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Course: History 1, Middle East (2024): Creating research questions

What is a research question?

Research questions guide your research and analysis. These questions go beyond what can be answered by yes or no and surpass factual questions that can be easily answered with a statement of fact. Research questions should focus on how and why things happened. These questions will help you focus your research and develop your argument as you progress throughout your project.

From A Pocket Guide to Writing in History by Mary Lynn Rampolla:

  • Avoid questions that elicit simple descriptions, such as "What was the Muslim Brotherhood?" Better might be, "What was the role of Islamist groups in the Egyptian uprising of 2011?"
  • Avoid questions that are too broad, such as "What caused the Arab Spring?" Being more specific will help, such as, "How did decisions made by the governing party of Egypt affect the course of the uprising there in 2011?"
  • Avoid questions that are too narrow that won't take you very far, such as, "Why did Mohammed Morsi take on the judiciary in 2012" Instead try, "Why did the Egyptian military overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013"
  • Avoid speculative questions, such as "What would have happened if Hosni Mubarak had not survived the assassination attempt in 1995?"

This website also gives some really helpful ideas for writing research questions.

For a refresher on Research Questions, look at Module 5 - Research Questions on the Library Research Canvas page.

Developing a research question

Example research questions

  1. Why did Egypt return to a military dictatorship only three years after Mubarak was overthrown during the popular uprising of 2011?
  2. What was the role of Islamist groups in the Egyptian uprising of 2011?
  3. In what ways did the use of social media influence the Egyptian uprising of 2011?
  4. How did the response of Western governments affect the outcome of the Egyptian uprising of 2011?

Thesis Statement

Here is an example of a thesis statement:

The return of Egyptian government to a military dictatorship only three years after the popular uprising of 2011 was inevitable given that Mubarak's deep-rooted regime largely remained in power, the opposition parties had had little opportunity for governance and had no cohesive vision, and the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government proved to be weak and incompetent.