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Writing 10 (Elkins): Narrow a Research Question

College Reading & Composition

Spreadsheet - Research Questions

Strategies for Narrowing Your Research Question

Most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics and looks at relationships between concepts.  For example, cell phones is a pretty broad topic, but looking at the impact of cell phone manufacturing on the environment might be a more manageable topic.

There are many ways to narrow a topic that is too broad by asking one or more W questions.  Let's use cell phones as an example:

  • cell phones and disposal (what)
  • cell phones and toxicity (what)
  • cell phones and interpersonal relationships (what)
  • cell phones and India (where)
  • cell phones and corporations (who)
  • cell phones and teenagers (who) and distracted driving (what)
  • cell phones and precious metals (what) and Rwanda (where)

Use W questions, to develop a research question on the topic of cell phones:

Research Question:  How can precious metals in cell phones be recycled more effectively?

For Discussion: Why is this a successful or unsuccessful research question?  Is it an improvement on this previous question? How beneficial or problematic is cell phone use for our society?

Finding Background Information in Library Databases

Cell Phone E-Waste

Fairphone/Closing The Loop