AbstractAlthough explicitly labelled research questions seem to be central to some fields, others do not need them. This may confuse authors, editors, readers and reviewers of multidisciplinary research. This article assesses the extent to which research questions are explicitly mentioned in 17 out of 22 areas of scholarship from 2000 to 2018 by searching over a million full-text open access journal articles. Research questions were almost never explicitly mentioned (under 2%) by articles in engineering, physical, life and medical sciences, and were the exception (always under 20%) for the broad fields in which they were least rare: computing, philosophy, theology and social sciences. Nevertheless, research questions were increasingly mentioned explicitly in all fields investigated, despite a rate of 1.8% overall (1.1% after correcting for irrelevant matches). Other terminology for an article’s purpose may be more widely used instead, including aims, objectives, goals, hypotheses, and purposes, although no terminology occurs in a majority of articles in any broad field tested. Authors, editors, readers and reviewers should therefore be aware that the use of explicitly labelled research questions or other explicit research purpose terminology is non-standard in most or all broad fields, although it is becoming less rare. Keywords: Research purpose statements; research article structures; research questions; research aims; research goals.
CitationThelwall, M. and Mas-Bleda, A. (2020) How common are explicit research questions in journal articles? Quantitative Science Studies 1 (2): pp. 730–748 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00041
JournalQuantitative Science Studies
Description© 2020 The Authors. Published by MIT Press. This is an open access article available under a Creative Commons licence. The published version can be accessed at the following link on the publisher’s website: https://direct.mit.edu/qss/article/1/2/730/96146/How-common-are-explicit-research-questions-in
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