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PSCI 3300: Introduction to Political Research

Library research guide for PSCI 2300

O'Leary, Z. (2004) The Essential Guide to Doing Research. London: Sage. Page 36.

Phrasing Your Topic as a Research Question

Are you looking for answers? Your research becomes much easier when you know the question.

Start by writing out your topic as a question.You often have to write out your question many times from different perspectives before you can settle on what it is you want to research. Having trouble forming your topic into a question? Fill in the blanks of the following sentence to help you discover your question:

A) I am studying …_____________________________________________________________________________________________

(B) in order to find out … ________________________________________________________________________________________

(C) in order to help my reader understand … ________________________________________________________________________

Then Combine ABC to create a Question (D)
(D) Research Question: … _______________________________________________________________________________________


(A) I am studying... (state what your broad topic is)
EXAMPLEsmoking bans
(B) in order to find out... (use standard journalistic questions: who, what, where, when, but focus on why and how)
EXAMPLE: how they are applied on college campuses
(C) in order to help my reader understand... (motivate your question, why does your reader need to know this)
EXAMPLE: how smoking bans on college campuses may impact smoking habits
(D) Research Question: (use the ideas in A-C to form a research question)
EXAMPLE: Do smoking bans on college campuses impact smoking cessation of students and staff?


Select your Variables:

Once you have your question, you can pull out your Independent and Dependent variables.

Independent Variable X= Smoking ban

Dependent Variable Y= Smoking cessation 

What are Independent and Dependent Variables?

Independent Variable is a variable (often denoted by x ) whose variation does not depend on that of another.

Dependent Variablea is variable (often denoted by y ) whose value depends on that of another.


If you are given a dataset to work other in your class, you can also  choose your variables before developing your question.

The Research Question

Research Methods: Independent and Dependent Variables

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