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Advanced Library Research Techniques: Good Research Practice

This guide will help you improve your research skills and develop expertise in evaluating, comparing, and selecting reliable and credible sources of information.

(1) Develop a Good Research Question



The three components of a good research question are:

  • Parameters, or boundaries. These are often elements like time period, theme, place, or person. 
  • Controversy. This doesn't mean that you can only write about hot button issues! Instead, consider whether or not someone else could write a response to your paper in which they disagree with your conclusion.
  • Interesting. You don't have to love every class you take! But try to find something that you don't mind spending some time thinking about.

(2) Start Your Research by Using One of the 5 W's



Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How)

Researchers in most fields are looking for one of two things:

  • A cause for a problem (Why) or
  • A solution to a problem (How).




(3) Use One Sentence Questions With Limiters


Using limiters will help you narrow your search and focus your topic.

You can narrow and limit by:

 geographical 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 affect business practices today?

 population group:

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


(4) Know if Your Topic is Too Narrow or Too Broad


Too Broad

  • How is COVID-19 treated?
  • Will tablet computing replace the need for laptops?

Too Narrow

  • How much has the popularity of Harry Potter improved the reading scores of second graders in Virginia?
  • At what point in time will the need for nurses in pediatric wards outpace the graduation rates from nursing schools?

Just right

  • In what ways have online communities changed the nature of support systems available for people with Attention Deficit Disorder?
  • How has mountaintop removal mining in western Kentucky impacted the migratory habits of the local bird population?


(5) Prepare Your Thesis Statement

What is a thesis statement?

  • A thesis statement comes at the beginning of your paper. 
  • It is a statement that answers your research question.
  • The statement is supported throughout your paper with examples and evidence.

What makes a good thesis statement?

  • It takes a position, or advances an opinion.
  • It is specific, not too broad, but not too narrow.
  • It is an arguable statement; there is room for discussion or disagreement.
  • It provides focus and generates interest in the reader.

Three Examples:


- Taking a Position -

Poor (doesn't take a position):

  • I'm going to write about the high rate of suicide and depression in transgender adolescents.

Improved (takes a position):

  • The standard story of binary gender in our society creates a hostile environment for gender variant adolescents, as demonstrated by high rates of depression and suicide.


- Specificity -

Poor (very general):

  • Europe is a great place to visit.

Improved (more specific):

  • World travel is an important element to a well-rounded college education.


- Arguable -

Poor (not much here to argue with):

  • Exercise is good for the elderly.

Improved (specific position that can be argued):

  • Exercise, combined with antidepressants, is more effective in reducing depression in older adults given the prevalence of treatment-resistant depression in late life.

Thesis Statement Generator