How to Write a Research Paper

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What questions should a research paper answer?

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You, as the researcher and writer, are the person who determines what questions need to be answered in a research paper. There are no right or wrong questions. You are on the right track in understanding that a research paper needs to begin with an inquiry.  All research should be inquiry-driven. You have a question or a series of questions, and the research will help you with answers. 

Since I don't know what discipline your research paper is meant to be in, I can offer a variety of examples for you, the kinds of questions that do get answered in research papers.  You may be wondering what there was about Kate Chopin's life and circumstances that caused her to write the kind of literature she wrote. That would be an appropriate inquiry for a research paper in a literature course.  You might be interested in knowing how John Dewey's ideas are applied today in education, which would make a great inquiry for an education course.  For a geology paper, I have always wondered how all those fossils turned into the fuel we use today, which I think would make an interesting question to answer.  For a psychology course, have you read any of the research on "priming"? This is a way of setting people up to respond in a more positive or negative way.  Perhaps you would like to know more about how this works. 

Whatever your content area is, decide what it is you want to know, and let that inquiry be the driving force behind your research.  Find a question that interests you, since that is what always motivates us to do our very best research and writing.  If you want to let us know what your content area is, we can probably help you even further. 

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