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ITG 499 | The Art of Survival

Professor Andrea Walker

Formulate Questions

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

Phrasing your topic in the form of questions helps direct the research process.

WHAT questions focus on a particular aspect of the topic. For example, what particular traits increase one's chances of surviving a life-threatening event?  Or...what do you need to survive?  Or...what defines a survivor?

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 some people more resilient than others?

WHEN questions focus on timing or history.  When does it become an issue of survival?  When do you decide to survive or not survive?

WHERE questions focus the topic on a location, either geographical or other.  Does the idea of survival vary with people from different cultures, socioeconomic statuses or ethnic backgrounds?

HOW questions focus aspects of the topic, on a process, or on the origin.  How will the skills and knowledge you've learned from courses at LVC contribute to your survival?

WOULD / COULD questions focus on possibilities.   What would you need to survive several days while lost in the woods? Could you survive several days lost in the woods with no food?

SHOULD questions focus on the appropriateness of a particular action, policy, procedure, or decision.  Should you remain in place while lost, or try and find your way to a road?

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

Formulate Your Thesis

A good research question will lead to your thesis statement.

For example, the question...

What particular traits increase one's chances of surviving a life-threatening event?

...might lead to the following thesis:

"Independence, optimism, trust and resilience are a few of the traits that increase one's chances of surviving a life-threatening event."

Strong  thesis statements

  • Answer a question
  • Are engaging 
  • Can be challenged or opposed, thus also defended
  • Pass the 

or "why should I care?" test

  • Are supported by your paper
  • Are neither too broad nor too vague

Source:  Thesis Statements.  George Mason University.