This is the "Step 1. Developing your Research Question" page of the "Inquiry 111 Collect. Connect. Create. " guide.
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Inquiry 111 Collect. Connect. Create.  

Basic guide to research at Westminster College. Fall 2014 edition.
Last Updated: Feb 22, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Step 1. Developing your Research Question Print Page

Developing A Good Research Question

1. Think about a topic

  • Brainstorming a list of things you want to learn more about is a good way to start
  • Consider personal experience and opinions- how might these influence how you handle certain topics?

2. Get some background on your topic so you understand the sub-topics

  • Remember- you want something that has been written about before
  • Try a mind map or brainstorm your topic's subtopics
  • Google, Wikipedia, and Encyclopedias can help you at this stage

3. Form a question

  • You want it to be something that is focused, but still relevant to a wide range of people
  • Having a question that you're interested in helps
  • Questions that start with "How" or "Why" usually could have a few different answers, so those are good bets

By today you should have a question that is 

  • Interesting
  • Manageable
  • Relevant
  • Clear

Searching: Not sure where to start?

(Here's a secret your high-school teacher never told you: It's okay to use Wikipedia.)

You shouldn't take everything it says as the truth but it's okay as a jumping off point, or when you're trying to look for related topics.

Too fancy for Wikipedia? Try a good old fashioned Encyclopedia. Here's one written and edited by professionals (sorry Wikipedia)
We'll be showing you WISE. Here at Westminster, it's our favorite ways to find information.
Have no idea what to do or where to look? Type something into Google to start getting a sense of what's out there.


Today's Assignment (Due Wednesday)

Today you will leave after you have your topic approved by your Inquiry instructor or the librarian. Your assignment for Wednesday is to find three resources that you might use to write your paper.


Running Example

Aliens -Too broad, not a question

Did my uncle really get abducted that night back in '97? - Too specific, unlikely to be answered

Are alien abductions real? -Too broad, unlikely to be answered in 3 pages (But getting closer!)

Did cavemen get abducted? Maybe too specific, but getting closer. Let's read wikipedia or another source for background information on human reports of aliens.

How have reports of alien sightings changed over time?- Bingo. While not perfect, this question is specific, managable,interesting (to me!) and of potential interest to scholars.


Today's Slides


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