- Questions require answers.
A topic is hard to cover completely because it typically encompasses too many related issues; but a question has an answer, even if it is ambiguous or controversial.
TOPIC QUESTION Drugs and crime Could the liberalization of drug laws reduce crime in the U.S.?
- Questions give you a way of evaluating answers.
A clearly stated question helps you decide which information will be useful. A broad topic may tempt you to stash away information that may be helpful, but you're not sure how. A question also makes it easier to know when you have enough information to stop your research.
- A clear open-ended question calls for real research and thinking.
Asking a question with no direct answer makes research and writing more meaningful. Assuming that your research may solve significant problems or expand the knowledge base of a discipline involves you in more meaningful activity of community and scholarship.
Research questions are open-ended and require a variety of accumulated data to develop an answer. ("Could liberalization of drug laws reduce crime in the U.S.?") Review or report questions are typically answered with what is generally known about a fairly narrow topic. ("What is the rationale for California's "3 strikes" sentencing policy?") Reference questions are typically answered with single known facts or statistics. ("What percentage of drug-related crime in 1999 was committed by dealers, not users?")