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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

Suggestions for choosing a research question:

  1. Get started early, picking a topic takes time!
  2. Start with Google to do some background research and reading on your topic. 
  3. As you read, try to identify different angles or perspectives on your topic. For example, if you are interested in how technology impacts college students' lives, do some Google searches with keyword and phrases about that topic.
  4. When you find an article you are interested in, notice the terminology used and the perspective or angle being discussed.
  5. As your interest sparks, do more searches using new keywords and phrases and narrowing in on specific perspectives. Eventually, you will find articles on a variety of different perspectives.
  6. With our example above, how technology impacts college students' lives, you may find all these different perspectives or angles:
    • Social media use
    • Privacy concerns
    • Impact on face-to-face relationships and interactions
    • Impact on attention span
    • Use in education
  7. 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. 

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: Your search results will directly reflect the language you use. 

Academic language = academic results. 

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