Types of Research Questions

Three different types of research questions can be formulated by investigators in the field of education as any other social area: descriptive, correlational, and causal. These research questions guide a study and determine the choice of instruments to use and analyses to conduct in order to answer them appropriately. The purpose of this paper is to provide the overview of three studies in the field of education with the focus on different types of research questions that are addressed in these studies.

Descriptive Study

Overview of the Study

In their article, Hirn and Scott (2014) aim at describing teacher instructional practices in the context of engagement of students who can demonstrate challenging behaviors. Thus, the research setting is the public school district that is located in the Southeastern region of the United States, and the focus is on students and teachers from the high school. In order to complete the purpose of the study, the researchers have conducted observations with the help of the Multiple Option Observation System for Experimental Studies Version 3 (Hirn & Scott, 2014, p. 597). The use of this software has enabled the researchers to collect the accurate information, analyze the variability of the data, and conclude that many teachers are not inclined to use specific instructions while working with students who demonstrate challenging behaviors; however, it is possible to observe high rates of using the negative feedback.

Primary Research Questions

Two primary research questions are used in this study: “What is the rate/percentage observed of teacher behaviors and student behaviors in high school classrooms?” and “What difference in teacher practices and student engagement is observed for students with and without challenging behaviors?” (Hirn & Scott, 2014, p. 593).

Type of Research Questions

The discussed two questions should be defined as descriptive because they ask about describing a certain situation in terms of the observed rates and differences.

Correlational Study

Overview of the Study

The purpose of the study by Hu, Mccormick, and Gonyea (2012) is to explore the relationship between the students’ learning dependent on different factors and their persistence. College students are targeted by researchers as participants, and they have used the data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education in order to examine the relationship. From this point, the used methods are the analysis of the available survey data with the help of correlations and one-way ANOVA (Hu et al., 2012). According to the findings, students’ grades are directly related to their persistence, and direct-assessment learning is almost non-related to persistence.

Primary Research Question

In their study, Hu et al. (2012) have focused on answering the following research question: How such approaches to measuring learning as direct-assessment learning, self-reported results, and grades can be related to persistence in students.

Type of Research Question

The used research question can be discussed as correlational because it asks about the possible relationship between two specific variables: approaches to measuring learning and students’ persistence.

Causal Study

Overview of the Study

The purpose of Heemsoth and Heinze’s (2014) study is to explore how incorrect examples can influence students’ learning. The researchers have selected to focus on the experience of 6th grade students who study in different secondary schools in Germany. In order to examine the impact of incorrect and correct examples on students’ learning, the researchers use the experimental design based on the pretest, intervention, and posttest procedures. As a result of the experiment, it is found that the use of incorrect examples can directly influence the negative changes in students’ learning and their abilities to cope with equations (Heemsoth & Heinze, 2014). The other important finding is that the use of incorrect examples can positively influence only students with the advanced knowledge in the field.

Primary Research Question

According to Heemsoth and Heinze (2014), the primary question to answer in the study is the following one: Does the use of incorrect examples in the field of Mathematics in secondary schools influence the knowledge of students?

Type of Research Question

It is possible to state that the researchers have formulated the causal research question for their study because they aim at finding the effects of using incorrect examples on students’ knowledge (Heemsoth & Heinze, 2014). From this point, it is possible to identify the cause and effects in this research question. Furthermore, this question can be answered only with the help of the experimental design, and the researchers use this approach in their study.


In this paper, three studies are overviewed with the focus on the specific research questions that were used in order to determine the plan of research. These research questions are different, and their differences determine the selection of research methods in order to answer them appropriately. From this perspective, descriptive questions can be answered with the help of calculating rates and analyzing observations; correlational questions are answered with the help of applying specific correlation analysis; and causal questions can be addressed with the help of experiments that demonstrate causes and effects directly.


Heemsoth, T., & Heinze, A. (2014). The impact of incorrect examples on learning fractions: A field experiment with 6th grade students. Instructional Science, 42(4), 639-657.

Hirn, R. G., & Scott, T. M. (2014). Descriptive analysis of teacher instructional practices and student engagement among adolescents with and without challenging behavior. Education & Treatment of Children, 37(4), 589-610.

Hu, S., Mccormick, A. C., & Gonyea, R. M. (2012). Examining the relationship between student learning and persistence. Innovative Higher Education, 37(5), 387-395.

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