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Mahoney Research Help: Questions

Define the Research Assignment

Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment. Consider:

  • Have you been assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources?
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?

Research Questions

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Once you have selected an initial topic, the next step is to develop research questions. You'll do this by using probing questions, which go beyond just collecting basic facts.


Good research questions often ask HOW or WHY questions.


Questions that be answered with a quick web search or in a single sentence are probably not great research questions. If Siri can answer your question, you need to revise your research question.

Developing a Research Question

Background Information

Once you have developed some research questions and 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 -- vocabulary, dates, events, organizations, etc.
  • Can help refine your topic or research question.

Leads to additional sources of information.

You can find background information from: