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ARCH 3214: History and Theory of Architecture: Get Started

Asking Questions

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Strategy: Asking Questions

Formulate strong research questions with tips from the following slides

Developing Research Questions: Your Curiosity

Clarifying your question(s) pinpoints what it is that you are curious about and will guide your research forward.  Strong research questions:

  • seek complex answers
  • require analysis, synthesis, comparison, and critical thinking  
  • matter to you and your audience

Tips for generating questions:​

  • Conduct & complete some background reading on the topic
  • Brainstorm as many questions as you can about your topic
  • Rephrase your questions to begin with How or Why
  • Prioritize those that intrigue you the most 


  • Question: Is Industrial Agriculture better than more sustainable agriculture?
  • Revised questions:  How has industrial agriculture impacted weed resistance in crops and how could this be a problem for American farmers in coming decades? ​

Developing Research Questions: Your Purpose

Consider where your questions will lead you. Will your questions: 

  • Compare and contrast    [How is X like or unlike Y?] 
  • Associate your topic with another     [How did X happen in relation to Y?]
  • Interpret the state of your topic     [How can we measure the significance of X?] 
  • Explore possibilities or outcomes    [How can we identify the consequences of X?]
  • Lead to a call for action or change    [How can we change X?]
  • Argue for a particular stance    [What case can be made for or against X?] 

Developing Research Questions: Your Scope & Feasibility

Another important aspect of determining your research question is scope. What is feasible for you to answer within your time, your access, your economic, and other constraints? Have you chosen a question that acknowledges those limitations.

Many of us start with a very broad question in mind. Try these steps to narrow:

  • ​State your research interest
  • Think of a narrower scope
  • Brainstorm questions 
  • Pick the question you are most interested in
  • Rephrase the question to be narrower in scope
  • Repeat as needed

Open and Closed Questions

Closed Questions

  • Answered with a one word response, such as yes or no. Typically, answers are:
    • Quick
    • Clear
    • Minimal
    • Specific
  • Phrased: Is? Are? Do? Can?

Open Questions

  • Answered with a more in-depth response and explanation. Typically, answers are
    • Unpredictable
    • Thorough
    • Multi-sided
    • Interesting
    • Complex
    • Catalysts for dialog
    • Ignition for new questions
  • Phrased Why? How?

Find Primary Sources

Find Primary Resources

Architectural History Research

Books will often cover the whole breadth of an architectural movement, style, or architect, giving you essential contextual information:





Find Original Research Articles

Some may be interested in locating original research articles for the topics they are researching. The following short video introduces you to a research tool and strategies for finding original research articles on a variety of topics.


Additionally, the following database is a great place to find original research from architectural and design focused researchers:

Engineering, Science and Design Librarian

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Emily Dommermuth

Find Newspapers

Find Newspapers