Ask yourself. . .

. . . because.


1. What is it about my topic that I'm interested in?

*Don't have a topic?
Search the Idea Generator at Old Dominion University Library

Most topics are broad, and this narrows your field of study, makes it more manageable.

Use an encyclopedia or general book in your field (ask a reference librarian) to determine how best to narrow your topic.

Topic: child development

I'm interested in: social skills

2. What is my research question?

A topic statement does not give you a place to go. A research question gives you a direction, a reason to find answers.

Revisit your research question as you read new books and articles. Add additional research questions you want to answer, or find an interesting alternative path to follow.

These research questions could quickly develop into an outline for your paper.

Research Question:

How do infants and toddlers develop social skills?

Additional Research Question:

What are some techniques for developing social skills in toddlers?

3. What keywords are used to talk about this research question?

The databases match on your keywords. If you do not use a keyword that an author of a perfect article uses, you will not retrieve that article.

Keep adding to your list of keywords as you read more. Use keywords from articles you have found to see if someone else wrote about your topic using these new keywords.

You will never do just one search. You will always try different keyword combinations to get the database to give you a good list of sources.

Keywords from steps 1 and 2:
child development
social skills

Possible search string:
social skills and (infant* or toddler*)

New keywords added from reading:
social abilities
confident, secure
curious, persistent

Possible search string:
(emotion* or confiden* or empath* or curious* or persisten*) and (infant* or toddler*) and (develop* or technique*)

Now you are ready to (2.) develop an understanding of your topic so that you may (3.) refine your topic and use the best keywords to (4.) search for books, videos and other library resources, articles or high quality websites.