Developing research questions

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

We are collectively defining research priorities, which will be articulated into research questions that are ranked by the group. The ranking will be done as per the following criteria:

  • magnitude of health benefits

  • impact on intersectionality and inclusion of marginalized groups

  • ability to be adapted and implemented across diverse socio-cultural contexts

Thematic group leads, coordinators and steering committee members will review suggested research questions proposed by each group to ensure that there are no duplicates or overlaps within and across thematic working groups.

Good research questions, should ideally reflect FINER characteristics (adapted from Hulley et al. 2007), detailed as follows:

  • Feasible: manageable in scope with regards to contexts, participants, technical expertise, resources.

  • Interesting: intriguing for the investigator, peers and community members.

  • Novel: confirms, refutes or extends previous findings and therefore expands evidence base.

  • Ethical: follow universal ethical principles and pass ethical review boards

  • Relevant: to community, clinical and health policy needs

Research questions should be answerable through diverse research methodologies, and question types that fit the needs of end users of evidence. We suggest the inclusion of descriptive, exploratory, influence, explanatory, predictive and emancipatory types of research questions (George et al. 2018), that cover a focus on problems, cause and risk factors, solutions and interventions, implementation enablers and barriers, and evaluation of impact (Hulley et al. 2007) as appropriate. Research typologies across biomedical, clinical, public health, health systems, gender studies and social sciences should be considered that are inclusive of conceptual and empirical research.

Example research questions adapted from the SVRI & Equality Institute’s brief on a global shared research agenda to strengthen understanding of violence against women and girls (VAWG) (SVRI & EQI, 2020):

  • Research to understand VAWG in its multiple forms: What are the psychosocial impacts of economic intimate partner violence on women and girls?

  • Intervention research: Which intimate partner violence prevention interventions are most effective for women facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including age, poverty, disability, ethnicity, sexuality etc?

  • Improving existing interventions: Why do laws against sexual violence work in some contexts, but not in others?

  • Methodological and measurement gaps: How to conduct good quality, ethical research on VAWG using online methods?


Hulley S., et al. (2007).. Designing clinical research. 3rd ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

George AS, Campbell J, Ghaffar A, et al. Advancing the science behind human resources for health: highlights from the Health Policy and Systems Research Reader on Human Resources for Health. Hum Resour Health 2018; 16: 35.

SVRI & EQI (2020) Global Shared Research Agenda, Accessed online: (18 December 2020)

Terry RF, Charles E, Purdy B, Sanford A. (2018). An analysis of research priority-setting at the World Health Organization – how mapping to a standard template allows for comparison between research priority-setting approaches. Health Res Policy Syst, 16: 116.