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Prof. Packer - Eng 101 - Fall 2020: Research Questions: Narrowing your Focus

It all starts with your research question

Where do you find your research question? In the readings and conversation in your class. What sparks your interest? Your curiosity? What questions do you want to know more about? 

Who are the people, the organizations, the groups that are part of the discussion around this broad idea/issue? Who are the stakeholders? Whose voices could be part of the conversation?

What is the origin story? the history? What significant events have contributed to the current status of the idea/issue? 

What laws, regulations, policies, and/or guidelines impact the issue?

Where and when is this issue focused?

What would you like to see/be changed?


Background Information gives us...

  • Words or phrases that are specific to your topic.
  • Major ideas related to your topic
  • Insider language. Find language the leaders in the field use.
  • People places, time periods that are relevant to your topic
  • Additional readings on your topic
  • Foundation Information thats answers the who, the what, the where, the when, the what, the why of the topic.

Finding Background Information

Tools for narrowing your topic

Library databases can help spark your thinking as you choose and narrow your research question.

The Gale databases have two (2) tools that might be useful: Topic Finder and Subject Guide

In Topic Finder, enter a search term - a topic word or phrase. You will see a graphic - either in tiles or a wheel - showing you how the broad topic breaks down into logical subtopics. Once you click on a tile you will see several articles highlighted, articles that are about the subtopic. You can click on the full article if desired. You can continue your search in that database or move to another database.

Topic Finder is a search tool in the Gale databases

In Subject Guide, enter a search term to see a list of subtopics or subdivisions of the broad topic. Browse through the subdivisions for ideas that seem relevant.Subject Guide for Gale Databases


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