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Writing 101 (Webb): Narrowing Topics with the 5 Ws

Writing in the Disciplines: Psychology

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From your brainstorming and/or pre-research, think about questions you might be able to ask regarding the topic. Keep in mind, most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics & looks at relationships between concepts. One way to help limit the scope of your topic is to ask who, what, where, when, why, & how questions.

Narrow your Research Question with the 5 Ws

Using the 5Ws to Develop a Research Question

New Literacies Alliance (2:57)


Broad topic: Sleep habits

  • Who: college students
  • What: academic success

Research Question: "How do sleep habits affect the academic success of college students?"

But how did I get there? I did have to do some pre-research to find an angle, but the W/H method helped me brainstorm possibilities to investigate. After some quick searching, I saw that there were articles related to this topic. I had to try it out before committing to this investigation. I can possibly expand my review to include how to combat poor sleep patterns.

The overall research question serves as my guide.


Look at the research questions you studied with your group again.

How might these be improved using the 5Ws (who, what, where, and when) method?

  • Group 1: How does deportation affect families?
  • Group 2: How does social media affect identity?
  • Group 3: How does mental health stigma affect the Hispanic/Latinx community?
  • Group 4: What factors shape workplace satisfaction?
  • Group 5: Why don't kids get enough sleep?
  • Group 6: Does being in a relationship affect students' work?