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ENG W231: Professional Writing Skills

Pre-Searching

Before you dive into the first step of the research process, think for a moment about your research plan. Your instructor may have given you a worksheet to guide your pre-search process. If not, that's ok. Just take a few moments to think about the following: 

  1. What is the issue you are interested in?
  2. What about this issue do you find interesting? 
  3. Does your issue have sub-topics that you need to know more about? 
  4. Use these prompts to help you start thinking about your research question. Feel free to change the question to the future or past tense if that is more appropriate for your topic.

How does . . .

What procedures or actions . . .

What problems . . .

What happens when . . .

What is the role of . . . in . . .

What is the difference between . . .

What causes . . .

What are the effects or results of . . .

How or why did . . . decide to . . .

Who or what influenced . . . to . . .

What is the relationship between . . . and . . .

What are the competing sides . . .

How does. . . change . . .

 

Now, use the "Developing a Research  Question" infographic to ask some important questions about your issue.

Topic Too Narrow or Too Broad

Your topic needs to be scalable to your paper. Make sure it isn’t too broad or too narrow. If you notice any of the following while searching for articles and books, you may need to refine your topic. 

Too Broad? Too Narrow?
can be summed up in one or two words difficult to figure out where you would locate information (e.g., data may not exist)
difficult to come up with a thesis statement hard to research because there is so little information (e.g., you only found 3 or 4 results in your searching)
hard to research because there is so much information (e.g., you found 1000s of hits in your searching)  

 

If your topic is too broad:

Apply journalistic question words to your topic to narrow your focus. (e.g., “Global Warming” > “Global Warming on reptiles in Australia” = what, where)

Who | What | Where | When | Why | How

If your topic is too narrow:

Remove one aspect of your topic and/or use the question words to back up a step.