Research Question Assignment and Rubric

Here for your convenience is the Research Question Assignment on the blog.
Research Question (20% of course grade)
Due February 7
Develop a research question to investigate during the semester. Write a document with the following parts:

  • a brief description (2-3 sentences) of the context for your research question (for example, your proposed Capstone Experience, a class for which you have a term paper assignment, a job or assistantship, or anticipated graduate study) and the academic discipline to which it belongs;
  • a one-sentence research question / hypothesis (see Stebbins pp. 2-3);
  • a one-paragraph argument for the importance and interest of the question you wish to investigate; and
  • a bibliography of 3-5 basic reference sources on the research topic (please cite individual entries when possible).

We will discuss the questions in class on February 5. During class, the instructor may comment on the suitability of your question for the purposes of this assignment.
It is expected that the question will evolve during the course of working on the assignment. For example, sub-questions may be developed as more is learned or the question itself may change as your interests change during the process of information retrieval. You may ask the instructor to review revisions of your research question at any time.
Your research question may be a research question you are answering for an assignment in another class. That is acceptable, as long as you get the permission of the instructor in that class. However, you will be expected to write a substantially different paper for the final portion of this project. You may also want to explore a topic for your Capstone Experience.

Research Question Grading Rubric


A+, A, A-

B+, B, B-

C+, C, C-


The question is appropriate for academic research and fits into a recognized (or emerging) academic discipline.

The question is not completely appropriate for academic research, or does not exactly fit the student’s stated discipline.

The question is entirely inappropriate for academic research.


The question can be legitimately answered by an undergraduate Honors student doing research over the course of three months toward a five-page paper.

The question is too somewhat too broad: the question may be more suited for an advanced researcher or for years of research or experimentation. One or more terms are abstract nouns rather than concrete nouns.

The question is far too broad: even an advanced researcher could not answer the question after years of research. Key terms are very broad abstract nouns.

Importance / Interest

Other scholars have found the question interesting; the student is clearly interested in the question; and the answer to the question could generate further academic research.

The question may be interesting to researchers, but the student doesn’t seem to be authentically interested in the question.

The question is neither important nor interesting.

Mechanics and Style

The document is free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors that distract the reader. The writing is clear, concise, and accurate. The research question is phrased as a question (see Stebbins’s “hypothesis”).

The document contains several mechanical errors that distract the reader; the research question may not be phrased as a question. The writing is somewhat difficult to understand, or the writing is occasionally informal.

The document is riddled with spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. The document uses words incorrectly. The writing is extremely long, tangled, and difficult to understand, or the writing is highly informal. The document omits one or more elements specified in the assignment.

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