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LAR101: What in the World?!?

This guide will help you complete research for the LAR101 course What in the World?!?

Creating a Research Question

Now that you've chosen a broad topic and done some background research, it's time to focus your topic and come up with your research question. A question that is too broad or too narrow will be difficult to research and answer. 

A Successful Research Question:

  • Has significance for you (you are interested and motivated to search for information)
  • Warrants attention from others (scholars have written about it)
  • Has identifiable consequences and effects (avoid yes or no questions)
  • Recognizes its context (historical, social, personal, scientific, etc.)
  • Leads to possible outcomes and/or solutions 

Sample Research Questions: 

What are the most effective dietary changes for treating depression and anxiety?

How can we best measure climate change in Sonoran desert regions?

What kinds of learners are most successful in online environments?

What kind of training would best prepare local law enforcement and service providers to identify and respond to cases of human trafficking that might otherwise go unnoticed or un-addressed?

What cultural factors have led to the rise in popularity of zombie film, fiction, and television?

Content in this box adapted from ASU library's New College Writing Program Library Guide

Research Lenses

As you focus and develop your research question, you may find it useful to look at your topic through different research "lenses." The background information you've gathered will help you with this.

Which one?
Informs perspectives or choices by synthesizing and comparing information about topic(s).

Example: Which social media technology of the last 5-10 years has had the largest positive impact on personal relationships?
Explores solutions or perspectives to particular problems or topics.
Example: How should we solve the problem of rising student loan debt?
What if?
Explores solutions, perspectives, and options; can help form hypothesis.
Example: What if the United States had national paid paternal leave requirements, similar to that offered in countries like Denmark, Finland, and Iceland?
Explores ethical, moral, or practical ideas or solutions based on available information.
Example: Should state money be used to fund school voucher or savings plan programs?

Explores connections and relationships that contribute to a topic or issue.

Example: Why do students expect to get a good job after completing a college degree?

Source: Hassman, K., & Hassman, B. (2017). TOPIC generation and teaching research as inquiry. In Oberlies, M. K., & Mattson, J. L. Framing information literacy, volume 1.


A couple of things to keep in mind as you focus your question:

Topics that are too recent: Because it takes months or longer to research, write, and publish articles in scholarly journals, choosing a topic that is very recent will limit your sources to more popular materials. This might include newspapers, magazines, or blogs for general audiences. 

Topics that are too local: Also, focusing a topic within an area that is too local, such as agricultural issues in Southeastern Nebraska, will also limit the number of sources you can find. Make sure your chosen research question will allow you to meet the requirements of your assignment.

Browsing Current Events Topics

Don't know where to even begin thinking of a topic for your project? Try this publication!