Forming Research Questions and Identifying Key Concepts

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After you have chosen a research paper topic, developing research questions and identifying key concepts helps you write a strong thesis statement and conduct structured research. Jumping into your topic without asking the right questions and developing a plan hurts the overall strength of your paper. In addition, by developing questions and identifying concepts, you make it easier to determine what information you need and how that information pertains to the scope of your research paper.

Forming research questions to shape your thesis statement

Forming research questions is essential in writing an effective thesis statement. To develop research questions, you start with forming statements about the information you need about your chosen topic. Identifying your information needs helps keep your research focused on your topic as you work to clarify and support the thesis statement. Below are a few examples of statements developed to identify the type of information needed for example research paper topics:

  • I need to locate information about the types of homeopathic stress relievers.
  • I need to locate information about the effects of video game violence on children aged 7-10.
  • I need to locate information about the causes of childhood obesity.
  • I need to locate information about childhood immunizations.

From these statements, you can develop research questions that keep your research focused on finding the answers. For example, you might develop the following questions from the previous statements:

  • What are the most common types of homeopathic stress relievers?
  • Does video game violence have any affect on children aged 7-10?
  • What are the main causes of childhood obesity?
  • What are the major childhood immunizations given in the United States?

You can further shape your research and the formation of your thesis statement by including a point of view in any research questions you develop:

  • Are common homeopathic stress relievers effective in treating high levels of stress?
  • Are children between the ages of 7-10 negatively affected by video game violence?
  • Are parents to blame as one of the contributing factors to childhood obesity?
  • Are the childhood immunizations given in the United States harmful in any way?

With research questions developed, you can start researching more in-depth to clarify your thesis statement by looking for the answers to your questions. Sometimes, to conduct your research effectively, you might need to read for information in order to identify key concepts to serve as a guide for your research. However, in most cases, the key concepts are easily pulled from the research questions you develop.

Identifying key concepts and synonyms to shape further research

With research questions created, you want to identify the key concepts within each question. Additionally, you want to develop a list of synonyms for those concepts. You identify key concepts by looking at the words and phrases that make up each research question. Using those terms, you develop alternative terms that help you find more information by broadening your search terms when using the internet, specialized databases and the invisible web to locate sources of information.

Using one of the example research questions from above, the example below demonstrates identifying key concepts and synonyms that help with the research process.

  1. Research question: Are common homeopathic stress relievers effective in treating high levels of stress?
  2. Key concepts: homeopathic stress relievers, high levels of stress
  3. Alternative words and/ or synonyms for search terms: home remedies for stress, high stress, home stress treatments, at-home stress relievers, ways to reduce stress naturally, increased levels of stress

By identify the key concepts in your research questions and finding alternative ways to express those concepts, you can find relevant information more easily. Plus, alternative search terms created from synonyms allows you to find information you may not have found by searching only for the key concepts in their original wording.

As you prepare to clarify your thesis statement, both developing research questions and identifying key concepts influence the shape and scope of your research. Just like reading for information or note-taking strategies help you write a stronger paper, conducting research that yields the right information is vital to writing an effective research paper.