Skip to main content
AUS Library Homepage
University Library

Academic Writing II: Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum

Your Research Paper

Research is NOT about the gathering of information. 

Instead, a research paper seeks to use data from various resources to ANSWER A QUESTION or SOLVE A PROBLEM.

In this section we suggest ways to get you started with finding a topic and developing a research question.

Where to Look

For your research paper it's important that you find a controversy that can become a research question.

Consider the following sources of information when looking for topics:

Narrowing Down a Topic

Once you have chosen a topic area which interests you, it's time to start thinking about how to narrow down your topic and developing a suitable research question.

What's the best way of going about this?

  1. Explore a topic area to find out the basics
    Begin by gathering background information about a general topic.  
    Look under the Reference Sources tab of this Libguide to find a list of Subject Encyclopedias.  These are reference sources devoted to a specific subject or field of study.  They provide overviews of topic areas and quite often will outline major issues or controversies worth investigating.
    Use a concept map to develop a visual layout of different areas related to your overall topic.

  2. Identify a problem or uncover an issue related to your topic

    From your concept map, focus in on one area where you can analyze the issues and come up with some kind of a solution.
    Take a look at the library's Reflect Learn Connect guide for help on defining a topic and using concept maps to help you with this task.

  3. Develop a question which will allow you to collect information to solve the problem or issue

    Remember that the focus of your research is about solving a problem.  
    Read the box below on how to go about developing a good research question.

Developing a Research Question

Here are some pointers for developing a good research question:

A research question:

  1. Should deal with one aspect of your overall topic, as narrowly as possible
  2. Should not be easy to answer
  3. Is not intended to describe what is already known (remember the WRI 102 research paper is all about using information to solve a problem)

Try to make your research question as analytical as you can.  Here are some useful points to remember:

  1. Narrow your topic to one aspect
  2. Identify questions related to your narrowed approach
  3. Make sure your question is clear enough to make it possible to answer
  4. Make sure you focus on only one question
  5. Make sure you can gather relevant data to answer your question - you must be able to provide concrete evidence
  6. Check your final research question with your professor

For more information refer to our featured resource (specifically chapter 2):  

Forming a Research Question

Use the following template to help you formulate a research question suitable for your paper.

Next, check with your professor for research go-ahead!

Creating a Research Plan

Use this template to help guide and develop a plan for your research topic.