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ELC1012/ELC1013 - English for University Studies

Faculty Librarians

Faculty Librarians are designated librarians for your faculty, who can offer specialized help on your course assignment and research project. Make an appointment with your Faculty Librarian for in-depth assistance!

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Information Consultancy Service Contact your Faculty Librarians on in-depth research questions

What's Next?

When you have gained an overall understanding of your topic, the next step is to narrow and focus on the topic. From there, you can develop your research question

A good research question will help you (and your readers) articulate the direction of your research - what issue you are trying to look at and what kind of information you need to be looking for. 

Watch this short video to learn how to narrow the topic and develop a good research question.

Narrow Your Topic

You have learned from the video about 5W questions, which is a great tool to help you narrow the topic.

  • WHO are the people or groups you want to focus on?
  • WHAT ASPECT of the topic interests you?
  • WHICH APPROACH or point-of-view will you take?
  • WHEN did important events occur?
  • WHERE do you want to focus, geographically?


Below, you will find an example of how the 5W questions can be applied to our topic: Hotel industry & Covid.

If you have difficulties to formulate your research question from the 5W questions, you can try further refine your topic by completing the following three prompts:

Three prompts Try to complete these sentences ...
1 - Topic: What you are writing about I am studying the topic of ... 
2 - Indirect question: What you don't know about your topic because I want to find out (what/why/how/if) ... 
3 - Significance: Why you want your reader to know and care about it in order to help my reader understand ... 

Let's see how this can be applied to our topic: Hotel industry & Covid.

1 - Topic: I am studying the topic of the relationship between hotel industry and Covid-19.

2 - Indirect question: because I want to find out how and to what extent revenue management can be implemented in the hotel industry during low-demand periods, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

3 - Significance: In order to help my reader understand the impact of COVID-19 on the revenue management practices.

Tip  You may not be able to fill in the third prompt - the Significance of your research until you have done a fair bit of research and reading first. You can learn how to write this part from reading others' articles - Usually, the authors will state the significance of their study in the Introduction part.

Now it is time to formulate your research question.

From the video, you have learnt what a good research question should be like. Here's a quick summary for your easy reference:

  • open-ended - cannot be answered by yes/no or facts; an open-ended question usually starts with "how" or "why"
  • focused / specific - can be answered in the space you write about it
  • manageable - within the scope, not too narrow or broad so it can be answered within the time frame
  • debatable - allow the development of argument


Potential Topics

  • How does Covid-19 impact the life of hotel workers in Hong Kong during the past 2 years?
  • What effective safety precautions should be taken in the hotel industry in the post-Covid era?
  • Why tourism industry is the most hit sector by Covid-19?

More examples of not-ideal research questions (x) and the improved versions (v)

(x) Does artificial intelligence make an impact on the world? (closed question)
(v) How does artificial intelligence have an impact on education among adolescents in Hong Kong? (open-ended; more specific)

(x) How does the typhoon influence Hong Kong? (too broad; not clear)
(v) How do the late summer typhoons influence the water quality of Hong Kong marine water? (more specific and debatable)

(x) Why do some countries have more women politicians than others? ("some countries" - not specific)
Why does Sweden have more women politicians at the national level than Canada?
(more specific)

(x) Why is cyberbullying becoming more prevalent? (too broad; not manageable)
What are the social factors leading to the increasing prevalence of cyberbullying among Chinese youth?
(limit by "what aspect" and "who" - more manageable)


Mohess, N. (2015). The research process 2016.

Denizci Guillet, B., & Chu, A. M. C. (2021). Managing hotel revenue amid the COVID-19 crisis. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 33(2), 604-627.