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Research Starter Toolkit

This guide will help you learn how to use library resources in order to complete your research. Here you will learn how to access library databases, journal articles, books, and more.

Ask a Research Question 

After identifying your research topic the next step of any research assignment is turning your topic into a research question.

A research question guides and centers your research. It should be clear and focused and address the who, what, when, where, and why of your topic. 

Ask yourself (when applicable):

  • WHO you are researching,
  • WHAT you are researching,
  • WHEN your research topic takes place,
  • WHERE your research topic takes place, and
  • WHY you are researching this topic.

Use the steps below to guide you in formulating your research question:

1. Start with your topic. Example: women in politics
2. Focus your topic by asking the questions above: who, what, when, where, and why?
3. Think about what questions emerge that you could ask about your topic. Example: why are there more women politicians in some countries than others? Or, how does the media portray women politicians differently from men?
4. Narrow your question further by getting as specific as you can. Example: Why are there more women politicians in Sweden than the United States? Or, how do cable news networks portray women in U.S. politics differently from men?

The following video will provide you with an in-depth overview on the importance of research questions and how to create one:




Review: What Makes a Good Research Question?

A good research question is...

  • Clear and focused. In other words, the question should clearly state what the writer needs to do.
  • Not too broad and not too narrow. The question should have an appropriate scope. If the question is too broad it will not be possible to answer it thoroughly within the word limit. If it is too narrow you will not have enough to write about and you will struggle to develop a strong argument.
  • Not too easy to answer. For example, the question should require more than a simple yes or no answer.
  • Not too difficult to answer. You must be able to answer the question thoroughly within the given timeframe and word limit.
  • Researchable. You must have access to a suitable amount of quality research materials, such as academic books and refereed journal articles.
  • Analytical rather than descriptive. In other words, your research question should allow you to produce an analysis of an issue or problem rather than a simple description of it.

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