Developing a Research Question and an Experimental Approach

Your research question should arise out of your interests in the biological system that you are studying. For all researchers, including you, it is always necessary to become familiar with the system so that you can begin thinking about your research interests.

In order to get started, you will need to begin thinking about what aspects of coral biology or symbiosis you find interesting, and then begin finding and reading research papers on that topic, to provide you with background information and also the current state of understanding of that topic. Once you have read several papers and thought about the biological "problem" you can

  • Develop a question about the biological phenomenon that you want to understand
  • Develop a hypothesis that you believe is a plausible reason for why the biological phenomenon occurs, and possibly also a prediction that can be tested bioinformatically and experimentally.

The ability to develop research questions and hypotheses are not intuitive skills! It requires practice. If you would like, you can practice by working through a Case Study.


Not sure what topics you find interesting? Consider coral bleaching (stress biology), coral disease (immune systems), cellular interactions between the symbiont and host (immune systems, cell biology), evolution of different classes of genes in metazoa (comparative genomics). If you want to explore general topics, visit Coral Reef Information System.



1. DEVELOP A QUESTION based on your interests, and what has already been studied by other coral researchers and published in research papers :

Based on my understanding of previous research, the larger biological phenomenon or question about corals that I am interested in understanding is...?

2.DEVELOP A HYPOTHESIS (A hypothesis is a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon).
Given the question that you are interested in examining, and based on evidence from published research on this topic, what is a plausible explanation"?

3.DEVELOP A STUDY OR EXPERIMENT THAT WILL ALLOW TO TO TEST YOUR HYPOTHESIS. Consider the bioinformatic and experimental approaches you might take.

Discuss a bioinformatic approach that you might take to address the question/hypothesis. Discuss an experimental approach that you might take."?