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Literature Reviews: 1. Develop Your Research Question

Resources for students and faculty doing literature reviews.

1. From Topic To Research Question

Review the steps for a choosing a topic, and then check out the sub-page for resources to help you pick a topic. 

1.  Make sure you understand the assignment.


2. Think about topics that interest you and are relevant to your assignment.  

--Review your course materials and textbook

--Talk to your instructor or classmates 


3.  Do some preliminary research in order to find out: 

--a general understanding of your topic

--how much and what type of research is available 

--what about that topic specifically interests you


4.  Formulate a focused question. Remember, your question must be specific but not so narrow that it can be answered with a brief summary.  Consider these common ways to narrow your focus:

--Apply a particular theory

--Focus on a particular time period 

--Focus on a certain population group

--Focus on a particular geographic location


5. Remember: Be flexible!  As you research, you will likely modify your question as you acquire more information.

Now that you have narrowed your topic, you need to shape it into a research question!  

Research questions often begin with who, what, where, when, why, how, could, or should


Good research questions are:

1.  Debatable: Your question should not have a commonly agreed-upon answer,  be easily answered with a reference source, or be answerable with a simple yes or no. 


2.  Researchable: There needs to be adequate evidence available both in support of and opposed to your argument. 


3.  Focused: If entire books have been written on your question or if you are overwhelmed by the amount of information available, your question might be too broad. However, if you are having trouble finding information, your question might be too narrow. 

Watch this brief video from Laurier Library to learn how to turn a narrowed topic into a research question. 

Laurier Library. (2017, December 20).  Developing a research question [Video]. YouTube.

If you are still struggling with turning your topic into a research question, check out these resources for more guidance: