How do I develop a research question?

Answered By: Jen Saulnier Lange
Last Updated: Apr 27, 2022     Views: 422

Developing a topic and research question can help you focus your research and stay on track. The following steps will walk you through the process of taking a broad topic and turning it into a focused research question and thesis.

  1. Choose a topic that interests you.
    • Example: True crime
  2. Narrow your topic. You may want to do some background research to discover possible subtopics.
    • Examples:
      • Perceptions of the true crime genre
      • Amateur crime solving
  3. Turn your topic into a question. Developing a research question helps you clarify what problem you’re trying to solve with your research. Good research questions typically include a who, when, where, and what.
    • Examples:
      • Perceptions of the genre
        • How did the success of the podcast Serial in 2014 change the way true crime is perceived as a genre in the United States?
      • Amateur crime solving
        • How has the rise of amateur crime solving and online speculation changed the way crimes are solved in America since the JonBenét Ramsey case was opened in 1996?
    • Note: Make sure that you avoid questions…
      • That are too specific
      • That are too vague
      • That can be answered too easily or with a yes/no
  4. Research your topic and develop your thesis. Your research question will help you stay focused while researching and writing your paper. You will also be able to quickly determine if something is relevant - does it help you answer your research question? After doing some research, you can develop your thesis, which will answer your question.


Note: Your research question may not stay exactly the same during the course of your research. That’s okay! Research is messy and iterative. As you come across new information in the scholarly conversation surrounding your topic, your original ideas may change. Consider it a working research question.

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