by Samantha Bronkar
If you receive a research paper assignment and are
– not sure where to start and/or
– unfamiliar with the topic,
you can start by asking questions!
Here are a few I find helpful to this process:
Why ask a question instead of going right for the thesis?
- A research question provides clarity for your searches.
- Unlike a research topic, a research question lets you to explore what you are interested in even if you don’t know what you are looking for.
- Asking a question takes the pressure off because you don’t need to know the answers right away.
- It comes from your interest.
How do I develop a research question?
- Consider the scope of your paper: Is it a two-page reflection? or a ten-page analysis?
- Consider research: Do I need to look at outside sources to answer this question? If so, how many?
- Consider breadth: Are these questions too broad or too narrow?
How do I know if questions are too broad?
- The question addresses too many sub-topics at once.
- You cannot answer the question fully, even after several research attempts.
- e., What happened during the Middle Ages?
How do I know if questions are too narrow?
- The question only addresses one date, location, person, idea.
- You can answer the question with a simple search.
- e., When did the Harlem Renaissance occur?
Here is an example:
If your assignment is to write a four to six-page paper on some aspect of William Wordsworth’s poetry, you could ask:
- How did William Wordsworth’s relationship with his sister, Dorothy, influence his writing?
- How did the [social or political] context of Wordsworth’s time influence his writing?
- How did the location of Wordsworth’s home influence his writing?
Key concepts to remember:
Consider these ideas the next time you ask a question:
Samantha Bronkar is a senior on the softball team and will be participating in the England Abroad in fall 2017.