Q: How is the research question written in the introduction of a research proposal?

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The research question is a concise expression of a suggested solution to a research problem. It is a crystallization of the topic you are studying and offers a specific direction for the research. It is written toward the end of the introduction section of the proposal, after you have provided the background and rationale of the study and highlighted what existing literature says about the topic. As the term suggests, it is written in question form expressing the suggested solution with regard to the various aspects of the research problem such as target population and variables.

Consider the following question: In adult patients undergoing elective surgery, does treatment with epidural analgesia in combination with acetaminophen and NSAIDs (multi-modal analgesia) compared with epidural alone (single-modal) lead to better pain scores and less side effects (i.e. nausea or vomiting) over 24 hours following surgery?

The question is a concise expression of the research problem of comparing methods of post-surgery pain management for adult patients. The question also ties up the various variables (multi-modal analgesia, single-modal analgesia, pain scores, and side effects).

To arrive at and write a research question, you may make use of several frameworks or templates, as listed below. Each framework needs you to take into consideration several factors for framing the research question.

  • PICOT: This stands for Population, Intervention, Control, Outcome, and Time. You may learn more about it here.
  • SPICE: This stands for Setting, Perspective, Intervention, Comparison, and Evaluation. SPICE builds upon PICOT. You may learn more about it here.
  • PESICO: This stands for Person (and Problem), Environments, Stakeholders, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome. You may learn more about it here.
  • FINER: This stands for Feasible, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, and Relevant. You may learn more about it here.

Finally, note that as this is for a proposal, it is necessary to frame the research question as concisely and appropriately as possible for the research to be greenlit. So, you should take time in arriving at a sound research question and, before that, do the right amount and kind of homework, that is, a comprehensive literature review and identification of an appropriate research gap.

All the best for the proposal!

For more resources on research questions and proposals, you may refer to the following resources: