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"What would you like to know?"

I Need to Turn My Topic Into A Research Question

A research topic is the broad area or subject to be investigated, while a research question is the focus on a specific component of that research topic. Thus, the research paper and all the investigative research involved is the attempt to answer that question.

Usually researchers start out with a broad topic before narrowing it down and turning it into a question. These strategies can help with that process:

Background Reading
Do some background reading to learn about the current research being done on your topic and the types of questions that other scholars are asking. This can give you some ideas about possible topics and angles for your research. Electronic reference sources like the ones listed on the Databases: Getting Started Page can help you find an angle on your topic and identify an interesting research question. You can also search Google and Wikipedia for background information, but be sure to confirm anything you find with research from the library's collection or another reliable source.

Concept Maps
Use Credo Mind Maps to create a visual map your topic that shows different aspects of the topic. Here is a video about the concept mapping if you want to learn more or just dive into Credo!:

The Five W's: Who, What, When, Where, and Why
These kinds of questions can help you brainstorm ways to narrow your question and develop a more specific focus for your research.

Think about questions related to your topic. For example, when researching the local food culture, you might consider:

  • Why do people buy local?
  • What specific food items are people more likely to buy local and why?
  • What are the economic aspects of buying local? Is it cheaper?
  • Do people in all socio-economic strata have access to local food?