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English 1010/1011

Tune Up Your Research Question

Complete Worksheet

This worksheet will walk you through the process of refining your research question through background research. Please complete the worksheet before completing the ENGL 1010/1011 Online Library Instruction module.

Gain some perspectives

Choosing and Refining a Topic:

  • Get started early. Picking a topic takes time!
  • Start with Google for background research and reading on your topic.
  • As you read, identify different research lenses, angles, or perspectives on your topic.

EXAMPLE TOPIC: How technology impacts college students' lives

  1. Google with keywords and phrases about that topic.
  2. When you find an article you are interested in, notice the terminology used and the perspective or angle being discussed.
  3. As your interest sparks, do more searches using new keywords and phrases while narrowing in on specific perspectives. Eventually, you will find articles on a variety of different perspectives.
  4. Example perspectives for topic: How technology impacts college students lives
    • Social media use
    • Privacy concerns
    • Impact on face-to-face relationships and interactions
    • Impact on attention span
    • Use in education

Research Lenses:

Which one?
Informs perspectives or choices by synthesizing and comparing information about topic(s).
Example: Which social media technology has the largest impact on college student personal relationships?
Explores solutions or perspectives to particular problems or topics.
Example: How should we solve the problem of college student using technology like 
What if?
Explores solutions, perspectives, and options; can help form hypothesis.
Example: What if colleges and universities provided free laptops and wifi hotspots to all students?


Explores ethical, moral, or practical ideas or solutions based on available information. 

Example: Should college student admissions be automated?


Explores connections and relationships that contribute to a topic or issue.

Example: Why is there a rise in cheating in online higher education


Likely, you will only be able to cover one or two perspectives in your assignment (check your professor's requirements.) Once you pick your angle, generate a list of keywords and phrases about your topic that you can use in the library's databases to find high quality sources for your paper. 

Here's a short video explaining the process:

Where to Get Articles

Use the library's Quick Search from the homepage:


This searches the library's books, e-books, and many articles. Filter results to Newspaper Search to find news.

Click here to access the Quick Search tutorial.

Or, try using the database ProQuest Central:


Try different keywords.

-Identify the most important 2-4 words from your research question. These are your key concepts.

-For each key concept, make a list of other words/phrases with the same or related meanings. These will be your keywords!


- Use a thesaurus to find synonyms or similar phrases.
- If you don't know enough about your topic, Google your topic to gather more keywords.

Remember: Revise your search strategy! Your search results can be a gold mine of different keywords, phrases, and concepts related to your topic. Try new searches using different language.

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