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The Research Process

Gathering ideas

    Starting a research project means developing and picking a topic. You may have been given a list of topics to choose from by your professor. Once you have chosen which topic you might want to research, you might want to brainstorm your idea by concept mapping it like below:

This student wanted to write a paper about the music industry and as she discovered many subtopics were worth persuing.

Music Industry:

  • Financial
  • Hip Hop Lyrics
  • Music
  • Degrading Women

From there, she was able to break down some of these subtopics into smaller topics. 

Project: After you've picked your topic, Brainstorm by creating a concept map. Develop subtopics. Once you're done that you can move onto the next step.

Narrow your topic


Once you have your topic and you've brainstorm, try to narrow your topic. Applying limiters may help narrow your topic.

Examples of limiters:

  • Time period
  • Location
  • Population

The graphic on the left shows how we could narrow down the topic of Athletes & Steroids (limiters in black):  

  • Sport: Baseball,
  • Time: 1990s,
  • Concept: Rules.

Thus resulting in a research question that may sound like: 

How did the rules help baseball players to use steroids in the 1990s?

Research Question

Just remember:

Your research question can be:

  • Comparison   How do the rules of steroid use today compare with the rules in the 1990s?
  • Cause and effect: How did the rules help baseball players to use steroids in the 1990s
  • Process: How did the current rules of steroid use in baseball develop since the 1990s?

and it MUST:

  • Be open-ended (not answered by yes or no)
  • Address an issue or controversy and/or solve a problem
  • Be something you can take a stand on