Gathering background information, or pre-searching, helps you:
Encyclopedias, in print or online, are a good place to begin looking for background information. Try these sources:
After you have obtained a working knowledge of your topic, focus on one aspect of it. Why? It is impoossible to cover everything about, say, the Cubist Movement in 5-10 pages. But, you could focus on one artist (Picasso) and one work (Guernica). Alternately, you could compare two artists or explain how the movement has influenced others. Narrowing your topic allows you to go into it in more depth and analysis. Remember, your job as a student is to contribute to the discussion on your topic: You want to offer up your own insight or interpretation of it and not merely summarize those of others.
Now, identify controversies or questions related to your narrowed topic.
Use these prompts to help you start thinking about your research question. Feel free to change the question to the future or past tense if that is more appropriate for your topic. Keep in mind that your research question will change as you research and write--it is all a part of the process!
How does . . .
What procedures or actions . . .
What problems . . .
What happens when . . .
What is the role of . . . in . . .
What is the difference between . . .
What causes . . .
What are the effects or results of . . .
How or why did . . . decide to . . .
Who or what influenced . . . to . . .
What is the relationship between . . . and . . .
What are the competing sides . . .
How does. . . change . . .