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Child, Youth, & Family Studies: Starting Your Search

Research Topic/Question

One of the most challenging parts of the research process is figuring out a topic that can be reasonably researched and written in the context of your coursework. Often, you'll need to do some preliminary reading and adjust your topic or research question -- maybe more than once. 

Example of a question that is too broad:

Are video games bad for children?

Problem: Concepts like "bad" need to be defined as something measurable (e.g. increase violent behavior).

Example of a question that is too narrow:

Are Portland homeless teenagers addicted to drugs because they experienced child abuse?

Problem: Too many variables (homelessness/drug abuse/child abuse) and too limited population (Portland).

From Question to Keyword

Before you start searching for resources, take a few moments to think of the relevant terms that you might want to search with. This will help you build and revise your search.

This one-minute video provides an example of brainstorming keywords from a research question.

Scholarly, Professional, Popular?

The first thing you should do when you have a research assignment is figure out what types of article sources are required or allowed. Some professors require you to use only scholarly peer-reviewed journals while others might let you use professional journals (also known as trade journals.

Scholarly article - written by an expert in the field and reviewed by peers who are experts in the same area. In many databases, you can limit your search to scholarly, peer-reviewed or refereed journals to weed out any non-scholarly content.

Professional/trade article - Trade or professional journals can have articles written by experts in the field or by staff writers. The articles are only reviewed by editors for style, so they go through a less rigorous review process. The articles often do not contain reference lists.

Popular journals - Written for a general audience rather than for professionals or scholars. Examples include The New Yorker, People, and Rolling Stone.