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Learn to Research

A guide that will teach you the basic steps to completing research for your assignments.

This describes the three parts of a research question: first we have a starter phrase which structures our question in an argumentative format rather than informative (e.g. should vs is). The second piece are the topics you are interested in writing about. You will likely have at least two to include. Third is to add other elements to make the question make sense, such as adjectives and other connecting phrases.

Turning Your Topic Into a Question

How can we turn our general topics into a research question? 

Topics: Medical Concern, Respiratory problems, Air Pollution, Alberta

1. Brainstorm and write down whatever questions come into your head.

This shows examples of questions someone might have when researching the topics of medical concern, respiratory problems and air pollution in Alberta. Can the smoke from my neighbour's burning garbage give me a respiratory disease? How many people have died in Alberta because of oil pollution? Will living near a refinery kill you? Who has cleaner air: Northern Alberta or Southern Alberta? What industrial pollutants cause the most health concerns in Canada?



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2. Think about these components of your research question. 
  • Who? Who is the specific person/group to which you would like to limit your research?
  • What? What specific aspect of the broad topic idea is interesting to you?
  • Where? To which specific geographic area or region would you like to limit your research?
  • When? On what time period would you like your research focused?
  • Why? Why do you think this is an important/interesting topic?

3. Create your research question.

Use the promising phrases from your brainstorm questions.

  • respiratory disease
  • industrial pollution
  • living close to a refinery

Good: "Can the industrial pollution people living close to a refinery breathe cause respiratory disease?"

Better: "Do Albertans who live close to a refinery get more respiratory diseases?"

Best: "Do Albertans who are exposed to air pollution from oil refineries suffer from more respiratory diseases?" 


Make sure that the topic and final research question: 

  • interests you! You'll enjoy it and do a better job.
  • meets the requirements of your assignment.
  • is broad enough to give you several search options.
  • is focused enough that you’re not overwhelmed with information.

Do not worry if your question isn't perfect the first time. You will refine and edit your questions multiple times before you find the perfect fit for your research topic.

Your research question may end up having a "Yes" or "No" answer. The purpose of a research paper is to support your argument with evidence, and also explain why you are arguing against the other side of the argument. 

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