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Research Success for High School Students


SUMMARY: In order to identify keywords, you need to have a research question. Having a research question is much easier than just a topic. Topics are often too broad to give you relevant results.

To create a research question, think about the parameters of your assignment. Is there an area that you are particularly interested in? Pick a broad and flexible topic that you find interesting since you'll be spending so much time researching. If you start doing more research and not finding enough sources that support your thesis, you may need to adjust your topic. A topic will be very difficult to research if it is too broad or narrow. One way to narrow a broad topic  is to limit your topic by asking questions about the subject based on your background research.


Creating a Research Question

Say you picked the topic "video games." Now we need to focus your topic. To do this, ask the 5 W's:

  • Who 
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

So say you choose:

  • Who- Children
  • What - Violence
  • When- The last 10 years
  • Where- USA
  • Why

Form this information into a question:

Are children who play video games in the United States more likely to be violent?

Common Ways to Limit a Topic

Geographic Area

Example: What environmental issues are most important in the Southwestern United States?


Example: How does the environment fit into the Navajo world view?

Time Frame

Example: What are the most prominent environmental issues of the last 10 years?


Example: How does environmental awareness effect business practices today?

Population or Group Involved or Effected

Example: What are the effects of air pollution on senior citizens?

Mistakes to Avoid

Remember that a topic may be too difficult to research if it is too:

  • locally confined - Topics this specific may only be covered in local newspapers and not in scholarly articles.

Example: What sources of pollution affect the air in Downtown Phoenix?

  • recent - If a topic is quite recent, books or journal articles may not be available, but newspaper or magazine articles may. Also, websites related to the topic may or may not be available.
  • broadly interdisciplinary - You could be overwhelmed with superficial information.

Example: How can the environment contribute to the culture, politics and society of the Western United States?

  • popular - You will only find very popular articles about some topics such as sports figures and high-profile celebrities and musicians.

The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-three Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.