Learn how to develop a strong research question for a research paper by considering six important criteria.
(Scribbr video, length 4:18 minutes)
Before you develop your research topic or question, you'll need to do some background research.
Feeling stuck? Ask yourself the following questions:
Before you can begin searching for information, you need to develop keywords related to your topic. The keywords you develop and use to conduct research will influence your search results. Keywords and phrases can be found by examining:
This example shows the keywords in the following sentence:
You can also use a concept map to visually organize thoughts and illustrate relationships between concepts and ideas.
Once you have identified keywords, you are ready to collect background information on your topic. As you research, note important words, phrases, and concepts that sources mention and use them to locate additional information.
Background information can be found in:
Why bother with background research?
Background research serves many purposes, including:
Write it down
Once you have a topic idea, it is helpful to write everything you know or don't know about it down. From there, use that information to formulate questions. Avoid asking closed questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead, ask open-ended questions that prompt you to explore different aspects of the topic.
Try filling in the blanks in the following sentence:
It is important to consider the scope of your topic. If it is too broad, it might be difficult to find relevant information. If your topic is too narrow, it might be tough to find any information at all. Generally, it is a good strategy to start out with a slightly broad topic that you can further develop and narrow as you find information.
Remember: the shorter your final paper, the narrower your topic needs to be.