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SOC 413/CRJ 4130: Qualitative Research Methods

Research Guide for CRJ/SOC 413

Strong Research Questions

A strong research question covers a well-defined and well-studied area of research. Strong research topics/questions are:

  • focused
  • clear and simple
  • manageable
  • consistent with assignment requirements
  • of interest to you

Developing Your Research Question

A broad topic has literally thousands of articles on it, and you won't be able to adequately cover it in your paper. It will be far easier for you to research and write your paper if you develop a strong, focused research question:

Do some exploratory research on the population you're interested in and your research area.

Ask yourself questions about your topic idea. What concepts, issues, or other aspects of this population and research area interest you? What have people said about it? What gaps, contradictions, or concerns arise as you learn more about it? What relationships are there between different aspects of the topic?

Focus your topic: Use the information from your exploratory research to identify a few of the specific aspects that interest you and then use the questions you had about those to create your focused research question.

Choose a current topic: Your goal is to summarize and evaluate current findings of an area of research. Pick a research topic about which articles are continuing to be published. Avoid defunct or little-known areas of research. 

Write about what interests you: Professors want students to write about topics that they care about. If you're interested in the topic, it will be more fun for you to write your paper and probably more fun for your professor to read it, too.

Ask Professor Forsythe-Brown for her feedback on your research question.

Example

General topic: Muslim immigrants and identity

Do some preliminary research: I search for articles about Muslim immigrants and identity to identify what most interests me

Focus your topic: I write down specific populations, issues, locations that interest me, such as second generation, Arab Muslims, Turkish Muslims, gender identity, religious identity, social support, United States, Europe

Focused Research Question: What influences the development of gender identity among second-generation Arab Muslim immigrants?

Picking Your Topic IS Research

Once you've picked a research topic for your paper, it isn't set in stone. It's just an idea that you will test and develop through exploratory research. This exploratory research may guide you into modifying your original idea for a research topic. Watch this video for more info:

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