saw over than 40 participants I felt overwhelmed, and happy to see so many students be interested in a workshop!", he said. Regarding the workshop's exercises and games, he mentioned that the interaction with the students was a priority: "We tried to make the presentation as laid back as possible. I didn't want the students who attended to feel like they're just in another lecture. I felt like they enjoyed it a bit so that made me feel better about the workshop too."

Despite being the first in the series of four workshops for students conducted this semester, the turnout was incredible and encouraged the presenters of the following workshops to be informative, engaging, and interactive. Not only that, but it proved to be a great advertisement for the kind of services provided by our Writing Center, as I personally had three students in weeks following the workshop tell me they booked an appointment after attending the workshop and seeing "the great work you guys do" and "always with a smile."

What can be more rewarding than that?

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