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 a negative 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).

Brainstorming Keywords from Your Topic Video

This quick video explains how to turn your topic into keywords while searching for library resources and sources on the Web.

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.