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Distance Learning Library Services: Refine Your Topic

This guide is intended to help students who are taking classes at a regional campus and/or online to more easily access library resources and services.

Refine Your Topic to a Research Question

Developing a great research question will make the rest of your research much easier by helping you to stay focused on finding sources that actually help answer the question.

The Thompson Writing Program at Duke University provides the following examples and explanations of an evolving research question:

Question #1:   Why did the chicken cross the road? 
This question is too broad and does not define the segments of the analysis.  The question does not address which chicken or which road.

Question #2: How many chickens crossed Broad Street in Durham, NC, on February 6, 2014? 
This question
could be answered by a hypothetical Internet search.  It is too simplistic, could be answered in one sentence, and does not leave room for analysis. 

Question #3: What are some of the environmental factors that occurred in Durham, NC between January and February 2014 that would cause chickens to cross Broad Street?
This question is more precise. It leads the writer to take a stand on which factors are significant, and allows the writer to argue to what degree the results are beneficial or detrimental.

Check out more examples of bad, better, and best research questions.

Writing a Thesis Statement

As your research begins to provide answers to your question, a thesis statement can be written.  A thesis statement is a sentence within the introduction of your paper that answers your research question and describes what you will discuss through the rest of the paper.

Take a look at how these research questions turn into thesis statements.

Research Question: Why do people commit gun violence in schools?
Thesis Statement: Violence in the media is a significant contributor to the recent gun violence in schools.

Research Question: How can teachers reduce the amount of bullying that occurs in schools?
Thesis Statement: Intervention and education can reduce the amount of bullying that occurs in schools.

The Writing Center on campus is a great place to get help writing your thesis statement.

Indiana Campus Writing Center
Punxsutawney Campus Writing Center
IUP Online Writing Center

Developing a Research Question

Get Help

Or call:

Indiana Campus Library: Reference Desk
724-357-3006 or 1-866-836-8815

Punxsutawney Campus Library

Northpointe Campus Library