Chapter 1: Forming the Research Question and Completing Research

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Answer key questions regarding a library search using library website (LO1)
  • Execute better strategies for a successful search. (LO2)
  • Locate scholarly resources using the library (LO3)

What is Research?

There are three types of research to know.

  1. A search for facts or data. This may be part of the search for the solution to a larger problem to simply the answer to simple question. Concerned with facts rather than knowledge or analysis. It is usually answers that can normally be found in a single source. Example: How did the band Queen decide on its name?
  2. A report or review to collect and synthesize existing information. This is a summary of the past. These answers can typically be found in a selection of books, articles, and web sites. Example: What is the history of pasta making?
  3. Gathering and analyzing a body of information for new meaning from it or developing unique solutions. This is “real” research and requires an open-ended question, which does not have a clear answer. This research type will very often include both of the previous types. Example: Determine whether gang violence is directly related to playing graphic video games.

Generating a Research Question

Review the resources below to learn more about how to generate a research question. Select the double-pointed arrow in the lower right corner to expand to full screen.


Now What?

You have a focused, but not too focused, research question ready to go for a given project. But where do you begin searching? Below is general information about how to start.

General Web Searching

A search engine is something like Google or Bing, where algorithms are used to locate websites that align with the key words entered in the search bar. Search engines are great because they are broad, convenient, and free. Sometimes the information is too broad to find relevant materials or it is difficult to determine the credibility of the information. If you are looking for more general information, like Census data, general web searching with a search engine may be the best place to search.

Library Database

Library databases are collections of published information from books, magazines, newspapers, and journals. They can be focused on a single discipline or more general to include all disciplines. Libraries pay subscription fees so that faculty, staff, and students can access these databases as needed. You will need to use your university login and password to access these databases. Databases are great for research because they are reliable, relevant, and accessible. If you are looking for credible, scholarly sources, the library databases will be your best option.

Academic Search Complete is a great general database to find articles on most topics. Contact a librarian if you need recommendations or assistance.


Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia. When using it, keep in mind that anyone can add, create, or edit information. It is great for gathering general background information, generate search terms, or even to find potential sources. But it is important to note that it is user-created and has no mandatory review process. There is no guarantee the information is reliable, no credentials are provided, and can often contain biases.


References for Content:

EBSCO Tutorials (2022, March 23). EBSCOhost basic search – tutorial [Video]. YouTube.

Frances Wilson Thompson Library (2019. September 17). Brainstorming a research topic using a concept map {YouTube].

PALNI (2022, June 3). Forming your research question. PALNI Information Literacy Modules.

PALNI (2022, June 3). Searching for information online. PALNI Information Literacy Modules.

SciToons (2020, October 5). What is research? [Video]. YouTube.

Steely Library NKU (2018, January 4). Developing a research question [Video]. YouTube.

TAMU Writing Center (2016, March 8). Brainstorming [Video]. YouTube.


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Graduate Research Prep by Andrea Bearman and Jill Noyes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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