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Italian Language, Literature and Culture: Getting Started

Research Process: Developing Research Questions

What is a research question?

A research question is useful for guiding the rest of your research process, but it can change as you learn more about your topic. Start with a question you are curious about or a topic that your professor assigns to you. Think about what really interests you about that issue. Ask the following questions to help articulate your research question:

  • Who? - Who is my research question about? Does it involve a person or group of people (like a company or organization)? Are there certain demographic criteria that I'm interested in?
  • What? - What is the main focus of my research question? Are there subtopics or other issues surrounding it? 
  • When? - Is time a factor in my research question? Is there a historical period that is involved, or am I looking for up-to-date information? 
  • Where? - Is geography a factor in my research question? Does place matter for this topic? Can I think more broadly about the location, like region or continent, instead of city or state? Would research from another similar location be relevant to help answer my research question?   
  • Why? - Why is this topic interesting? Why will my readers be interested in this? Is there a broader context or theory that this question involves? Do I need background information about this topic? 
  • How? - How can I go about finding the information I need to answer the research question? Is the information freely available online or in a library subscription resource like a database? Do I need books, journal articles, or something else?

Now that you have thought about these questions, you should try to write out your research question and include as many of these details as possible.


Learn more about formulating research questions at the link below:

Mindmapping & Brainstorming

Use brainstorming to come up with key words that will help you expand your search. Put your topic in the center of a blank piece of paper, and draw connections to related topics, both more general and more specific, as well as synonyms for all of your terms.  A mindmap can often be a good way to start thinking of terms and subtopics:

Online tools for creating mind maps:

Research Process: Getting Started - Where to Get Ideas?

lightbulb idea icon from noun project

You can get ideas for research projects from:

  • Class readings
  • Your instructor
  • News and current events
  • Browsing background sources (aka "Reference" sources)
  • Following your curiosity

Click the link below for more information about the process of inquiry.