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History 08 (Martin): Developing a Research Question

Sitting on a Man: African Gender

Guiding Questions

thought bubble questionYour class is grounded in three major questions that you will be exploring throughout the semester.

  • What concepts and institutions shaped African womanhood and feminism?
  • What were women’s experiences as their status changed over time from pre- to post-colonial era?
  • How did African women advocate for themselves and their countries through activism over time from the pre- to post-colonial era?

Developing a Research Question Takes Research

Be curious

When the scope of your paper is too big, it's hard to dig through information and to write a paper wit any depth. The goal of most research papers in college is to seek a possible answer to a specific question. A research question, when not too broad or too narrow, helps guide and focus your paper. In your paper, the "question" and "answer" (argument) informs your thesis.

Brainstorm & do some research before settling on a topic

The research question isn't a question you make up at the top of your head. It's normal to start with a broad topic in mind, especially if you don't have foundational knowledge. You will need to do some brainstorming and reading (class readings, background information, books, and articles) to find an angle to pursue, and, even then, your question may change as you find more information later.

Ask questions

From your pre-research, think about questions you might be able to ask regarding the topic. One way to limit the scope of your topic is to ask who, what, where, when, why, and how questions.

Be flexible

It's okay to continue to tweak your question; the end result should be that you have answered the question you've laid out in the introduction of your paper.

Developing a Reserarch Question

Steely Library NKU (4:33)

This video provides an overview of what a research question is, strategies for narrowing down a topic into a question, criteria for what makes a good research question, and an example for how to create a good question from a poor question.

Using the 5Ws to Develop a Research Questions

New Literacies Alliance (2:57)

This video illustrates how to take a topic and use the 5Ws to create a more focused research question.