Many of us have been taught that in order to start a research paper we need a thesis statement, and while that’s true, coming up with the thesis statement first is not necessarily a good way to start your research. Simply stated, a thesis statement is what your paper intends to prove or show. A research question is what you need to learn in order to come up with a good thesis statement. It's better to start with a research question for two main reasons:
Let’s say you want to write a paper about binge drinking and college students.
If you start with the thesis statement, “Binge drinking among college students is caused by peer pressure and rebellion,” and search for those terms, one of three things will happen:
On the other hand, if you start from the point of asking, “What are the reasons that college students binge drink?” you will find ALL of the reasons that experts think college students binge drink, not just the ones that agree with you. This approach exposes you to a fuller range of ideas about the topic than you started with and that knowledge can only make your paper or project better.
After you have completed your research and read the articles you retrieved, in order to write a thesis statement, all you have to do is answer your research question with the information that you have discovered:
“What are the causes of binge drinking among college students?” may become "The causes of binge drinking among college students are socialization, pleasure, the affordability of alcohol, and the institutional promotion of drinking culture."