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Harry V. Keefe Library, Boston Latin School: Develop a Topic

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Research questions

Wordle: research ??s   

Once you have selected a topic, the next step is to develop research questions.

  • Write down what you already know or don't know about the topic.
  • Use that information to develop questions.
    • Use probing questions. (why? what if? how?when?)
    • Avoid "yes" and "no" questions.

From "Developing Research Questions." Research Process: A Step-by-Step Guide. Johnson & Wales University Library, 2013.


The keywords you use can have a profound impact on the results of your research. Using the “right” words will speed up the research process, while the “wrong” words can bring to it to a halt.

Before you can begin searching for information, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be easily be found by scanning: 

  • Your research questions
  • Articles found from background research
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles    

From "Identify Keywords." Research Process: A Step-by-Step Guide. Johnson & Wales University Library, 2013.

Keyword Chart

Keyword Tutorial

Posted with permission from Johnson & Wales University Library.

Develop a Topic

 Develop a topic

  • Develop research questions 
  • Identify keywords
  • Read background information
  • Refine the topic


Background Information

Once you have identified some keywords, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research:

  • Provides a good overview of the topic if you are unfamiliar with it
  • Helps identify important facts -- terminology, dates, events, history, organizations, etc.
  • Can help refine your topic
  • Leads to bibliographies which provide additional sources of information

From "Finding Background Information." Research Process: A Step-by-Step Guide. Johnson & Wales University Library, 2013.

Resources for Background Research

Where can I find background information?

Databases often include reference articles, news stories and academic resources

eBooks and books have chapters that provide general overviews

Wikipedia - Yes! It's a good place to start to read about a topic

Tip: While reading for background information keep an eye out for additional resources or scholarly works that you may need later.

Refining a topic -Pitfalls by W. Badke & R. Baer

Posted with permission from LION: Library Information Literacy Online Network.