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Start with a general topic. What topics or issues are you interested in exploring? Your general topic may be a single word or short phrase.  Example: video games

Need ideas? Reading the news is a great way to get topic ideas for further research. 

Get background information on the topic. Start with objective, fact-based information by reading reference sources, such as subject-specific encyclopedias and handbooks. 

Reference sources will help you:
    • Get a general overview of your topic
    • Guide your research by bringing up important issues
    • Narrow your focus
    • Discover keywords to help you search for relevant information
Reference sources at FC Library:
database of searchable encyclopedias, handbooks, and other reference sources. See the reference desk for off-campus access.
Set Limit To: Reference

Ask a question that will guide your research.  Now that you have foundational knowledge on your topic, what questions would be interesting to investigate further? A strong research question will involve more than merely regurgitating information gathered; it will require you to make a decision or solve a problem. The sources that you select and use in your paper will help you to 1) answer your research question and 2) support your answer to the research question. Your informed answer to the research question will become your paper's thesis statement . 

Research question: What are the effects of violent video games?
Thesis statement: Violent video games cause aggression.

If you are struggling to
narrow your research question or topic
ask some of the 5Ws:

Example: What are the effects of playing video games?
What type or video games? 
What are the effects of playing first-person shooter (FPS) video games?
What perspective do I want to take (e.g., psychological, sociological, medical?)
What are the psychological effects of playing first-person shooter games?
How do first-person shooter games affect cognitive development?
Do first-person shooter games help or hinder socialization?
On Whom?
What are the psychological effects of playing first-person shooter games on teens?
How do first-person shooter games affect cognitive development in children?
What are the psychological effects of playing first-person shooter games on children in the United States?

What specific questions do you need to answer to address your main research question? These questions will help you determine the types of sources you will need to consult.

  • What is a first-person shooter game? - Consult reference books for definitions and general overviews.
  • What research studies have been done on teens who play FPS games? - Consult academic journals for research studies.
  • Have any studies been done connecting cognitive development to playing FPS games or video games in general? - Consult academic journals  for research studies.

Finding Sources - Now that you have developed a strong research question, determine the sources that will give you authoritative information to answer the question. Click here for a list of different source types and where to find them.

 Image Credits
    (cc) "Any Guesses?" by Raymond Larose  on
    (cc) "sensitive noise / obvious 2" by milos milosevic on
    (cc) "Intersection" by Voxphoto on