SOC 470 (Capstone Seminar in Sociology) Research Guide

A guide to help students with the research process.

Define and Refine Your Topic

According to the Noel Studio:

Have you been given complete freedom to choose your topic from any area of interest, or is your topic assigned by your instructor and/or dictated by the subject you are studying in class? Either way, you might feel overwhelmed, especially if you jump straight into researching your topic before you define and refine your topic.

You'll find it easier and more interesting to conduct research on a topic when you can ask a question whose answer solves a problem your audience cares about. Framing your topic as a problem you plan to solve will focus your research – saving you from searching for and collecting irrelevant information – and help ensure your final product captures your audience’s attention. 

Follow the links below to get help more tailored help.

Develop a Research Question

Writing out your research question will help you articulate the direction you hope your research goes. It will help you to determine what you need to be looking for as you move into searching for specific information.

Some background research and preliminary research is necessary for you to develop a general understanding of a more focused topic. As you move through this step ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does the information and ideas I've found fit together?
  • What themes have emerged?
  • Is there an aspect I want to explore in more detail or focus my attention on?

And once you think you've landed on a research question, ask yourself, "So what?"

  • What makes my research question important?
  • What makes my research question interesting or exciting?
  • Can I sum my question up by simply repeating the information I've compiled, or does the answer to the question require additional work?

Adapted from UConn's "Research Now"

Consider the following resources as you endeavor to shape a research question:

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Heather Beirne
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Heather Beirne
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