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Extended Essay: 4 - Draft Your Research Question

A guide to the research process involved in your EE.

Developing a Research Question that works

Instruction Librarian. “Develop a Research Question That Works.” YouTube, YouTube, 15 Apr. 2013,

Developing Your Research Question

Consider the emerging questions from your initial research. You should now begin posing open-ended questions about your topic.  These questions will usually be framed "how", "why", or "to what extent."

Evaluate the question.  Once you have posed possible research questions you should evaluate them.  This evaluation should be based on whether the question is clearfocused, and arguable.

  • Clear - Will the reader understand the nature of my research?  Will it direct the research being undertaken?
  • Focused - Will the research question be specific enough to allow for exploration within the scope of the task (that is, the number of words and time available)?
  • Arguable - Does the research question allow for analysis, evaluation and the development of a reasoned argument?

Consider research outcomes.  Once you have decided on a provisional research question you should start thinking about the direction your research might take.  You could do this by:

  • suggesting possible outcomes of your research
  • outlining the kind of argument you might make and how your research might support this
  • considering options if the research available is not sufficient to support a sustained argumen

Sample Research Questions

The following table gives guidance on the difference between unclear and unfocused research questions and those that are appropriately clear and focused, lending themselves to in-depth research.

Unclear, unfocused and unarguable research questions Clear, focused, narrow research questions lending themselves to in-depth research
What was the impact of Ho Chi Minh’s allegiance to Lenin? To what extent was nationalism the guiding factor in Ho Chi Minh’s adoption of Leninism in 1920?
What is the history of Chinese theatre? How does the legacy of Mei Lan Fang contribute to modern Jingju?
How important is chlorophyll to plant life? What is the effect of different concentrations of kinetin on leaves aging and the biosynthesis of chlorophyll?
How can the US government’s spending policy be reformed? To what extent did the rising COE prices affect the demand for new and used cars by the consumer population and hence affect the revenue generated by the Singaporean economy for the period 2012–16?


A question that is unclear or too broad will result in a narrative overview of the issue or event being discussed and provide little scope for analysis and reasoned argument. The result of this is that examiners will not be able to apply the range of marks available in the assessment criteria, particularly in relation to criterion C (critical thinking).