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CRIM 1208: Research Methods

Tips on Developing your Research Question

Start with thinking of a broad topic that interests you

If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, you might want to look at some of the following sources for inspiration. 

Read a bit about your broad topic in the same sources to start to narrow the focus a bit.

Sources of topic ideas

Explore current or controversial topics
Scan the list of topics in these scholarly encyclopedias

Credo Logo

Use this box to search hundreds of full-text dictionaries, encyclopedias, and more related to Criminology and Law. This is just part of the full Credo Reference database.


Ways to narrow the focus of your broad topic

Do some "pre-search"

  • Read a bit about your broad topic in the sources listed above,
  • A scholarly encyclopedia entry will usually provide a broad overview of a topic, and provide a bit of into on many sub-topics. They are usually well-organized and include references to good sources

Use Summon 

Use the KPU Library's search tool called Summon to look for different types of sources in the library's collection, all at once. Summon is the default search box on the Library's homepage. You can also use the quick search box below.

  • Start by looking for your broad topic in Summon.
  • Limit your search results to Scholarly & Peer Review Articles using the filter in the left menu. 
  • Use other filters in the left menu if you want, such as Publication Date, Discipline, or Topic to reduce the number of results
  • Scan the titles and abstracts (under "Quick Look") of the first 15 articles (or more if you want!)
    • look especially at which population groups were studied and what aspect of your topic the articles focused on

Use the 4W's technique

More resources on how to develop a research question 

VIDEO: Why Is Coming Up With a Research Question So Difficult? (10:21)
Dr. Zina O'Leary discusses how choosing a question is part of the research process itself, and gives advice on how to create a strong research question. Hint: it involves READING. (If you have trouble viewing the video below, you can open it in the Sage Research Methods Online database.)