Feeling nervous? That's normal. Here's how one student summarized it:
I have difficulty narrowing down a workable idea. I guess I'm afraid of being locked into an idea, 'Oh my gosh, what am I going to do if this idea ends up failing and does not work for me?' So I think it's the anticipation, nervousness type thing that scares me in step one. Which is ironic because it's the beginning, it's what you have to do to get started. So I have a lot of difficulty with that sometimes.Head, A. J., Eisenberg, M. B. (2010). Truth be Told: How College Students Evaluate and Use Information in the Digital Age. Project Information Literacy Progress Report. Retrieved from http://www.projectinfolit.org/uploads/2/7/5/4/27541717/pil_fall2010_survey_fullreport1.pdf
There is no single way to come up with a research question. Sometimes a question just comes to you - but often you have to do some brainstorming.
The difference between a topic and question is that a question goes somewhere. Here are some different types of research questions:
|Causal||Does X cause Y?|
|Relational||Are X and Y related?|
|Solution-focused||Can we achieve X by doing Y?|
|Comparative||How is X different from Y?|
|Exploratory||Is it possible to build X?|
|Descriptive||Who or what is X?|
Sometimes your assignment will ask you to simply describe something – who or what is X? However, for library research, questions are typically more interesting when they explain why or how.
A great way to brainstorm related questions is to use the who, what, where, when approach. Brainstorm as many words as you can think of for each of these categories.
Who: LGBT community (children, adolescents, adults, men, women), the media, the government, the police force, activists, teachers, religious organizations, etc.
What: Rights, policies/laws, abuses, discrimination, awareness campaigns, housing, health care, etc.
Where: Asia, South-east Asia, India, China, etc.
When: Now, the 1970s, etc.
Now, choose three items from your list and turn them into a question:
It will not always be easy to determine if your topic is "just right," meaning that it is neither too broad nor too narrow.
Your topic is too broad when:
Your topic is too narrow when:
As you formulate a well-focused topic, keep in mind that it may change depending on whether you find too much or too little information. The only way to know if your topic is "just right" is to start searching for information.
The effects of television violence in Canadian programming on children from single parent homes in Montreal.
This topic is too narrow; here are suggestions to help broaden this topic:
The effects of television violence.
This topic is too broad; here are suggestions to help narrow down this topic: