Library DIY (beta)

Strategies for Generating a Research Question

Create a Concept Map

A concept map consists of aspects and angles of your topic and helps you organize your research. Brainstorm questions about your topic. Think about the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, and why. These questions are important because they cannot have a simple "yes" or "no" answer. This is how you begin to think about keywords for your topic. For example, if you think about "when," are you referring to the past, the present, or the future?

When researching the vegetarian food culture in the United States, you could ask:

  • Who are vegetarians in the United States? 
  • What foods are vegetarians more or less likely to buy or grow?
  • When did vegetarianism become popular in the United States? 
  • Where do vegetarians tend to grocery shop? 
  • Why are people vegetarians in the United States?

Another strategy for approaching your topic is to use reference sources. By using reference sources, you will learn the scholarly language about your topic in order to identify an interesting question and keywords. If you are focusing on a particular academic discipline like psychology, education, or business, then it is worth taking time to read background entries in scholarly subject encyclopedias.

Concept maps are another way to approach your topic. Watch this video, Concept Mapping for Developing your Topic, by Belk Library, at the Appalachian State University, to learn about using concept maps to help with research.

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