SW 450/550 Research & Evaluation: Develop your Question

Research Topic/Question

Example of a topic 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 homeless teenagers in Portland addicted to drugs because they experienced child abuse?

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

Example of a question that is easier to research: 

Does exposure to domestic violence impact children's social development? 

Social Work Encyclopedias

Encyclopedias are tremendously useful resources because they give 'executive summaries' of an area of research to get you up to speed quickly: important research findings and researchers, discussions/critiques of theoretical models and methodologies used. The 2-5 page summary is followed by a bibliography leading you to the original articles, books, etc to continue your research.

Using Wikipedia

Wikipedia can be a very useful resource, as long as you keep some things in mind:

  • Wikipedia is good at providing a basic introduction to a topic, and it also often provides you with important details such as key researchers and articles. Be sure to look at the references at the bottom of the page;
  • Wikipedia pages about controversial issues (e.g. gun control, abortion) are often revised, sometimes with a lot of inherent bias. Keep your critical reading hat on! Often on these articles you will see a message from Wikipedia that the article's neutrality is disputed.