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Choose a Topic and Form a Research Question

Begin by picking a broad subject that is of interest to you which also fits with your assignment requirements. Consider topics that have affected you personally, class discussions, or news stories. Make sure you choose a topic that has research available. If you’re having trouble picking a topic, try CQ Researcher, a library database which can be found here. You can browse specific topics and a wide range of subjects each time you click a link, the database will narrow the topic for you. Once you’ve found an article, you can read it to determine if it would be a good direction for your research assignment. Once you’ve settled on a topic, you can focus it by adding detail to write your research question. 

Let’s look at some examples. Instead of “What is the USA’s federal policy on alternative energy?” try “What impact has the United States policies on alternative energy had on its economy?” The first question is too narrow because it can be answered simply by reading a document. The second question is better because it allows enough opportunity to form an argument and present results in a paper. 

Here’s another example along the same lines. Instead of “What are the effects of alternative energy policies?” try “In what ways does the United States alternative energy policy affect the coal mining industry in West Virginia?” This time the first question is a bit too broad because I need to know who or what is affected by the policy. In the second question, I’ve added specific details which would allow enough research opportunity while not being too broad.

Thanks so much for watching. To learn more about the research process, check out our tutorial videos on the library website.