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SOC106 - Introduction to Sociology - Smith: Developing Your Research Question

2. B. A Manageable Topic

A research topic should fit the scope of your assignment. You can't write a 5 page paper about everything there is to know about renewable energy. A focused topic will make researching and writing easier.

broad topic

You also don't want a topic that is so narrow that you may not be able to find enough information to write about. As you do your background research, take note of what you find to help focus your topic.

narrow topic

Once you find a topic, brainstorm some ideas for search terms that will help you find what you need.

examples of keywords

2. C. Develop your Search Strategy

Your research question will help you identify your concepts and search terms. It will also help you determine where to start your search.

Take a look at the research question:

research question

What kind of information do I need to find to answer this?

types of information

2. C. Your Research Question and Thesis Statement

2. C. Research Questions

which way   CC  by Ian Wilson

 The research process is not linear. As you begin your research and develop your topic, you will encounter new information that will create new questions. This is a normal part of the process. 

Your research question will guide your research determining what type of sources you need, and the concepts you need to explore. Your question may change as you discover new aspects of your topic, and you may need to repeat parts of the research cycle. 

2. C. Developing a Research Question

2. C. Breaking Down Your Research Question

A good research question will direct your research, and give you your thesis statement. Often your thesis statement will be an answer or response to your question.

A manageable research question could be:

research question

This question can be broken down into a few main concepts.

main concepts

Begin by researching each concept individually to come up with alternative search terminology. Then combine these concepts and keywords to build your search strategy.


These keywords can be arranged in a variety of ways to access resources in our databases and online.  For example, I could enter some of the following search strings to find information about my topic:

  • Wind farms AND wildlife AND habitat
  • Wind turbines AND birds AND populations
  • Wind farms AND animals AND biodiversity

Each of these search examples would give you different results.

As you find new information about your topic, take note of the terminology used to describe your topic, and incorporate these terms into your search strategy.