Answered By: Woodruff Library Reference
Last Updated: Nov 30, 2018     Views: 21573

Usually researchers start out with a broad topic then narrow down to a question. Here are some strategies for generating a good research question.

  • Think about what questions you have or that currently exist about your topic. For example, when researching the local food culture, you could ask "Why do people buy local?"
    • "What specific food items are people more likely to buy local and why?"
    • "What are the economic aspects of buying local? Is it cheaper?
    • "Do people in all socio-economic strata have access to local food?"
  • Think about the 5 W’s –who, what, when, where, and why– to help you brainstorm different ways you might narrow your question to be more specific. 

  • Do some background reading to help you find a great research question. Reference sources may provide a new angle on your topic and identify an interesting question. If you are focusing on a particular academic discipline, like psychology, education, or business, then it is worth taking time to do background reading in subject-specific encyclopedias and reference sources in your field. You can find them in our Reference Sources databases.
  • Some good reference sources are:
  • Create a concept map of your topic that consists of all of the possible aspects and angles of your topic. See this great video on concept mapping:



Thanks go to the Portland State University Library for sharing their Library DIY idea with us!

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