English 102

Reviewing Your Question and Sources

Begin by reviewing your research question. Remember, your research question should lead to a thesis, and your thesis should be descriptive.

Once you’ve reviewed your question, review all of the sources you’ve found so far. You should have at least 12 sources already identified. Look at the title, the source (where it was published), the author, the thesis, the abstract if there is one, and your notes from skimming.

After reviewing your sources, decide whether they relate to the research question. Chances are that some will and some won’t. If most do relate, you’re in good shape. Focus on those and on getting more like them.

If most of your sources don’t relate to your research question, is there a broader unifying question they do relate to?

For example, let’s say your question is “How has gender discrimination in white collar jobs changed since World War II?” You may have some sources that do not relate to this question directly, but that help define your key terms (e.g., what is meant by “white collar”?) or explain how discrimination works. Or there might be sources on discrimination in other job types, or on racial or age discrimination, which you will use for comparison and contrast. The broader, unifying question in this case would be something like, “What is discrimination and how does it work in different job categories?” These sources will be important for your research, even though they don’t relate directly.

If necessary, decide what the unifying question is that draws all your sources together.

If your sources don’t relate to your research question and there is no unifying question that draws them all together, you must do one of two things: either you must find better sources or you must refine your research question.

Remember, more focused questions are usually better!