Central research questions

Qualitative central research questions 

One or two questions that ask for an exploration of a phenomenon or concept to study. Creswell (2013), states to arrive at these one to two questions you must ask “What is the broadest question that I can ask in the study?” Here, we aim to explore the general and even complex factors of our research issue, hoping to draw meaning from various perspectives within our sample. For each central question, five to seven sub-questions could be asked to help focus the study. We want them narrow enough to focus the study in a direction, but not too narrow that we don’t leave any room for open questioning. It is from these sub-questions where we derive more specific questions for our interviews with the participant of our study. To develop strong central questions, Creswell (2013) suggests these tips: 

  1. Begin the research questions with the words “what’ or “how” to convey an open and emerging design. 
  2. Focus on a single phenomenon or concept. 
  3. Use exploratory verbs that convey the language of emerging design. 
  4. Use these more exploratory verbs as non-directional rather than directional words that suggest quantitative research, such as “effect”, “influence”, “impact”, “determine”, “cause” and “relate”. 
  5. Use open-ended questions without reference to literature or theory unless otherwise indicated by a qualitative strategy of inquiry. 
  6. Specify the participants and the research site for the study if the information has not yet been given. 

Quantitative research questions 

It is not like quantitative studies, which aim for a specific goal, a narrow question, focusing on a few variables, thinking about their hypothesis, which is then used to predict the relationship strength of variables via statistical means. 


Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 4th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781483321479/ 

Differences between Quantitative and Qualitative Intros and Lit Reviews

Simply put, quantitative methods are utilized when the research contains variables that are numerical, and qualitative methods are utilized when the research contains variables that are based on language (Field, 2013).  Thus, each methods goals and procedures are quite different. This difference in goals and procedures drives differences in how a research paper’s introduction and literature review are written.

Introductions in a research paper allow the researcher to announce the problem and why it is important enough to be explored through a study.  Given that qualitative research may not have any known variables or theories, the introductions tend to vary tremendously (Creswell, 2014; Edmondson & MacManus, 2007).  Creswell (2014), suggested that qualitative methods introductions can begin with a quote from one the participants; stating the researchers’ personal story from a first person or third person viewpoint, or can be written in an inductive style.  There is less variation in quantitative methods introductions because the best way to introduce the problem is to introduce the variables, from an impersonal viewpoint (Creswell, 2014).  It is through gaining further understanding of these variables’ influence on a particular outcome is what’s driving the study in the first place.

The purpose of the literature review is for the researcher to share the results of other studies tangential to theirs to show how their study relates to the bigger picture and what gaps in the knowledge they are trying to solve (Creswell, 2014).  Edmondson and MacManus (2007) stated that when the nature of the field of research is nascent, the study becomes exploratory and qualitative in nature.  Given their exploratory nature, in qualitative methods, the researchers write their literature review in the form that is exploratory and in an inductive manner (Creswell, 2014).  Edmondson and MacManus (2007) stated that when the nature of the research is mature, there are plenty of related and existing research studies on the topic, a more quantitative approach is more appropriate.  Given that there is a huge body of knowledge to draw from when it comes to quantitative methods, the researchers tend to have substantially large amounts of literature at the beginning and structure it in a deductive fashion (Creswell, 2014).  Framing the literature review in a deductive manner allows the researcher at the end of the literature review to state clearly and measurably their research question(s) and hypotheses (Creswell, 2014; Miller, n.d.).

To conclude, understanding which methodological approach best fits a research study can help drive how the introduction and literature review sections are crafted and written.


  • Creswell, J. W. (2014) Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches (4th ed.). California, SAGE Publications, Inc. VitalBook file.
  • Edmondson, A. C., & McManus, S. E. (2007). Methodological fit in management field research. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1155–1179. http://doi.org/10.5465/AMR.2007.26586086
  • Field, A. (2013) Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics (4th ed.). UK: Sage Publications Ltd. VitalBook file.