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Forming Research Questions

Resources and information on how to form clear, focused, and answerable questions for research

Identify a topic

Identifying a topic is the first step in forming a research question. Often, your instructor will provide you with a general topic for your assignment. 

Before you can form a question, ask yourself "What do I know about my topic?" If the answer is:


Choosing your own topic

Sometimes you will have to pick your own topic. To start, try brainstorming topics that you are interested in or curious about. If you care about your topic, you will probably enjoy the research process more. Consider:

  • topics from other classes,
  • things you have seen in the news, online or read in books,
  • brainstorming with classmates or friends, or
  • reviewing your text book or class readings for inspiration.

Once you have identified a general topic, ask yourself "What do I know about this topic?" If the answer is:

Video Credit: NC State University Libraries.This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license. Published August 2013.

license for creative commons