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Steps to Developing a Research Question

You've chosen a subject and topic that interests you, and carried out some preliminary reading. What are the next steps?

Consider the emerging questions. You should now begin posing open-ended questions about your topic. These questions will usually be framed "how", "why", or "to what extent."

Evaluate the question. Once you have posed possible research questions you should evaluate them. This evaluation should be based on whether the question is clear, focused, and arguable.

  • Clear - Will the reader understand the nature of my research? Will it direct the research being undertaken?

  • Focused - Will the research question be specific enough to allow for exploration within the scope of the task (that is, the number of words and time available)?

  • Arguable - Does the research question allow for analysis, evaluation and the development of a reasoned argument?

Consider research outcomes. Once you have decided on a provisional research question you should start thinking about the direction your research might take. You could do this by:

  • suggesting possible outcomes of your research

  • outlining the kind of argument you might make and how your research might support this

  • considering options if the research available is not sufficient to support a sustained argument




Subject: World Studies (Economics and Global Politics)

Research Topic:
Foreign aid and development

Proposed Research Question:

To what extent does the political economy of bilateral aid deter the development of
the recipient country in context of aid given to pre-genocide Rwanda by the US?


● Clear Statement of the problem or research topic you want to address.
● Explain how you came to this question/problem based on your studies, your interests, previous
research you might have been involved in, subjects you have taken, class discussions, etc.
● Explain your personal engagement with the topic. (Why are you so passionate about it?)
● Explain the assumptions you are making in researching your question.
● List relevant concepts you intend to incorporate.
● What is your hypothesis? What are you trying to explain?
● What is the purpose of the study?
● Significance of the investigation. (Explain why this research is worth pursuing.)
In my extended essay, I wish to discuss how the politicization of foreign aid given out by
the World Bank to developing nations (Columbia in particular) is not done with altruistic
intention but rather furthers personal agendas. I came to this topic after reading the book
Confessions of an Economic Hitman, where the writer was involved in a scheme to issue
large debts in name of infrastructure development to third world countries so that
debt-giver can gain control over the nation to exploit it when they are unable to pay it
back. I found that the book insufficient in providing an explicit and clear explanation of
what was occurring which prompted me to research for myself. It was through this
research that I arrived at a topic of research which was the intention behind foreign aid
and the misconceptions surrounding it.
This topic interests me because it allows me to explore why poor countries are poor and
how rich countries can perpetuate their state of being less economically developed.
Looking into the statistics, I found that the poorest countries in the world (Democratic
Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Uganda, Tajikistan, Haiti,...) are not the biggest receivers
of aid. Rather, developed countries such as the US give the most aid to Israel, Egypt,
Jordan, Afghanistan, and Kenya for reasons of geopolitical interest and trade. Aside from
this, the recipient countries often have to use the aid to buy goods and services from the
donor countries. This, I found, was a direct contradiction to the meaning of foreign aid
which is essential to aid the development of the countries receiving it and not the donor
countries. Seeing how foreign aid was used as a means of gaining economic and political
power led me to researching how effective foreign aid truly was in helping the economy
and political environment of the recipient country.

This research is of significance, especially in the current environment, where opinions
regarding the implementation of foreign aid have been opposing largely due to a warped
view of how it functions; liberals think that we should have more of it and conservatives
find it useless without really understanding the weaponization of aid. Through this paper,
I can gain a better grasp of the political and economic interests of developed nations and
how they try to attain this through the exploitation of developing nations and of their own
citizens by advertising a dysfunctional aid system to gain votes and public favor.

My Investigation into the Topic so far:

● Record relevant resources consulted, the websites you have visited.
● Annotated bibliography (List of resources with short summaries)
(You can also attach your brainstorming and any evidence of your preliminary research)

See document attached with submission for introduction notes and sources explored
through Zotero.

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