Types of Research Questions

Consider what your research question is trying actually investigate.


Descriptive questions are often trying to provide a singular analysis of a condition. For example:

What are students’ perceptions of group quizzes in an introductory CS course?

This is a targetted question that isn’t trying to say that some treatment A is better than treatment B. It’s trying to ascertain the state of the world as it currently is.

Differences Within or Between Groups

Questions in this category are the more in line with a study where a [thing] is applied/given to a group of students and not given to a separate control group. Something like:

What differences, if any, exist in student attitudes regarding computer science between students’ who use X homework system and those that do not?

These questions are trying to determine if the [thing] had a measurable affect on the treatment group by comparing some set of data from this group and the control group.


Relational questions are trying to determine “if A, then B”-type relationships. For instance:

What relationship, if any, exist between students attendance in office hours and test scores for an introductory CS course?

A question such as this is looking at whether office hour attendance had an affect on test scores.