Student Engagement

CURA Workshop: Designing a Research Question


On October 4, 2018, CIRS hosted its first CURA workshop for students. “Designing a Research Question” was intended to outline the research process and offer strategies for developing a research question. This was accomplished through the process of finding and narrowing a research topic, identifying a research problem, and devising a research question to address that problem.

CIRS Director, Professor Mehran Kamrava, led an interactive session with the participants about his preferred research methods and techniques. He shared the steps he expects of his students when writing their research papers; from choosing a research question and conducting the research process, to organizing the research findings and writing the paper. Kamrava emphasized the need to begin research with a broad area of interest and not a specific question, in order to avoid personal bias and to fully evaluate existing data and resources before identifying a topic. He addressed the importance of planning and organization to academic writing and explained his method of structuring papers. He further shared his expectations of students enrolled in his courses.


The workshop was facilitated by Islam Hassan, CIRS Research Analyst, and Elizabeth Wanucha, CIRS Project Manager. Participants were all GU-Q students, and the following CURA fellows provided direction during the workshop: Mohammed Al-Jaberi, Chaïmaa Benkermi, Aiza Khan, Mehaira Maghoub, Riham Mansour, Khansa Maria, and Fatemeh Salari. The facilitators and fellows led exercises encouraging participants to apply and practice the workshop skills on their own research questions.

The exercises helped students to arrive at a succinct research question from their broad areas of academic interest. Personal interests ranged from “Artificial Intelligence in India” to “Islamophobia in China.” Students worked in small groups and discussed their topics in-depth with their peers and mentors. In the first exercise, students were provided with a set of questions to ask themselves and their peers to guide a conversation to a focused area of interest for further deliberation. Next, participants were asked to identify what needed further research and how they would tackle it. Students discussed their different approaches. For the last exercise, students volunteered their research questions for everyone to critique. 

The workshop was attended by twenty-five students from every class year, from freshmen working on their first college papers to seniors preparing for their final theses. Everyone engaged in peer learning, with third- and fourth-year students sharing their learned experiences, and first- and second-year students sharing their own perspectives and approaches. Students who successfully completed the workshop were awarded electronic badges that could be shared on their LinkedIn profiles.

This was the first research workshop that CIRS has planned for the purpose of enhancing students’ research abilities. GU-Q students will have another opportunity to participate in a CURA workshop in the spring semester.

“As a freshman starting her career at an institution as research intensive as Georgetown, this workshop proved to be a great kick start for my journey as a researcher,” commented Aimen Khan, a participant in the workshop. Another participant, Jasmin Afifi described the workshop as “enjoyable, informative and enlightening.”

Article by Aiza Khan (class of 2020), CURA Research Fellow