Questions that clearly demonstrate their relevance to society, a social group, or scholarly literature and debates are likely to be given more weight by reviewers. Of course the relevance of a research question, not to mention the question of who finds it relevant, will vary widely according to the funding source. As a general rule, research is more likely to be funded if it is seen as part of a larger intellectual project or line of inquiry, not just a way for the researcher to get a degree. Below are two common ways to demonstrate this in your proposal.
Fill in the missing piece. If your proposal can lay out a given field or dilemma and then point to a specific portion that is missing in that field or dilemma -- a gap which will be filled by the answer to your research question -- your research is likely to garner a great deal of support. Reviewers will note its importance and recognize its relevance to a larger community of researchers.
Make connections. Even if you are working on a narrow topic or in a specific place, ask questions that help relate the research to broader trends, patterns, and contexts. Doing this will help show how funding a seemingly distinct research project helps fuel larger debates. For example, show how someone working in a small town in Outer Mongolia will help understand the broader process of post-Soviet economic transformations.
The Research Question Should Be Clear
Clear questions tend to be short, conceptually straightforward, and jargon-free. This does not mean they have to be overly simplistic; but save your theoretical gymnastics and abstract disciplinary language for the analysis. Work to keep your questions as lucid and simple as possible. This may be easier in some cases than in others, but some of the strongest and most theoretically sophisticated proposals we reviewed were framed by some of the simplest, most straightforward research questions. In contrast, the most complicated questions tended to appear in proposals where the researcher seemed more interested in demonstrating his/her theoretical knowledge than in engaging the research itself. Below are simple ways to keep your question clear.
Ground the questions. Keep your questions close to the topic or place you are researching. Questions that are too abstract or obtuse make it difficult for the reader to determine your question's relevance and intent. You must still link your question to a larger context, but ground that connection in temporal and spatial specifics.
Limit variables. If a question is burdened with too many variables or too many clauses it becomes both difficult to read and difficult to research. Here are two contrasting examples from the SSRC web site: a question like "Was the decline of population growth in Brazil the result of government policies?" is much easier to understand than "Was the decline in population growth in Brazil related more to sex education, the distribution of birth control, or resource depletion?" You may talk about all these factors in your proposal, but the first question allows the reader to focus on the central aspect of your research rather than the variables surrounding it.
The Research Question Should Be Researchable
Research questions need to be clearly "doable." One of the most common rationales for rejecting proposals is that the question is simply too expansive (or expensive) to be carried out by the applicant. There are many questions that you will need to ask yourself to avoid this pitfall. Above all else, consider your limitations. Many very practical questions need to be considered when choosing your research question. First among them is: How long will the research take to carry out? Next, do you have the appropriate background to carry out the research? Are there ethical constraints? Is the project likely to be approved by your advisor and your university's committee for the protection of human subjects? Can you obtain the cooperation from all the necessary individuals, communities and institutions you need to answer the question you have asked? Are the costs of conducting the research more than you will be likely to raise? If I can't complete this project well, can I break it down and address the most important component? Remember that writing a research question is an iterative process and such concerns need to be carefully considered in your research design and budget.
source : University of California, Institute of International Studies