The process of developing a research question can be broken down into four steps:
Step 1: Choose a topic by identifying a broad area of interest
Step 2: Find background information to help you understand your topic
Step 3: Define your research question
Step 4: Modify and refine your search question to achieve a manageable focus
This is the starting point for your research. You don't need to have a specific research question in mind at this point – just a general topic that you want to explore.
Things to consider when choosing an area to investigate:
As an example, you might decide that you want to take a closer look at the general area of censorship.
Once you have a general topic in mind, it is important to refine your focus until you have a manageable topic. An idea like "I want to write a paper about the problem of censorship" lacks focus and will leave you frustrated.
Refining your topic can be difficult if you are not deeply familiar with your general area of interest. In order to help you focus your topic, it is important that you gather background information early on in your research.
The purpose of gathering background information is:
To introduce you to the specialized vocabulary relating to the topic
Specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias are a valuable tool at this stage of your research.
After gathering background information, one of the easiest ways to focus your topic is to frame it as a question. Research is not passive reporting, it is a search for answers.
For instance, after doing research on censorship, you discover a current controversy involving censorship of the Internet. So, looking at your background research, you have determined that this is the area on which you wish to focus.
There are a number of ways to focus this interest even further into a research question.
Some questions to get you started
Who is involved?
Are there comparisons you can make?
Are there Pros & Cons to your topic? This reflects a potential decision to be made
Your background research using specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries will give you the knowledge you need to formulate a good research question.
Common problems with research questions
There are a number of common errors people make when formulating research questions.
The question is too broad to be manageable.
The question is too narrow.
Sometimes the narrowness is logical (such as there being an easily obtainable "right" answer), and sometimes it is too narrow given the availability of resources.
The question cannot be answered.
Sometimes this is because of a logical problem in the question, because the information needed to answer the question cannot be logically or legally obtained.
You will continue to modify your topic throughout the research process. How you modify your topic will depend upon:
If you need any help with this part, always feel free to:
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