Things to Keep in Mind

Having a plan before starting any research project or assignment will bring you the most success once you begin your research. While it will be difficult to develop a full plan of action, knowing some (or all) of the following things will be useful:

  • A general understanding of your research topic. Doing some background research would help with this.
  • The type of resources required or needed to complete your research. You can find this information in your assignment or by asking your professor.
  • The types of resources that you are not allowed to use in your research. You can find this information in your assignment or by asking your professor.
    • While you cannot include these resources in your research, you can still use them to learn about your topic.
  • Are you required to use a specific citation style? While this won’t affect your research, knowing this will help you stay organized.

Developing a Research Question

Consult this section if you want to know about how to develop a research question.

Once you have narrowed the focus of your research and done some preliminary background research (as mentioned before), the next step is to identify gaps in your knowledge. These gaps will be useful in developing your research question.

To do this, ask these two questions about your research topic: 1) What do you already know (if anything) about your topic; 2) What do you not know but are curious to learn about, as it relates to your topic? Engaging in this short exercise can help you get into a research state of mind and may help you start thinking about the argument that you want to make. Look at the following example for some inspiration.

Example topic: Effects of social media on mental health

What I know:

  • Instagram images pressure people to look a certain way.

What I don’t know:

  • Which social media platforms are preferred by people of different age groups
  • What mental health issues are more associated with social media
  • Steps that social media platforms are taking to help their users?

When choosing a research question to write about, it’s always useful to pick something that interests you or that you are curious about. That being said, it is also essential that your research question aligns with the parameters of your assignment, can be reasonably researched within a reasonable time frame, and takes into account the research resources available to you.

When you take these factors into account, you are in a better position to develop a research question that is appropriate for your assignment and has a well-defined scope. Otherwise, you run the risk of having a vague question that will leave you browsing through a lot of information, or a research question that is too specific that will make it difficult to locate information to support your argument.

Research question that is too broad: What is the effect of social media on a person’s mental health?

Research question with a defined scope: What is the relationship between social media usage and depression in teens?

Research question that is too narrow: What are the negative mental health effects of Instagram on teens living in Canada during the 2010s?

Once you have chosen a research question that interests you and has defined scope, the next step would be to start your research. However, especially if you are working on an argumentative essay, you will also need to think about the “so what?” question. This question asks that you consider the significance of your research question, not just to yourself, but to your reader.

This way of thinking about research—one where you consider the significance of your research question—requires practice. But when you approach research this way, you are building a closer relationship with your reader by giving them something in return.

Research question: What is the relationship between social media usage and depression in teens?

Significance: Answering this question will help my readers understand how social media, or a particular platform, negatively impact the lives of teens.

Identifying the Main Concepts in a Research Question

Consult this section if you are ready to begin your research and you have developed a research question.

It is possible to conduct research without a research question, but without one, the research process won’t be as straightforward. This is why a research question is often at the center of your research process.

Online search engines are designed to pull out the most important information from the information that you input into them. However, you are not able to control what the search engine considers most important. Instead of typing your full research question into a search engine, consider identifying the main concepts, sometimes called keywords, in your research question.

Research Question: What is the relationship between social media usage and depression in teens?

What is the relationship between social media usage and depression in teens?

When identifying keywords, think about the ideas and topics that need to be part of your research in order for it to be relevant. In the example above, any information sources without the highlighted words would not be relevant for your assignment. As you begin to locate sources, keep in mind that your research question may change, and so will the keywords and main concepts that best describe it.

Creating a Search Statement/Query

Here’s the information that you can find in this section.

For more…

  • Add here links to more information
  • This can also be used for links to other pages.