Develop a Topic and Dissect Research Question

Develop A Topic

To save time researching your topic, follow the steps below before searching for information.

1. Write down your topic as a broad sentence or question.

Example: Do video games cause violence in children?

2. Identify the main words or concepts in your sentence or question. These are your keywords.

Example: Video Games, Violence, Children

3. Brainstorm alternative words you can use for each of your keywords in Step 2. These should be synonyms or related ideas.

Tip: Think about terminology that might be used by professionals in various disciplines to discuss the same issue. Use a combination of these when searching.

Video Games Violence Children
Computer Games Violent Behavior Youth
X-Box Aggression Teenagers
Grand Theft Auto Bullying Juveniles

4. Identify subject areas relevant to your topic.

Tip: Think about who is likely to read and write about your topic. Will there be people from more than one discipline interested?
Example: Psychology, Sociology, Education

Focus A Topic

Research topics should be focused and specific, thinking about one aspect of a larger problem. If you are doing research and getting too many results, you may want to consider focusing your topic. Here are some questions you can ask to focus your topic:

Are you interested in how your topic affects a certain group of people?

Example: Are there connections between neighborhood air pollution and asthma rates for the elderly?

Do you want to explore your topic within a specific location?

Example: Do video games cause violence in children in the Midwest?

Is your topic focused on a certain company or organization?

Example: How does Instagram affect the body image of young girls?

Are you interested in current events surrounding your topic, or past events?

Example: How have gun control laws changed since March for Our Lives began in 2018?

Did you find an article that focused on one aspect of your topic?

Example: I found an article about children’s health during the pandemic while researching the US pandemic response. I will add the keyword “children’s health” to my searches.

Why are you interested in your topic?

Example: I want to find out more about the benefits of adopting a dog from a shelter, because my family adopted a puppy last year.

Dissect Research Question

Dissecting your research question can help you brainstorm keywords, come up with alternative keywords, and keep track of successful searches. Watch this video about dissecting your research question, then fill out the library’s Dissect Your Research Question Rhetoric Worksheet, or view a completed worksheet.