Asking yourself these two questions will not only influence the questions you ask and the answer formats you choose, but also the population(s) you target. 

Let’s say you are trying to answer the question: How does leadership style influence burnout? You may be interested in this because burnout is a common phenomenon in many organisations, or because there are currently inconsistent findings on the relationship between these two concepts. In this example, your target group will most likely include employees of a company, and perhaps even employees in a certain type of organisation (e.g., IT consultancy firms) in a certain country. You may want to specify what type of relationship exists between leadership style and burnout (e.g., predictivemediating, moderating) and you’ll have to decide on how to measure these variables (e.g., using a psychometrically validated questionnaire). 

Ideally, your research question will be grounded in current scientific theory: It may address a knowledge gap, or aim to replicate an existing finding in a different population to examine how generalisable it is. If you’re curious about theory development, please check out our section on theory building in this guide, where we briefly explain why theory development is a critical cornerstone of scientific research, and research in general.

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