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Student Research Guide

If you are working on a project or paper, this guide will introduce you to the essential tools and resources for any assignment.

Developing Research Questions

Once you have selected an initial topic, the next step is to develop your research question. To begin:

  • Write down what you already know or don't know about the topic.
  • Using the information you wrote down, develop questions you'd like to answer when doing your research. A good research question is neither too broad or too narrow. Try to avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
  • For example, if you are interested in learning more about standardized testing in public schools, you might choose the following questions:
    • Are standardized tests too stressful for teachers? 
      Not a good choice since determining a simple yes or no would be quite difficult!
    • How well do standardized tests measure good teaching in New Paltz Middle School classes.
      Too narrow--it may be diffcult to locate articles and studies on this topic!

    • How effectively can standardized tests predict academic achievement in high school students? 
      Good question!

Too much information - Narrow the topic

If your research question seems overwhelming and too broad, consider these questions:

  • Is there a specific time period you want to cover?
  • Is there a geographic region or country on which you would like to focus?
  • Is there a particular aspect of this topic that interests you? For example, historical or social influence, psychological angles, specific groups or individuals involved in the topic.

    • Original Topic: What are the effects of Global warming
      Narrower Topic: How will climate change impact sea levels and the coastal United States?

Not enough information - Broaden the topic

If your question is so specific that you can't find sources, consider the following:

  • Who are the key players in this topic?
  • What are the larger issues often discussed along with this topic?

    • Original Topic: Does cartoon viewing cause violent behaviors in children under the age of five?
      Broader Topic:  What are the negative effects of television viewing on children and adolescents?