COE 237: Gender & Development: Formulate Questions/Thesis

Professor Kshama Harpankar, Spring 2018.

Formulate Questions

Once you have selected an initial topic, the next step is to develop research questions.  Do this by using probing questions.  Phrasing your topic in the form of questions helps direct the research process.

WHAT questions focus on a particular aspect of the topic. 

  • What are the effects of gender-specific toys on children?

WHY questions ask for an explanation of something--why it happened, why it did not happen, or why one thing is better than another.

  • Why do toy manufacturers produce gender-specific toys?

WHEN questions focus on timing or history. 

  • When did toys become so gender specific?  

WHERE questions focus the topic on a location, either geographical or other.

  • Does the sharp division of gender specific toys exist in other countries?

HOW questions focus aspects of the topic on a process or on the origin. 

  • How do toys geared towards a particular gender impact children?

WOULD / COULD questions focus on possibilities.  

  • Would buying gender-neutral toys for children have a positive or negative impact?

SHOULD questions focus on the appropriateness of a particular action, policy, procedure, or decision. 

  • Should parents be concerned about this?

 Source:  Mike Palmquest.   Bedford Researcher.   Colorado State University.


A good research question will lead to your thesis statement.

For example, the question...

Are there any psychological, social, developmental or physical impacts on children who've played with gender-specific toys?

...might lead to the following thesis:

Gender-specific toys impact childrens' lives in many ways: They impact how children view themselves, the skills that they learn, how their brains develop, and their social skills.  

Strong  thesis statements

  • Answer a question
  • Are engaging 
  • Can be challenged or opposed, thus also defended
  • Pass the 

or "why should I care?" test

  • Are supported by your paper
  • Are neither too broad nor too vague

Source:  Thesis Statements.  George Mason University. 

Thesis Generator

Image source: Powernowllc. CC0 1.0.  Wikimedia Commons.