When conducting research, you don't want a topic that's too broad or too narrow. For example:
- "I want to research women in the 20th century." This topic is too broad. Which women? What nation, race, social class, or occupation? Which part of the 20th century? If you search for "women" and "20th century" in a database, you'll have to sift through a million results!
- "I want to research the reactions of female computer scientists working for corporations in Pasadena in the year 1993 to the dawn of the Internet age." This topic is too narrow. There's no guarantee that a scholar has actually written about this exact topic yet.
When you have a topic, put it into the form of a question--that way, you can use your thesis to answer that question. The best research questions are open-ended (not yes-or-no questions), specific enough for you to find good sources, but broad enough for you to explore the various things scholars have said about the topic. Good research questions use "action" verbs ("contribute," "influence," etc.) A few examples:
- "How did female computer scientists contribute to the formation of the Internet?"
- "How did the leaders of the 2nd wave feminist movement respond to the needs of African-American women?"
- "What social factors led to the legalization of abortion?"
Check out Wayne Booth's The Craft of Research (3rd ed.), available electronically or in print through the UCLA catalog, for more strategies for developing your research question.
One more thing: don't try to answer your research question too early in the research process. Remember that research requires keeping an open mind, rather than trying to confirm what you already believe. For more information, see "Research Tips" below.