Research for English 1A
Now that you've had some practice narrowing broad topics into narrower ones, it's time to develop a research question from your own topic.
Remember the qualities of a good topic?
A research question meets all these criteria, PLUS it's manageable, which means
Finally, a research question makes it possible to say something new about a topic. If someone else has already written exactly what you would about the topic, then the quesiton needs to change.
Below is a process for turning your topic into a research question. Several strategies are suggested in the hopes that one will work.
At the end of this lesson, you will submit a research question for your paper, along with all the work you did to come up with that question. So if you scribble some notes, brainstorm, complete a mind map, make a chart, or anything else that helps you develop your question, submit it along with your question.
Strategy 1: Collect Background Information
A little time now may save a lot of time later
Collecting a little background information on your topic idea can to help you define and focus your interest into something researchable. You can also find out if your topic is something you want to spend some time with, and if it's researchable.
Jot down a few keywords (terms) related to your topic, then perform some preliminary, basic searches in general tools that can give you an overview. Some excellent tools for collecting background information:
In doing your preliminary research, if you discover that this topic has possibilities, take the time to add additional words to your keyword list.
Collecting background information is not the same as conducting research. At this point you're just getting a general "feel" for your topic. An hour spent on this step may save you countless hours later.
Strategy 2: Focus Your Topic
Once you have a topic that you like, it's likely that you'll need to focus it, or narrow it down. Most students start out with topics that are way too broad for their assignments. If your topic is too broad, your research will be much more difficult, and you'll waste a lot of time looking for information that you won't use.
For example. if you try searching for information on global warming, you will quickly be overwhelmed. Global warming is a large subject, covering a variety of disciplines, topics and issues. How can you narrow this topic?
Jot down all the ideas and questions you might already have about the topic:
It may help to set up a table or chart moving from the general topic to narrower topics:
If the chart is too formal for you, you might like making a mindmap or concept map. A whiteboard or a big piece of paper are all you need to make a mindmap. Here's the same information as above, but in a mindmap:
The secret to mindmapping is to free yourself from rules. Don't worry about grammar, spelling, or formatting. Just jot down ideas until you can't think of anymore, then go back and make connections between the ideas. If an idea appeals to you, make it the center idea on a new piece of paper and brainstorm more details.
Turn Your Topic into a Research Question
Dig into your topic to find the question
Once you've narrowed your topic to something workable, you need to restate it as a question. A question requires an answer, and research is all about the search for answers.
Here's an example:
Once you have a research question, break it into even smaller questions:
How will changes in the world climate increase health risks for people worldwide?
You can see that research is basically a quest to find answers to the questions you are asking!
Here is the same activity as above, using the "sticky note" technique:
Your Evolving Topic
You will find as you move through the research process, your topic will evolve. As you explore different sources, gather information and learn about your topic, it is likely your research question might refocus or change.
Don't be shy about asking for help. If you are having trouble deciding on a topic or focusing your topic, talk to your instructor or ask a reference librarian for help.
Assignment for Lesson 10:
Note: Developing a good research question can sometimes be simple. More often, though, it's something of a challenge.
You may submit your research question several times until you have one that works for both you and your instructor. I encourage you to contact me, your English instructor, or a librarian if you need additional help developing your question.
|The information on this pages has been adapted with permission from Washington State E-Learning Council. "Choose and Explore Topics." IRIS 4-2. (http://www.clark.edu/Library/iris/types/sources/sources.shtml). Published by Clark College Libraries. Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0.|
Last updated on September 8, 2015