Identifying a question, or research topic, is a very important part of the research process. As you search, you may find that the new ideas you encounter cause you to change your original topic or idea. This is all part of the fun of research!
In school, your research question may be given to you by a professor or lab instructor. However, as you advance in your chosen major, you will have more and more autonomy to guide your own research with your own questions. Plus, the skills you learn here will help you in other classes where you have to choose your own topic or in life when you become curious about something that you want to investigate.
This short video gives ideas for how to broaden or narrow your topic based on the number of results you are getting. Checking the number of available sources on your topic, however, is only ONE way of vetting your topic. Stick with this guide to discover other aspects of the process.
If your question has an easy "yes" or "no" answer, it's probably not a research question. Similarly, if your topic would require tremendous background knowledge, experience, or collection of lots of data, you may not have chosen a feasible question. Your research question should be narrow enough to work on in the time that you have during your semester and broad enough to to be able to locate supporting information ("sources").
Now is the time to talk with your instructor if you have doubts about the amount of work it will take to investigate your question.
Types of Sources
Before diving right into a search, stop and take a moment to consider what type of resource you want to find. Do you need a book? A scholarly article? Do you need a blog written by or YouTube interview of an expert? Do you need raw data? Next, think about where that type of information might be found. Will a simple internet search locate what you need, or do you need another tool? Use the chart below to think about where you might find the information you need. If you're not sure where to start, this would be a great moment for you to contact me!
Additionally, you may need to think in terms of primary and secondary sources. For more on that, see the information below on interviews and the infographic.
Next, I'll give you some of the most common search tools below and some tips, but keep in mind that these are not one-stop shopping, nor are they one-size-fits-all.