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ART 1625 - D. Rodenhauser: Form a Research Question

A guide to library resources for ART 1625

From research topic to research question

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?"

The 5 W's

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.                                

The Five W criteria can add context to your investigation and turn a topic into a research question.

  • The WHO describes an individual or select population you are investigating.
  • The WHAT describes a specific aspect or element that directly impacts the WHO.
  • WHEN is a time frame in which you might limit your investigation?
  • WHERE is a geographical location where you might focus. 
  • The WHY is the reason why this investigation is important or meaningful. The WHY is not necessarily a part of the final research question but more informative of the scope of the project in general.


Research Question: What effect does alcohol have on college students?

Concept Mapping

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: