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Developing a Research Question

In a research paper, you develop a unique question and then synthesize scholarly and primary sources into a paper that supports your argument about the topic.

Identify Your Topic

This is the starting place from where you develop a research question.

Next, you might do one then the other, or both.

Refine by Searching

  1. Background Information. Search Google. (Do background research to determine: (1) what has already been done on the topic; and (2) what are the issues surrounding the topic.) 
  2. Existing Research. Search Databases. Library Databases from the University Library Home Page, and Google Scholar.

Refine by Narrowing

  • Who: Are you interested in a specific group of people? Can your topic be narrowed by gender, sex, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status or something else? Are there any key figures related to your topic?
  • What: What are the issues surrounding your topic? Are there subtopics? In looking at background information, did you notice any gaps or questions that seemed unanswered?
  • Where: Can your topic be narrowed down to a geographic location? Warning: Don't get too narrow here. You might not be able to find enough information on a town or state.
  • When: Is your topic current or historical? Is it confined to a specific time period? Was there a causative event that led your topic to become an area of study?
  • Why: Why are you interested in this topic? Why should others be interested?
  • How: What kinds of information do you need? Primary sources, statistics? What is your methodology?