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Fullerton College Library

A Very General Research Guide

Research @ FC Library

Think of Research as Inquiry

 Tap into your intellectual curiosity as you explore the dialog and debate surrounding your topic of inquiry.

Your questions will determine the information you seek, so continually ask questions as you engage with information and learn more about your topic of inquiry. Acknowledging your own biases, seek out information from multiple perspectives and approach information with an open and critical mind. 



4 Tips for Developing a Research Question

Start with a general topic of interest.

On the homepage, search (almost) all library databases for information on your general topic. 

Use the Research Starter to get a topic overview, asking questions and pulling out important terms and concepts that might be used to narrow your searches later on.

Need ideas? Browse.


Explore news and opinion articles.


Get background information.

Reference sources,

such as subject-specific encyclopedias and handbooks, will: 1) provide a fact-based overview of the your topic, 2) introduce you to important issues, 3) help you narrow your focus of investigation, and 4) help you identify keywords to use when searching for relevant information. In addition to the research starter, try:

Ask questions about the topic.


  • What are the attitudes, beliefs, or values that need to be challenged?
  • What are the problems and controversies? Can you look at these issues from a different standpoint to avoid rehashing the same old arguments?
  • What are the related causes, effects, or correlations? Do they pose problems or concerns that need to be addressed?
  • From which academic perspectives and approaches can you look at the issue? Examples: psychological or health perspectives on obesity and public policy or ethical issues concerning the death penalty

Narrow your focus.


  • Who is affected or involved? Think of narrowing your focus by age group, gender, etc.
  • Can you narrow you focus by place (e.g., colleges and universities) or geographic location (e.g., California)?
  • Who cares? Who is your potential audience? Do you intend to convince your readers to do or see something differently?

Determine Your Guiding Research Question. 

Now that you've thought about the various questions related to the topic, narrow your list down to a single overarching question that will guide your research.  Ask a question that requires you to make a decision, based on the information you will gather during the research process. Aim for a question that is debatable not one with a definitive answer. 

Your answer to the research question will become part of the thesis statement in your paper. 

Example: Is media contributing to the increase in teen suicides?
Answer/part of thesis statement: Media has a devastating impact on teen suicide.

In order to answer your research question, continue asking questions. What specifically do you need to know to help you to make an informed decision? We'll call these your subsidiary questions.

Examples: How many teen suicides have there been over the years? Is there an uptick in Google searches on suicide after the release of movies, tv shows, news reports on suicide?  Are there research studies that have been able to demonstrate a relationship (causal or correlative) between teens watching shows or news about suicide and attempting suicide? What do psychology experts have to say about the connection between teens watching news or entertainment on suicide and attempting suicide?


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