Skip to main content
Accessibility Information
Shapiro Library

Human Services

Developing a Research Question


When you need to develop a research question, you want to ask yourself: what do you want to know about a topic? Additionally, you'll want to determine:

  • WHO you are researching,
  • WHAT you are researching,
  • WHEN your research topic takes place,
  • WHERE your research topic takes place, and
  • WHY you are researching this topic.

Try these steps to formulate a research question:

Research Question Flowchart

Check out these links and the video below for more information:

Choosing a Topic


When selecting a topic for your research, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will it sustain my interest?
  • Am I choosing a topic because it seems easy or my friends are doing it?
  • Does it fit the parameters of my assignment?
  • How much time do I have and how long does the assignment need to be?
  • Is credible information on this topic readily available?

Check out Choose a Research Topic from the University of California Santa Cruz Library for more help:

Narrowing Down or Broadening your Topic


When you need to broaden or narrow down your topic, ask yourself:

Who?

Who am I researching?

  • Consider age, gender, profession, ethnicity, humans vs. animals vs. corporations, etc.

What?

What am I researching?

  • Consider potential causes and effects, trends, statistics, problems, etc.

When? 

What time period am I interested in? 

  • Consider when the topic became significant, century vs. specific dates, historical vs. current data, etc.

Where?

Where is my research topic taking place? 

  • Consider country, state, city, urban vs. rural, environments like prisons vs. college towns, etc.

Why?  

Why does my research matter?

  • Consider what makes it important to you, to your colleagues and peers, to your community, to the world, etc.

Mind Mapping


A mind map is a visual representation of your issue or topic. It is a tool which is used to visualize ideas and opportunities for broadening or narrowing down search topics. Click here for more information on mind mapping.

There are a number of free brainstorming and mind mapping tools available online like Bubbl.us and Popplet. Alternatively, try the mind map available via Credo Reference (click "Mind Map" on the Credo Reference homepage):

Mind Map Screenshot

Sources of Inspiration