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Spark 001: The Border and Chicanx Texts (Contreras)

This guide was developed for Spring 2024

Step 1 - Your Research Question

Coming up with a research question Decorative element (magnifying glass with a question mark in the center of the lens)can be challenging, but it's all part of the research process. In some cases, your instructor may give you a topic or in other cases, you may join a lab that is already working on a project with a defined research question, but if you are on your own, this page will give you some guidance.

Part of coming up with a manageable research question is also knowing what your "information need" is. In other words, what kinds of sources do you need to help you answer your question?

Tip: Remember that the research process is non-linear and sometimes messy. You will need to search for and read (or at least skim) some information sources to know if your research question is going to be manageable.  Skip to Step 4 for some reading tips!

PIcking Your Topic IS Research (Video Tutorial)

North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries, 3:10


Create your own Mind Map

Mind Maps by Tom Peterson © 2013 Thunderhead Works. All Rights Reserved. Used for educational purposes only under Fair Use.

Mind Maps by Tom Peterson © 2013 Thunderhead Works. All Rights Reserved. Used for educational purposes only under Fair Use.

Narrowing/broadening a topic


If your topic is broad, consider asking yourself the 6 Ws (who, what, when, where, why, and how) and trying a combination of these elements with your broad topic:

  • WHO: Population (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.)
  • WHAT: Type based on the topic (example: topic is renewable energy, types could be wind energy, solar energy, etc.)
  • WHEN: Choose a timeframe (time period or time in life)
  • WHERE: Choose a location (states, region, country, etc.)
  • WHY: Why does it matter to research this topic?
  • HOW: How will I go about finding information on this topic?

Examples with the topic concussions in sports:

  • WHO: Kid sports and concussions
  • WHAT: Kids and football concussions
  • WHEN: College football players and concussions
  • WHERE: Concussions of college football players in the United States
  • WHY: Effects of concussions on college football players later in life
  • HOW: Searching sports databases and journals and medical magazines and newspapers

Research Question: What is the effect on adults of sports concussions received in childhood?


If you're not finding Sometimes being too specific can return few or no results. information on your topic, it might be too narrow and needs to be broadened. Consider removing a word or element from your research question/thesis/topic.

Use Mind Maps on Credo Reference

Databases Covering Contemporary Issues

Step 1 - Pause to Reflect

Step 1, Your Research Question, not only requires that you come up with a research questionNoun project icon showing a thought process from question to idea or topic that is narrow enough to explore for an undergraduate research paper, but it also requires that you consider what type of information you will need to find in order to answer your research question.

  1. Is your topic so large you could write a whole book or PhD dissertation on it? If so, you should try to narrow your topic down to something manageable within the time you have and the number of pages or words your instructor is requiring. Tips for narrowing your search can be found in step 3.
  2. Is your topic so specific that you can't find information about it? Go to step 3 to learn how to search more strategically and broaden your search out a bit.
  3. Do you need some basic facts, dates, or names of historical people or specific theories? If so, go on to step 2: Find Background Information.