Effective, stress-free research begins with establishing a solid, manageable topic. The Five Ws, a method employed by journalists, can help you define a workable research focus. Review the Five Ws below and use the handout provided to narrow down your topic.
WHO? ... asks you to consider an individual or select population with whom your research is concerned. This could be a character in a short story, a class of machines, a species of plant or animal, a group of people, etc.
WHAT?...asks you consider a specific aspect or element that directly concerns or impacts the chosen individual or population.
WHEN?...asks you to consider an appropriate timeframe to which you might limit your research focus. Depending on your topic, an appropriate timeframe could encompass a single day or several centuries.
WHERE?...asks you to consider an appropriate geographical location to which you might limit your research focus. Depending on your topic, an appropriate geographical location could encompass a single city block or an entire continent.
WHY?...asks you to consider the reasons for which your research on this particular topic is important and meaningful.
If you're not familiar with your topic, always begin with a reference source. Reference sources, like encyclopedias and dictionaries, are a great place to begin because they will provide you with a brief overview of a discipline, person, place, event, idea, etc. You can use these overviews to identify specific aspects of a topic you may want to focus on for your research project.
GENERAL REFERENCE SOURCES
SUBJECT-SPECIFIC REFERENCE SOURCES