SOC 230: Sociology of Marriage & Family: Articles

Professor Marianne Goodfellow, Fall 2015.

Formulate Questions

Once you have selected an initial topic and before you begin searching,  the next step is to develop research questions.  You'll do this by using probing questions, such as what, why, when, how, would/could, should.

Phrasing your topic in the form of a question or questions will help direct your research process.

WHAT questions focus on a particular aspect of the topic: What are the effects of video games on aggressive behavior among young teenage boys? What is the driving force behind the popularity of video games?

WHY questions ask for an explanation of something--why something happened, why it did not happen, or why one thing is better than another. For instance, why are video games so popular among young teenage boys?

WHEN questions focus on timing or history.  When did video games start to become popular?  When were video games invented?

WHERE questions focus the topic on a location, either geographical or other.  Where, or in which countries, are video games most popular?

HOW questions focus aspects of the topic on a process or origins.  How are video games marketed to teenaged boys? 

WOULD / COULD questions focus on possibilities.  Could playing violent video games increase aggressiveness in teenage boys?  Would video games be more popular with teenage girls if marketing targeted girls?

SHOULD questions focus on the appropriateness of a particular action, policy, procedure, or decision.  For instance,  should violent video games be regulated by the federal government?

Source:  Mike Palmquest.   Bedford Researcher.   Colorado State University.


Before you begin searching for information, you must identify keywords related to your topic. Find keywords:



Image source:  Evan-Amos.  Public Domain.  Wikimedia Commons.


Be prepared to be flexible with your research question or thesis.

If you find too much information, your topic/thesis may be too broad.  You will need to narrow or focus it.

If you are finding very little information, your topic/thesis may be too specific, narrow, specialized or current.  It may be difficult to find enough information to write your paper.  In this case, you will need to broaden your topic or thesis.

Unsure of how to narrow or broaden your topic? Head here for some ideas.