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ENC 5933 Seminar for Writing Consultant

Research Questions

Turning your research topic into a series of research questions will help guide your search and ultimately help you use that research to complete your project. Good research questions should be

  • clearly written
  • focused
  • complex (avoid simple yes/no questions)
  • important
  • researchable.


Booth et al. (2016) advise starting by asking who, what, whenand where questions and then moving on to how and why questions; consider the topic's history, composition, and categories. They claim that the most important question to answer regarding your topic is so what? and recommend using the following template to construct your answer:

  • I am trying to learn about / working on / studying ______ because I want to find out who / what / when / whether / why / how _______________in order to help my reader understand how / why / whether ___________________.


Doing some preliminary research on your topic can also help you identify research questions. Familiarizing yourself with the existing scholarly conversation will help you identify where and how you can join that conversation.

Where to search

Determining where to start your search depends on a variety of factors, including:

  1. What type of information (primary research, secondary research, scholarly material, popular material) are you looking for?
  2. How much do you already know about your topic? 
  3. Does your topic deal with multiple subjects or disciplines?

If the topic is new to you and you are still deciding what you want to focus on, you may want to begin with a broad search using the UCF Library's Primo Search or Google Scholar. This will help you identify key concepts and debates about your topic and narrow your topic to a manageable research project.

If you are already familiar with the topic and have a clear idea of what you want to focus on, a subject database would be the best place to start. Since many resources are organized by subject, it's also helpful to consider whether your topic covers multiple topics.