In some cases, such as for a course assignment or a research project you're working on with a faculty mentor, your research question will be determined by your professor. If that's the case, you can move on to the next step. Otherwise, you may need to explore questions on your own.
Choose a topic that interests you! You'll be spending a lot of time with it.
Explore your topic using your textbooks, reference books, and articles and by consulting your professor.
Be open to tweaking your research question as you gather more information.
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According to The Craft of Research (2003), a research question is more than a practical problem or something with a yes/no answer. A research question helps you learn more about something you don't already know and it needs to be significant enough to interest your readers.
In a research paper, you develop a unique question and then synthesize scholarly and primary sources into a paper that supports your argument about the topic.
These 6 journalistic question words can help you narrow your focus from a broad topic to a specific question.
Who: Are you interested in a specific group of people? Can your topic be narrowed by gender, sex, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status or something else? Are there any key figures related to your topic?
What: What are the issues surrounding your topic? Are there subtopics? In looking at background information, did you notice any gaps or questions that seemed unanswered?
Where: Can your topic be narrowed down to a geographic location? Warning: Don't get too narrow here. You might not be able to find enough information on a town or state.
When: Is your topic current or historical? Is it confined to a specific time period? Was there a causative event that led your topic to become an area of study?
Why: Why are you interested in this topic? Why should others be interested?
How: What kinds of information do you need? Primary sources, statistics? What is your methodology?