FOCUS YOUR TOPIC
Sometimes the teacher will give youa topic, sometimes you’ll come upwith your own ideas; in either case,you will always have to decide howto focus the topic and make it yourown. You want to ensure you have abroad enough subject to give youenough to write about, but narrowenough that you can discuss itthoroughly with your time/spaceallotmentOnce your topic is focused,consider your
The research question lies at theheart of any extensive researchproject; it guides everything you do,from ﬁnding information to writingyour thesis statementA research question is not the samething as your topic. For example,your topic might be the RussianRevolution. Your research questionis what you want to know about thetopic--it asks for analysis, and canoften have more than one answer. Agood research question forces youto take a stand, develop anargument and defend your position.Thus, “What were the effects of WWI on Russia?” Is not a goodresearch question. It may requireanalysis in that you have to ﬁgureout what the effects were, but thenall you have to do is list them.A better question would be: “If Nicholas II had not entered intoWW I, could he have avoided theRevolution?” Now you not onlyhave to analyze, you have to take aposition and defend your answer.You have to prove your point withreasoning and evidence.In the example in the box below, theweak question again only asks for alist. The second question, however,asks you to compare nutritionalinformation and menus, set criteriafor what makes a meal “healthy,”measure your restaurant choicesagainst those criteria, make a ﬁnaldecision and defend your answer.
Once you have written atentative research question (andit may change as you startdigging), generate supportingquestions. Because a researchquestion is so broad, you willneed to come up
with other questions that allow youto ﬁnd the information to answerthe original question.Obviously, you’ll need the factual-type questions as you begin toexplore your topic: who, whatwhen, where, etc. It’s important tomove beyond these once you havethe background information,however.
These questions move past thebroad range of your researchquestion to zero in on importantinformation. With our restaurantquestion above, you might ask “What percentage of menu itemscontain over 25% fat, and which
A GOOD RESEARCHQUESTION IS:
Answeringrequires you to prove your pointand provide evidence, not justanswer yes or no.
There is more thanone side to the issue. You couldargue either yes or no, and stillhave good points to make.
The question is broadenough to give you plenty towrite about, but narrow enoughthat you can discuss the topicthoroughly in your allotted space.
You can ﬁndenough good, authoritative