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Library DIY

I Need to Turn My Topic Into A Research Question

Strategies for Narrowing a Topic to a Focused Research Question

Usually researchers start out with a broad topic before narrowing it down to a question. These strategies can help with that process.


Concept Maps
Create a visual map your topic that shows different aspects of the topic. Video on Concept Mapping for a Research Paper.

Think about questions related to your topic. For example, when researching the local food culture, you might consider:

  • Why do people buy local?
  • What specific food items are people more likely to buy local and why?
  • What are the economic aspects of buying local? Is it cheaper?
  • Do people in all socio-economic strata have access to local food?

Who, What, When, Where, and Why (the 5 W’s).
These kinds of questions can help you brainstorm ways you might narrow your question. 

Background Reading
Reference sources like the ones listed below can help you find an angle on your topic and identify an interesting research question. If you are focusing on a particular academic discipline, you might do background reading in subject-specific encyclopedias and reference sources.

Sources for background reading: