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Doing Research

From topic to question

There are four steps that could help you define your research topic.

Step 1. Get inspired: Some of you may be interested in researching animal rights, cell phones in schools, eating disorders, or gender identity. Some others struggle to find a topic as you may be afraid that you will not find anything about it. No matter what the scenario is, you can be inspired by a wide range of experiences and contexts to find a topic to explore.

Step 2. Pick a topic: Once you have some inspiration or personal interest you have to move to the next step which is to pick a topic. A good research topic has three basic characteristics, it is interesting, manageable, and valuable for you and your audience.

Step 3. Bring up a research question: Once you choose a general topic you need to decide what you would like to research on this. Now you have to think of potential questions that may arise under this topic. It is sometimes safer to prepare more than one research questions that relate to your topic.

Check the table to see how you progress from one step to the other.

Inspiration Topic  Research Question
Political event Brexit Does Brexit affect the income of European Union countries?
Incident  School shooting in Brazil Should gun-control legislation be stronger?
An episode from Black Mirror, a web television series Social media Do the positive aspects of social media sites outweigh the negatives?
Life experiences, e.g. registering for an online course Learning & online instruction  Does online instruction result in the same levels of student learning as face-to-face instruction?
Previous studies Library anxiety  Does library instruction relieve library anxiety?


Step 4. Test your topic: Once you decided what topic you would like to research, you have to make sure that it is a researchable topic. At this stage, you will test your topic with some preliminary research, to understand whether there is enough evidence to support it. If you find enough this means that you won half the battle. You finally have a researchable topic. However, if you cannot find enough information this means that you have to refine your research question or pick another topic. This means that you will enter the research cycle again!

Watch this video to improve how you ask research questions

Unresearchable topics

You may fail end up with a good topic. This could happen when the topic:

  • is too broad; Does online gaming affect our society?
  • is too narrow; Does online gaming affect the behavior of adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
  • has no academic interest; Do animals have supernatural powers?
  • is too recent and has only local appeal; What are the environmental consequences of 2018 wild fires in Greece?

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