Most college professors give broad guidelines in assigning a research project because they want you to work on an issue that you care about. It's important, then, to understand the difference between working on a broad research topic and working with a better, more helpful research question.
When you first get an assignment from a professor, be sure you understand all of the following...
If you're allowed to choose your own topic to start with, then try using these tips to choose a good one:
Once you're clear about your topic, it's best to narrow your focus to a more specific aspect related to that topic. Better yet is if you can craft a specific research question related to the topic that meets the requirements of your assignment.
The best research questions are open-ended (the answer to the question won't be a simple "Yes" or "No") and they try to address a complex issue or solve a problem. Often these questions start with the words "Why" or "How."
The following show some examples of going from a broad topic, to a narrower topic, to a specific research question.
|Narrowed Topic||Sample Research Questions|
|gun control||gun control laws / legislation||
How could laws be passed that might reduce mass shootings in schools and colleges?
Why is it so difficult to get gun control laws passed in the United States?
|homelessness||solutions for homelessness||
Why is it smart for cities and states to spend more money on homeless solutions?
How can more affordable housing be supplied to limit homelessness?
regulation of social media
cyberbullying with social media
Why should social media sites such as Facebook be regulated? How could regulation stop the spread of misinformation?
How can social media be better used to prevent cyberbullying?
Why do people distrust recommendations by medical professionals to vaccinate their children?
Notice that these research questions...
Need to focus your question a little more? Try one of these tricks...
Students typically need to conduct preliminary research--also known as PREsearch--to narrow a research topic and decide on a thoughtful research question.