Dissertation Research Questions: Do’s and Don’ts

Dissertation research questions are glue, and where the rubber meets the road for doctoral inquiry as they reflect the problem and purpose, then drive the associated research method and design for study completion. As such, properly formed research questions are imperative to study success!

Dissertation research question look different depending on whether they are qualitative or quantitative. Here’s a few tips, with examples, for each:


  • Key Points:
    • Focus on open-ended “how”, “why” or sometimes “what” questions
    • Avoid yes/no questions, e.g., “is”, “are”, etc.
    • Avoid personalizing questions, e.g., “you” as these are lower-level questions reserved for data collection, such as interviews

To illustrate:

  • How do managers decide who to promote?
  • Why are men promoted more often than women?
  • What criteria do manager’s apply when making a promotion decision?


  • Key Points:
    • There must be at least one predictor/independent and one outcome/dependent variable for each quantitative research question
    • The DV reflects the problem to be studied and the IV(s) reflect the gap in the literature requiring further (quantitative) research
    • Variables must be measureable, and typically from a pre-validated survey or secondary-data (avoid creating your own survey instrument, if possible)
    • Generally, data types for parametric testing, both the IV and DV are either ordinal (e.g., 0-7), interval (measureable between digits), or ratio (interval including zero) data types. However, for causal comparative, the IVs are generall nominal (e.g., yes/no, male/female, etc.)
    • For correlations, use the form: “To what extent does [IV] relate to [DV]?”, or similarly, “To what extent does [IV] predict [DV]?”. or similar
    • For causal comparative, use the form: “To what extent does [DV] differ, based on [IV]?”, or similar

To illustrate:

  • To what extent does the manager’s years of experience relate to the percent of females promoted within the organization? (correlational)
  • To what extent does the percent of females promoted within the organization differ, based on the manager’s gender? (causal-comparative)

Is this something that you would like assistance with. Let’s talk! Contact Dr. Lonny today and let’s put a plan together for your doctoral success.

Dr. Lonny has extensive experience in helping doctoral-level students through all phases of their dissertation, including writing, methodology, and all phases of the dissertation process and deliverable. Contact Dr. Lonny today to setup a free initial consultation and to discuss your dissertation topic, status, challenges, along with services offered and pricing options.

Best success,

Dr. Lonny

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